This Insight is #13 in our Employment Handbook series, keep an eye out for more.
An individual blows the whistle when they report or expose wrongdoing to another individual within their business or they report it externally, for example to a regulator or to the press. An individual who blows the whistle is protected from being treated detrimentally or from being dismissed.
To gain protection an individual must make a disclosure of information, which they reasonably believe is in the public interest and tends to show that one or more of the following has occurred or is likely to occur:
- a criminal offence;
- breach of any legal obligation;
- a miscarriage of justice;
- danger to the health and safety of any individual;
- damage to the environment; or
- the deliberate concealment of information about any of the above.
If an employee is treated detrimentally then they can bring a claim for compensation in the employment tribunal. The employee’s dismissal will be automatically unfair if the reason or principal reason for the dismissal is because they blew the whistle. The right to claim unfair dismissal applies from day one, so no qualifying period is required. In addition, there isn’t any upper limit on the amount of compensation that can be claimed.
Is a Whistleblowing always included in an Employment Policy?
Employers don’t have to have a written whistleblowing policy, but it’s a good idea to have one. A policy will usually set out the procedure for making a disclosure and help encourage a culture where employees feel able to report concerns at an early stage. This should make it easier for an employer to take effective action to address any concerns raised before they become more serious.
In addition, if an employer encourages employees to raise their concerns internally, they’re less likely to raise them externally with the associated risk of damage to the employer’s reputation. A Whistleblowing Policy should also make it clear that whistleblowing is important and that employees doing so should not suffer a detriment or be dismissed, which will reduce the employer’s risk of having a claim made against them.
As is the case with many employment policies, just implementing a policy is not enough. For the policy to work most effectively, employers need to train their managers on what to do if a disclosure is made and how an employer should be supported after they’ve made a disclosure.
Your responsibility as an Employer
As a matter of law employers must give employees employment contracts which cover the key terms of the employment relationship, but the contract won’t cover all of the policies, procedures and expectations for the relationship between a business and the people within it. A employee handbook can include information for all team members, including employees, workers, apprentices and agency staff. Not only can a employee handbook bring together useful guidance for everyone on the culture, values and expectations the business as but it will often be a resource that can save a dispute from arising or provide the best framework for resolving a dispute. The non-contractual policies and procedures that can be included in a employee handbook will sit alongside contracts of employment to set out how employees are expected to act and how the employer will deal with certain situations.
Putting all the policies and procedures together in one place that is accessible to everyone working in a business is good practice and can provide an invaluable framework for reference on all of the HR issues to cover. If any grievance or dispute arises, having a policy or procedure to refer to and follow can help prevent the situation escalating. If the worst occurs and a claim comes before a tribunal, being able to show the policies and procedures that were followed can make a huge difference to the outcome.
Its important to have a Whistleblowing Policy so that all employees are on the same page if they decide to whistle-blow they know what to expect and the company already have a set plan on how to deal with the situation. For more information about Whistleblowing Policies get in touch with our Employment Law team today on 0330 912 8338.
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© Atkins Dellow LLP 2022
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