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What is Whistleblowing?

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

What is whistleblowing

Early in 2022, a nurse sacked for speaking out about a patient's death won a record £460,000 payout after the tribunal found that there was a link between her blowing the whistle on her organisation and her being dismissed. In this case, the nurse warned that increased workloads contributed to a patient's death. You can see more about the case by clicking here. But what exactly is whistleblowing?

What is whistleblowing?

According to you're a whistleblower if you're a worker who reports a certain type of wrongdoing. The wrongdoing you disclose must be in the public interest which means it must affect others, such as the general public. Typically, whistleblowing disclosures relate to matters such as fraud, corruption, environmental violations, health hazards, or any form of serious misconduct. Examples of whistleblowing could include:

  • The 'Luxleaks' whistleblower who highlighted how companies like Amazon and Dyson struck deals with Luxembourg to avoid cross-border tax

  • Doctors and nurses witnessing abuse or practices that are detrimental to patients

  • The whistleblower who highlighted HMRC doing a deal with Goldman Sachs so they didn't have to pay £20m worth of interest payments

You can see more about the above and other whistleblowing cases here:

According to Slater and Gordon, there are three types of whistleblowing:

  • Internal whistleblowing- where a worker reports wrongdoing within an organisation

  • External whistleblowing- where a worker reports wrongdoing to parties outside of the organisation

  • Cyber whistleblowing- this could include security breaches, insecure practices, encryption deficiencies, and being hacked.

You can see examples of whistleblowing cases here:

Are whistleblowers protected by the law?

Whistleblowers are protected by the law and shouldn't be treated unfairly or lose their jobs for blowing the whistle. Whistleblowers may face backlash, retaliation, loss of employment, social isolation, and even legal consequences so it's incredibly important to take whistleblowing concerns seriously and to abide by the law.

Who is protected?

✅ Employees

✅ Workers

✅ Trainees

✅ Agency workers

✅ Members of limited liability partnerships

Is whistleblowing the same as a personal grievance?

The short answer is no, personal grievances should be handled as part of your grievance policy.

What is a qualifying disclosure?

According to Protect, the whistleblowing charity, when making a qualifying disclosure you will need to demonstrate that you made a disclosure which you reasonably believe is made in the public interest, of information that tends to show :

  • a crime has been or is likely to be committed;

  • a person has failed or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which they are subject;

  • a miscarriage of justice has occurred or is likely to occur;

  • the health and safety of any individual has been or is likely to be endangered:

  • the environment has been or is likely to be damaged; or

  • a cover-up of any of the above.

You can see more details here about protected disclosures:

Should I have a whistleblowing policy?

Given the seriousness of whistleblowing it's important organisations show a commitment to how such serious incidents will be handled. Whistleblowing policies are designed to provide protection from victimisation and dismissal. Policies should encourage staff to report any wrongdoing they see and dealing with such allegations internally could avoid damage to the organisations reputation. Policies should;

· Include who to approach when a concern is suspected

· Outline the different types of disclosure

· Set out how investigations will be handled

· Stress that issues will be handled confidentially

· Outline how organisations will provide protection and support

· Include a monitoring and review procedure

What free resources are available to help with whistleblowing?

What should I do if there is a whistleblowing issue in my business?

If you're using Tap HR get in touch with us, but if not get some support to ensure you manage the situation properly.

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  • All information within the post is provided for guidance only; always seek your own legal advice.

  • The information with this post was correct at the time of publishing, March 2023 but may be subject to change.

References Accessed 27th November 2022

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