Legal Article - Employment Law

Whistle-blowing in the Workplace

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 provides for specific protection for employees who make protected disclosures in specified circumstances. The types of protected disclosures are as follows:

• that a criminal offence has been, is being or is likely to be committed

• that a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which they are subject

• that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur

• that the health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be in danger

• that the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged

• that information tending to show any matter falling within the above categories has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed.
The worker must raise the matter in a prescribed way in order to be protected against unfair dismissal and victimisation. The worker must, in all but the most extreme circumstances, raise any concern internally first to the following:

• the employer or to some other person who has legal responsibility for the matter

• the individual responsible for the conduct

• some other person in accordance with the employer’s procedure

• the legal advisor in the course of obtaining legal advice.

There are certain circumstances where a worker can make the disclosure externally, without raising it internally, to a person or regulatory body prescribed by the Secretary of State e.g. the Health and Safety Executive. The worker will have to show that they reasonably believed that the disclosure is substantially true and the disclosure is not made for personal gain.
Gagging clauses in employment contracts are void in so far as they conflict with the Act’s protection.

Published: 27 May 2011

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