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Where an individual has concerns about wrongdoing in the workplace, they may have whistleblower protection if they raise those concerns and are then subjected to unfair treatment or dismissed as a result.
You may have seen reports in the news about whistle-blowers raising concerns in the public sector, for instance in hospitals or care homes, although the scope of whistleblowing is in fact much wider. Not only does it include concerns about health and safety, individuals can raise concerns about the commission of criminal offences, for example, fraud in the workplace, damage to the environment and the covering up of wrongdoing. Where an individual has concerns, they should raise these with either their line manager/another senior manager, or one of a number of designated bodies (e.g. the police if a criminal offence is suspected, or a regulator, for example, the General Medical Council if they are concerned about the conduct of a doctor). An individual will not be protected under whistleblowing legislation if they instead raise their concerns elsewhere, for instance by contacting a newspaper or other media outlet.
Any disclosure of information must also be in the public interest, which means that the wrongdoing should affect a group of people, for example, patients in a hospital or care home, rather than just an individual worker. Where an individual has concerns which only affect themselves, for instance, a dispute about their pay or contract, they should usually raise this as a grievance.
Where legitimate concerns have been raised, steps should be taken to investigate the alleged wrongdoing. If an individual is treated unfairly or dismissed as a result of raising concerns, they may be able to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal. There are strict time limits within which to bring a claim so individuals should seek advice from whistleblower lawyers as soon as possible.
If an individual faces whistleblower retaliation, whistleblower protection is there to protect you if you have faced consequences such as unfair dismissals or discrimination due to your actions.
The charity ‘Protect’ offers a free advice line for individuals who have concerns about whistle-blowing.
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