Business Law & Compliance

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How well do you know the whistleblowing policy?

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When the law was introduced under the Public Disclosure Act in 1998 it aimed to provide protection for employees who were singled out or treated unfairly for reporting a wrongdoing in the workplace. In other words it prevents detrimental treatment of workers and allows them to claim compensation if they aren’t treated fairly.

Fast forward to 2013 and changes to the policy were made to avoid abuse of the system. Changes include; disclosures have to be made in the “public interest” and no longer had to be made in “good faith”, and employees should not be subjected to unfair treatment by colleagues or an agent acting on the employer’s behalf.

But how does the whistleblowing policy really work? And is it really protecting employees and encouraging them to speak out at the same time? Let’s take a look at how the policy works at present.

What constitutes a whistleblowing?

A whistleblowing applies when wrongdoing or misconduct in the workplace is reported – providing it comes under one of the following matters; criminal offence, health and safety danger, risk or actual damage to the environment, miscarriage of justice, the law has been broken, or someone is covering up wrongdoing.

Next up, disclosures must be made in the public interest and to a prescribed person or employers. Prescribed persons were introduced if an employee doesn’t feel comfortable announcing the issue directly to their employer and allow disclosures to be made to a relevant organisation. And all disclosures made should be backed up by evidence which add merit to any claims made, and not be an allegation of malpractice. In terms of evidence, information obtained should be clearly documented and be information which cannot otherwise be obtained via public information or other government sources. Anything disclosed should be new information which is in the public interest.

When a whistleblowing doesn’t apply

Although the policy was introduced in order to protect employees and encourage them to speak up and report misconduct in good faith there are some situations where the whistleblowing law doesn’t provide protection.

As mentioned anything disclosed should be reported to a prescribed person – a full list can be found on the government website – however, if you make a disclosure to the media or someone not on the list then you may find that the law cannot protect you.
Reporting directly to the media in the first instance may imply that you are acting for personal gain. Similarly, if you wish to remain anonymous then you are protected, however if you wish to go public then you could risk your protection rights.

Read more to find out what the big policy concerns are.

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