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Employment law

Whistleblower Advice Solicitors

If you're considering becoming a whistleblower, it's important to make sure that taking this course doesn't adversely affect your career. These ten tips are intended to help you protect yourself when you blow the whistle on wrongdoing.

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Slater and Gordon's specialist employment solicitors are here to offer you the support and advice you need when whistleblowing. Call us now on 0161 830 9632 or contact us and we'll call you.

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How can I whistleblow safely?

Most whistleblowers call out wrongdoing out of a sense of honesty and decency. They uncover dishonesty and dangerous working practices for the good of the public and often their colleagues too. Having said that, every whistleblower also needs to bear in mind that there are ways and means of whistleblowing that keep you within the law - as described in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 - and help to protect your ability to earn a living after you've revealed what you know.

These 10 tips for whistleblowers are intended to help you blow the whistle in the safest and best way while retaining the protection of the law. Our experienced employment solicitors are also here to help if you need any additional advice or support. Call us now on 0161 830 9632, or contact us and we'll call you.

1. Blow the whistle at the right time

You're entitled – and sometimes even legally bound – to blow the whistle if you've become aware of wrongdoing, unlawful conduct or malpractice in the work environment and you feel that it must be raised with your employer. The law offers you a good measure of protection when you're doing so, but it should also be noted that you may not have this protection if you're found to have raised concerns for an ulterior motive such as revenge or for personal financial gain.

2. Blow the whistle when you are obliged to

In certain circumstances, you may be subject to reporting obligations under your professional code of conduct, such as when you are:

  • An accountant: must report wrongdoing to the ICCA
  • A senior manager under the Senior Managers Regime: must disclose appropriately any information of which the FCA or PRA would reasonably expect notice.
  • A solicitor: is obliged to report wrongdoing to the SRA

3. Blow the whistle according to company policy

Your employer should have a whistleblowing policy in place, which will tell you whom you should raise your concerns with in the first instance and what the procedure will then be for investigating your concerns. You should follow this procedure to ensure that your employer can't later claim that it wasn't aware you were raising your concerns.

4. Keep a record of your whistleblowing

Even if your company policy is that you should raise concerns verbally, it's a good idea to also put your concerns in writing, and follow up your conversation with a letter, or better still an email. This ensures you have a record of what you said, when, and to whom.

5. Be very careful about the words you use

In law, protection for whistleblowers is based on the fact that you're 'disclosing information' about wrongdoing, not that they're making unfounded allegations. You should phrase any conversations or correspondence in connection to your whistleblowing very carefully. Don't say: "You are breaking the law and I am going to report you." Do say: "I am concerned that x acted unlawfully when he deliberately failed to include a financial liability of x in the company's accounts".

6. Only blow the whistle on unlawful activity

Whistleblower protection is there to ensure that people feel safe revealing unlawful and/or dangerous practices. You're protected if you report clear dishonesty, or clear breaches of health and safety rules for example. You're not protected if you're only complaining about bad practices such as high-pressure sales techniques.

7. Remember to report – not to investigate

It's enough that you've reported your concerns to your employer. It's then for them to investigate your concerns. Attempting to turn investigator yourself may sour your relations with your employer and prejudice your position.

8. Use a regulator if you must

In some cases, it's evident that your employer is fully aware of wrongdoing and wouldn't welcome your involvement as a whistleblower. This is when you may be better taking the advice of an employment solicitor about the best route for whistleblowing, whether it involves HMRC, HSE, OFT, the FCA or another official body.

9. Don't go public or go to the press

Whistleblowing legislation is designed to protect people who blow the whistle in the right way, and for the right reasons. If you reveal your concerns via social media or by going to the press, you may not be entitled to receive the legal protection you'll need.

10. Don't worry about confidentiality clauses

While many employers ask people to sign non-disclosure agreements ("NDA") and compromise agreements in order to ensure confidentiality, they don't prevent you from legitimate whistleblowing. Regardless of what you've signed, if conduct is illegal, you still have a right and a duty to blow the whistle. It's sensible to take advice on whistleblowing if you've signed an NDA.

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