How to handle whistleblowing

  1. Worker whistle blowing
    Nicola Mullineux

    Nicola Mullineux Contributor, Peninsula Business Services Full Member - Verified Business

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    Workers are afforded important rights to protect them when raising concerns of impropriety by employers. This protection is extended to temporary staff and it’s important that business owners understand how to handle these situations. Nicola Mullineux, employment law researcher at Peninsula Business Services, looks at the key aspects you need to know.

    Blowing the whistle, or making a protected disclosure, occurs where a worker raises an issue surrounding a matter in the workplace. Whistleblowing is often regarded as a negative matter, however, it is a useful tool as those higher up in the business are informed of any wrongdoing by those on the front line.

    A worker will be protected by whistleblowing laws if they have a reasonable belief that they are acting in the public interest ie. the disclosure is not relating to a personal complaint and that the disclosure relates to a past, present or likely future wrongdoing in a specific category. This includes: a criminal offence; a failure to comply with a legal obligation; a miscarriage of justice; endangering a person’s health and safety; damaging the environment; and covering up any wrongdoing from these categories.

    Laws under the Employment Rights Act 1996 protect a worker who has made a protected disclosure from being victimised at work, or dismissed, because they have made the disclosure.

    Agency workers who are provided to an end user are protected against unfair treatment by the end user where the end user has substantially decided the terms of their engagement, for example, if they provide a written agreement outlining terms for the agency worker.

    When employers are faced with a situation where a worker is blowing the whistle, especially for the first time, they may be unsure how to handle this. The important thing is that the worker feels they can blow the whistle internally; if not, it is likely the individual will go external and, in extreme cases, to the media.

    It is best practice to have a whistleblowing policy in place or to introduce one. Small businesses may not think it is important to have this extra documentation in place, but transparency for both the worker and employer will make sure the disclosure is dealt with properly and in a timely manner.

    Any policy in place should detail: who disclosures should be made to; what the procedure for making a disclosure is; what will count as a ‘protected disclosure’; the process following a disclosure being made, including whether any feedback will be passed to the individual; and the protection the individual has against unfair treatment.

    An important point for small businesses to consider is who they name as the person to make disclosures to. For larger companies, they often have a separate person who controls this but this may not be possible in smaller companies. Additionally, if there is only one senior manager or owner and this person is the whistleblowing officer, some thought will need to go in to who will carry out any later processes is the employee is not happy about how this is handled. Once the policy is in place, this should be communicated to all staff and managers should be trained on how to deal with disclosures.

    When the disclosure has been made, it is essential the employer address this, in line with any policy, rather than simply ignoring it. If there is not enough information in the original disclosure, it may be useful to hold a meeting with the whistleblower to try and obtain as much detail about the specific wrongdoing. This information should be documented along with any decision or action taken by the employer after the disclosure. Some employers may find it useful to feedback their actions to the whistleblower as this is likely to ensure whistleblowers feel listened to and will encourage them to continue to raise concerns internally.

    If the individual making the protected disclosure feels they have been unfairly treated, they can make a claim at an employment tribunal. This can be an expensive claim for employers especially as the maximum cap for compensation for unfair dismissal claims does not apply to unfair whistleblowing dismissals. Instead, it is best that employers are dealing with protected disclosures fairly, consistently and transparently to avoid this risk.

  2. ethical PR

    ethical PR UKBF Legend Free Member

    6,869 1,500
    @Nicola Mullineaux I notice you haven't contributed to this forum before this post. Can you tell us something about yourself. Are you an employment lawyer as well as a researcher?
    Posted: Oct 30, 2016 By: ethical PR Member since: Apr 19, 2009
  3. Nicola Mullineux

    Nicola Mullineux Contributor, Peninsula Business Services Full Member - Verified Business

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    @ethical PR Thanks for your interest! I’ve posted quite a few articles on UKBF before as part of my work as an employment law researcher for Peninsula, which has kept me busy for the last 12 years. Any other questions do let me know.
    Posted: Nov 15, 2016 By: Nicola Mullineux Member since: Mar 16, 2016
  4. fisicx

    fisicx It's Major Clanger! Staff Member

    29,337 8,652
    So what happens at if someone goes public about something wrong at Peninsula? The company has a very poor reputation, there have been a number of threads on UKBF about this which have been deleted for legal reasons. That would indicate to me you prefer to hide wrongdoing rather than fix things.
    Posted: Dec 7, 2016 By: fisicx Member since: Sep 12, 2006
    Chris Ashdown likes this.