Whistleblowing in the workplace – what does it really mean?

June 7, 2017

Employees are often afraid to speak up if they see something happening that should not be happening at work.  However, employers are often sceptical of employees raising concerns and claiming to be whistleblowing when they are not.  So what is whistleblowing, and what kind of policy do you need to have in place? HR180’s HR Partner, Becky Mee, takes an in depth look into whistleblowing, what it is and what your responsibilities are as an employer.

By Becky Mee

Empoyee whistleblowing and employer responsilibities hr180.co.uk
Those of you who know your protected characteristics will recognise that whistleblowing is on ‘the list’ and can make a decision to dismiss automatically unfair if it is linked to the employee’s act of whistleblowing.

When is whistleblowing protected?

A whistleblowing disclosure is only protected under the legislation if it is in the ‘public interest’ for example:

  • A criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed.
  • A person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which he/she is subject.
  • That a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring, or is likely to occur.
  • That the health or safety of any individual has been, is being, or is likely to be, endangered.
  • That the environment, has been, is being, or is likely to be, damaged.
  • That information tending to show any of the above, is being, or is likely to be, deliberately concealed.

Case Law and keeping within the law!

Currently, Chesterton Global v Nurmohamed is working its way through the Court of Appeal to see whether the application of ‘in the public interest’ applies to how a commission scheme for 100 managers operated in a large firm of estate agents.  Normally, cases focus on the NHS, Education or the Construction sector, so this case is really testing the boundaries.

However, if the claim is based on the commission scheme being operated fraudulently, this wouldn’t just potentially be gross misconduct for those concerned, it could also be a criminal act.  This needs to be reported.  Depending on how your sector is regulated regards financial transparency, there could be a public interest in disclosing the criminal act.

Get a policy!

To keep you safe within the law, you certainly need a whistleblowing policy in your handbook and:

  • All employees need to know what whistleblowing is and who they should report any concerns to.
  • That person also need to know what is expected of them and act on any concerns raised.
  • Maintaining the confidentiality of the person raising the concerns is important.
  • The whistleblower shouldn’t be taken to task for having raised in good faith what they genuinely believe to be a concern.

If you have any queries or are not sure if your whistleblowing policy would cut the mustard, give your team of HR superheroes a call today!

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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