Employment

Blowing The Whistle

If you are dismissed because you, ‘blew the whistle’ on an issue at your place of work, the dismissal is classed as automatically unfair and you will be entitled to damages.

What is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is a term used for publically raising concerns about wrongdoing in a workplace. There are many famous cases of whistle-blowing, including Wiki-leaks founder, Julian Assange and Jeffrey Wigand, the former vice president at Brown & Williamson who sensationally claimed that the cigarette company intentionally manipulated its tobacco blend to increase the amount of nicotine in cigarette smoke.

Can I be protected from dismissal for any disclosure I make?

No, only disclosures deemed to be in the public interest.

The whistleblowing must be related to a ‘qualifying disclosure’, in relation to:

  • a criminal offence
  • a failure to comply with a legal obligation
  • a miscarriage of justice
  • a health and safety issue
  • environmental damage
  • an attempt cover up any of the above.

If you make an allegation, you will not be protected; for it to count as whistleblowing, it must be a ‘protected disclosure’.

What is a ‘protected disclosure’?

Any whistleblowing claim must have as its foundation a 'protected disclosure'. This is:

  • a disclosure of information
  • which the worker reasonably believes is made in the public interest and tends to show
  • one or more of certain types of wrongdoing as outlined above in ‘qualifying disclosures’
  • made in one of the protected manners eg, to the worker's employer (or in some circumstances to another individual responsible for the wrongdoing), or made in the course of obtaining legal advice, or in certain circumstances made to a Minister of the Crown, relevant regulatory authority or in exceptional circumstances to other bodies or persons, subject to a variety of conditions being met.

What will I need to show to prove I was dismissed for whistleblowing?

To prove that you were dismissed for blowing the whistle, you will need to show the Employment Tribunal that:

  1. the actual reason your employer gave for dismissing you was not the real reason (for example, you were dismissed for insubordination very soon after you made the disclosure); and
  2. your employer cannot prove the reason he or she gave for dismissing you was the real one or disprove your claim that you were dismissed for whistleblowing.

What are the remedies available for being dismissed for whistleblowing?

If you are successful in making a claim for unfair dismissal following a whistleblowing incident, then you will be entitled to any of the remedies available in a claim involving unfair dismissal including:

  • reinstatement
  • re-engagement
  • compensation

If you have been dismissed after blowing the whistle on your employer, you need to seek the advice of an expert employment solicitor who will help you make a claim in the Employment Tribunal.


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