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Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer legal advice on whether you should blow the whistle, and the appropriate steps to take to protect your employment rights. To speak with a Solicitor call freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online.
Top Ten Tips about Blowing the Whistle:
1. When to blow the whistle?
Where you have been a witness to wrong-doing, unlawful conduct or malpractice in the work environment and you feel it should be raised with your employer. You will not be protected though if you raise your concerns for an ulterior motive or for personal gain.
2. Do I have to blow the whistle?
In certain circumstances, you may have reporting obligations under your professional code of conduct such as:
3. Check the Company policy on whistle blowing
Your employer should have a whistle blowing policy in place which will set out to whom you should raise your concerns in the first instance and what the procedure will then be for investigating your concerns. You should follow this procedure – this ensures your employer can’t later claim that it wasn’t aware you were raising your concerns.
4. Keep a record
However you raise your concerns and whoever you raise them with, make sure you put them, or follow them up in writing, so that you have a clear record of what you said, to whom and when. At the very least, keep a file note. An email to yourself straight after is a good idea as it proves the date the notes were made.
5. It’s all about the wording
Protection is available to whistleblowers (meaning they should not be dismissed or subjected to other detrimental treatment by their employer in connection with raising those concerns), where, in raising their concerns, they are “disclosing information” about wrong-doing or malpractice. It may not be enough to just make allegations of unlawful conduct for example, “what you are doing is against the law”. Set out clearly the facts from which you have concluded that the conduct you are complaining about is unlawful “I am concerned that x acted unlawfully when he deliberately failed to include a financial liability of x in the company’s accounts”.
6. Mere bad practice or breaches of policy may not be protected
If what you are raising with your employer just constitutes a breach of its own internal policies, or bad practice in the industry, it’s perfectly acceptable to raise them but this may not get you the protection available to whistleblowers. To get that protection, the conduct complained of must be unlawful.
7. Leave it to them
Do not attempt to investigate the malpractice yourself if it does not fall within your area of responsibility as this may impact your relationship with your employer. A solid belief that the concerns you are raising are true, is sufficient.
8. Going to the regulator
If you feel you are unable to raise your concerns with your employer, and you are sure of the truth in what you are raising, you may report it directly to the relevant regulator (e.g. FCA) or a “prescribed person” (e.g. HMRC, the Health and Safety Executive and the Office of Fair Trading). The relevant regulator, or prescribed person, will vary depending on your particular circumstances.
9. What about the press?
You should avoid reporting your concerns to a wider audience, for example, publishing the information online or in a chat room. In addition, reporting to the media is rarely, if ever, protected under the whistleblowing legislation, and you will not be protected if you receive a payment from the press for the story.
10. Confidentiality clauses?
Even if you have signed a Compromise Agreement with a confidentiality clause, which requires you not to discuss matters that arose during your employment with any third party, this will not be enforceable by your employer if you want to raise genuine whistleblowing concerns, either with your employer, or in certain circumstances, with regulatory bodies – the law requires that an individual can never be prevented from blowing the whistle.
For more information see whistleblower protection or contact us to discuss your case.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers is one of the UK's largest and well known law firms with offices in London, Manchester, Watford, Liverpool, Chester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Preston, Wakefield and Wrexham.
Employment Solicitors at Slater and Gordon UK are members of the Employment Lawyers Association.