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A Third of Workers Would be Scared to Expose Illegal Activity at Work

A Third of Workers Would be Scared to Expose Illegal Activity at Work

A third of British workers would be worried about revealing illegal or dangerous activities by their employer, new research has revealed.

Fears of losing their job (53 per cent) and the impact it would have on their career (23 per cent) were two of the main reasons people gave for saying they would turn a blind eye. Other concerns were around how they would be treated by their colleagues for coming forward and whether they would be believed or listened to.

But the number of people who would consider exposing illegal activity at work rose dramatically to 67 per cent of those questioned if they could complain anonymously. Almost half (49 per cent) said they would blow the whistle if they had legal protection from being maltreated at work and would get financial compensation if they were sacked.

Results revealed 17 per cent would speak out if there was a financial reward.

Almost a quarter wouldn’t say anything out of loyalty to their employer and over one fifth said they would feel it wasn’t any of their business to speak out.

The survey of more than 2,000 working Brits was commissioned by employment law specialists Slater and Gordon who offer advice to workers considering blowing the whistle.

The results revealed 16 per cent of people had blown the whistle at work with almost half of those exposing health and safety breaches and 29 per raising concern over illegal activity.

Alarmingly over half (51 per cent) said they were treated differently at work after they spoke out.

Samantha Mangwana, employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “It is alarming that a third of people are scared to come forward and expose even the most serious wrongdoing at work because they are concerned about the repercussions on themselves.

“The fact that a large percentage of people said they wouldn’t speak out even if they saw the law broken illustrates just how worried people are about what will happen to them if they do.

“Although it takes a lot of bravery to blow the whistle it needn’t be as terrifying as some people seem to think as long as they get the right legal advice.”

One anonymous responder said they had reported colleagues who drove trains for smoking cannabis at work while another raised concerns over a doctor who was secretly filming patients.

Other examples from the study were of employers avoiding paying tax, the forging of court documents, people stealing from their place of work and witnessing harassment and bullying.

Forty eight per cent were made to feel unwelcome after they blew the whistle, a third felt isolated and 30 per cent were constantly criticised by their boss after they had raised their concerns.

Twenty seven per cent said their colleagues wouldn’t talk to them afterwards while over one fifth felt they were passed over for promotion. One in ten were fired or made redundant as a result of their whistleblowing. Just seven per cent said they were praised for their actions.

Forty four per cent said the problem was resolved by their bosses but 35 per cent weren’t sure of the outcome. Thirteen per cent revealed no action was taken while nine per cent were ignored.

Almost one fifth of those questioned had seen a colleague blow the whistle with nearly two thirds reporting that their work mate had been treated unfavourably as a result.

More than half said their colleague was shunned by workmates while almost a third said their boss was overly critical of them afterwards. Seven out of ten said their colleagues’ treatment had put them off ever speaking out.

Fifty six per cent of all those surveyed would rather blow the whistle outside of their place of work with seven out of ten preferring to reveal their concerns to a regulator. Eighteen per cent said they would rather expose what was happening at work in the media while seven per cent would go to their MP.

More than half said they would prefer to complain externally as they were worried about their job if they spoke out inside their company while 42 per cent would want to expose what was happening to the public.

Amazingly 63 per cent of those questioned said they were not aware of laws protecting whistleblowers from revealing wrong-doing if it is in the public interest to do so, such as exposing illegal activity.

Samantha Mangwana, from Slater and Gordon said: “Our research shows that being able to remain anonymous would make a big difference to employees’ thinking when it comes to speaking out, while a lot of people said they would blow the whistle if they would be protected.

“Too many people fear they will suffer at the hands of their employer if they speak out and many would prefer to go outside of their organisation to expose what is going on.

“Our research shows most people don’t know that there are laws in place to protect whistleblowers. It’s important to the public interest that employees expose wrong doing, but it’s also important that they protect themselves by getting sound legal advice first.”

For further information or interview requests please contact

Justin Penrose


Tel: 0207 657 1698

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