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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.
Below you will find further information on whistleblowing:
ACAS Early Conciliation
Early conciliation is a free and independent service offered by ACAS which can help you resolve an employment dispute with your employer. ACAS stands for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
In any event, before lodging a claim with the Tribunal, you must contact ACAS and go through their Early Conciliation process by completing their Notification Form online. Here is the link https://tell.acas.org.uk/find-a-solution-to-your-employment-dispute.
If you do not contact ACAS before lodging your claim with the Employment Tribunal, it will be rejected.
You must contact ACAS on or preferably before the deadline to lodge your Employment Tribunal claims, which is usually three months less one day after the last act you want to complain about. For instance, if you were dismissed on 18 June 2020, you would have to bring a claim no later than 17 September 2020. In certain circumstances it may be possible to rely on a continuing series of acts and the deadline would start from the date of the last act in this series. However, we do recommend that you seek legal advice to ensure you know what are the right time limits are for any claims you may have, as it can be difficult to work out.
Provided you contact ACAS before the deadline, going through the Early Conciliation process extends the time in which you have to file your claim. There are however complicated rules as to how long the time limit is/can be extended, and therefore we do again recommend you get proper legal advice.
Once you have completed the Early Conciliation Notification form, an ACAS officer will contact you and ask for details about the dispute. If you agree, ACAS will contact your employer and give the parties the opportunity to try and resolve the dispute without going to the Tribunal. If either you or your employer does not want to try and resolve the dispute informally, or the dispute cannot be resolved, ACAS will issue an Early Conciliation certificate. You need to keep this safe as you will need its reference number if you decide to lodge a claim with the Tribunal.
One last word, if you submit your own Early Conciliation Notification form, make sure you get the name of your employer correct. Claims have been disallowed because the correct entity for the employer was not filed against – we wouldn’t want that to happen to you.
Click here for the ACAS information on early conciliation: https://www.acas.org.uk/early-conciliation
The CAB website is also excellent, particularly for explaining the quite complicated rules around time limits: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/problems-at-work/using-early-conciliation/
There is a wealth of useful information available online, and lots of free advice to steer you in the right direction.
Useful guidance on their Equality page around Disability Discrimination and other kinds of discrimination. They have a simple question and answer format on the website covering common questions arising and an excellent telephone helpline 08457 47 47 47 which is managed from Monday-Friday, 8am-8pm and Saturday, 9am-1pm.
Rights at work. https://www.acas.org.uk
Public Concern at Work
Public Concern at Work is the whistleblowing charity. Established in 1993, they have led the new approach to whistleblowing that-both at home and abroad – recognises the key role it can play in anticipating and avoiding serious risks that arise in and from the workplace.
Employment/Work Issues: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/
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