Is Whistleblowing Protected by UK Law?

September 30, 2015

Whistleblowing in UK

Some companies have whistleblowing policies, others don’t – but do employees at companies without a whistleblowing policy still have legal protection if they wish to ‘blow the whistle’?

What Is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is when an employee confidentially reports a wrongdoing within their workplace that is in the public interest – such as an employee committing fraud by stealing money from customer accounts.

The term is thought to have appeared around the 1970s, as a reference to when a referee blows the whistle during a sports match to indicate foul play.

Is Whistleblowing Protected by UK Law?

Regardless of whether or not your company has its own whistleblowing policy in place, your employee may still have legal protection when ‘blowing the whistle’. However, it is important to note that it is only issues in the public interest that can be classed as whistleblowing – so if the wrongdoing being reported is a personal matter between two employees, such as bullying, then it should be raised as a grievance and dealt with internally.

According to the UK government’s dedicated webpage on whistleblowing, the following list of wrongdoings are classed as matters that should be reported as whistleblowing:

– Issues involving criminal offences like fraud

– Issues that put a person’s health and safety in danger

– Issues that risk or damage the environment

– Issues involving a miscarriage of justice

– Issues where a company is failing to comply with the law, such as not being insured correctly

– Issues where somebody at work is covering up a wrongdoing listed above

An employee is protected by law when whistleblowing if they are a permanent paid employee, a trainee or student worker, an agency worker or a member of a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).

You can find out more about whistleblowing by visiting the government website here.

Do You Have a Whistleblowing Policy?

As this article shows, you don’t necessarily need a whistleblowing policy written into your employment contract – your employees are normally protected by law regardless, if they wish to confidentially report something in the public interest.

Could it help to have a policy? Or is a policy just a waste of space that adds even more stress to your already heavy workload? Let us know your opinion in the comments below.


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