If you believe your employer is guilty of malpractice or serious wrongdoing, the law permits 'blowing the whistle' on the behaviour and protects you against being dismissed or penalised for doing so.
You are protected as a whistleblower if you make a disclosure in the public interest (a Public Interest Disclosure) and you:
- are a 'worker';
- believe that malpractice in the workplace is happening, has happened in the
past or will happen in the future;
- reveal information of the right type (a 'qualifying disclosure'); &
- reveal it to the right person, and in the right way (making it a 'protected disclosure').
(1) Am I a 'worker'?
'Worker' has a wide meaning in the case of whistleblowing. It encompasses not only employees, but also agency workers, people in unpaid training, and even the self-employed in some cases.
(2) Reasonable belief that malpractice is afoot
In blowing the whistle, you must reasonably believe that malpractice / wrongdoing is happening, has happened, or will happen in the future.
(3) Qualifying disclosures
A qualifying disclosure could be a disclosure about improper, illegal or negligent behaviour by anyone in the workplace.
Examples of qualifying malpractice / wrongdoing include:
- financial malpractice;
- endangering health and safety;
- criminal activity;
- professional malpractice;
- failure to comply with a legal obligation;
- miscarriages of justice;
- damage to the environment; or
- a deliberate attempt to cover up any of the above.
Not qualifying disclosures
You won't be protected for blowing the whistle if:
- you break the law when making a disclosure (for example if you signed the
Official Secrets Act as part of your employment contract); or
- the information is protected under legal professional privilege (e.g., if the information was disclosed to you when someone wanted legal advice).
To learn more about whistleblowing and what a 'protected disclosure' means, read Blowing The Whistle At Work? Are You Protected? - Part 2.