Employment law provides wide ranging protection for whistleblowers at work.
A whistleblower is a person who, in the public interest, makes a disclosure about matters such as criminal offences, breaches of legal obligation and health and safety matters. This can extend to disclosure concerning, for example, the breach of employment contracts of a group of employees.
Whistleblowers are protected from unfair dismissal (including constructive dismissal) and from detriment, for example, disciplinary action, demotion or failure to promote an individual.
The level of importance attached to the protection afforded by the whistleblowing legislation is reflected by the following:
- no qualifying period of employment is required to make a whistleblowing claim;
- the protection is afforded not only to employees but also to former employees, directors, contractors, agency workers and some partners and LLP members;
- Employment Tribunal awards are unlimited and can include awards for ‘injury to feelings’ similar to those made in discrimination cases. There are a number of examples where whistleblowers have been awarded compensation in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The lack of a requirement for qualifying employment and the unlimited scope for compensation in a whistleblowing claim means that such a claim is an attractive claim for an employee or worker to raise, often alleging that treatment received from the employer is as a consequence of some earlier grievance or complaint raised.
The legislation is complex and designed only to protect genuine whistleblowers. In order to achieve whistleblower protection, individuals must ensure that the disclosure is in the public interest, has relevant content and has been raised in an appropriate manner.
Our Employment lawyers are experienced in representing employers facing whistleblowing claims and they are skilled at undermining claims made on a frivolous basis or otherwise lacking merit.
Although, the whistleblowing legislation imposes no positive obligations on employers to implement a whistleblowing policy, we often recommend that employers adopt such policies as a means of managing risk. Our Employment lawyers are also able to assist in implementing appropriate policies and procedures.