How to Protect Yourself from Retaliation When Blowing the Whistle at Work

Blowing the whistle plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the workplace, ensuring wrongdoing is reported and addressed. Whether an act of wrongdoing has happened, is happening or will happen, whistleblowing can be hugely beneficial. However, the decision to blow the whistle can be daunting, with potential repercussions from employers and colleagues. Fortunately, whistleblowing law protects employees and you may be able to make a whistleblowing claim against your employer if you are treated unfairly due to blowing the whistle.

The Basics About Whistleblowing at Work 

Whistleblowing occurs when an employee reports suspected wrongdoing within their organisation. The information disclosed must be made with honest intent and within the public interest. The types of wrongdoing covered by whistleblowing law include criminal offences, failure to comply with legal obligations, miscarriages of justice, health and safety risks, damage to the environment or the concealment of wrongdoing. 

When blowing the whistle, employees can protect themselves, their colleagues and the public from harm. It encourages transparency and accountability, ensuring that employers maintain employment law ethics. By shining a light on wrongdoing, whistleblowers can help foster a culture of honesty and compliance within the workplace.

Legal Protection for Whistleblowers in the UK

In the UK, whistleblowers are protected by the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA), which includes protections by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA). Under this key piece of legislation, employees can disclose information about wrongdoing without fear of retaliation. A vast range of employees are protected by the ERA, including workers, trainees, agency workers and members of Limited Liability Partnerships.  

According to the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees have the right not to suffer any detriment by their employer on the basis that they have blown the whistle. While the term ‘detriment’ is not explicitly defined within this piece of legislation, it is a familiar term in other areas of employment law and typically includes; financial disadvantages, being overlooked for promotions, increased workload, uncomfortable working conditions or being denied the same benefits as colleagues. Whistleblowers are also protected from dismissal and it is automatically unfair to dismiss an employee for blowing the whistle at work. 

This broad protection ensures that whistleblowers can raise concerns about wrongdoing without fear of unfair treatment, creating an environment where employees are not afraid to speak up. When coming forward with information about wrongdoing, employees can do so confidently knowing the law is on their side to protect them from unfair repercussions. 

How Employees Can Protect Themselves When Blowing the Whistle

Employees can expose wrongdoing from the first day of their employment and will be protected by the ERA. However, for a disclosure of information to be considered a ‘protected disclosure’, certain criteria must be met and the disclosure must be made correctly under the Act. For example, the employee must believe the disclosure is in the public interest and, importantly, believe the information is true, even if it turns out to be incorrect later.

Generally, it is advisable to try and resolve issues internally first. If that is not possible or if it does not work, you can report the wrongdoing to a specified body. It is beneficial to note that an employer may claim the disclosure of wrongdoing was not made in ‘good faith’ and instead, intended to harm the company. Knowing these details can help employees protect themselves when blowing the whistle. 

  • Understand Your Rights – Before starting the whistleblowing process, ensure you fully understand the legal protection for whistleblowers in the UK. Knowing how to correctly make a protected disclosure can help ensure you navigate the process with informed caution, so you are protected from retaliation. 
  • Follow Internal Procedures – Many companies have policies for whistleblowing. Following these can offer protection and ensure your disclosure is taken seriously. It typically involves reporting concerns to a designated member of staff or through specific channels outlined in your employer’s whistleblowing policy.
  • Document Everything – Keep detailed records of the wrongdoing you are reporting, including dates, times, locations and the names of individuals involved. Also, document all communications related to your whistleblowing, including emails, letters and notes from meetings. This evidence can be crucial in supporting a whistleblowing claim.
  • Seek Confidential Advice – Should you be unsure about the whistleblowing process, get some professional advice. Contacting a whistleblowing specialist can help to ensure you make a disclosure in the right way. Their guidance is invaluable for helping you plan your next steps and protect your position as a whistleblower.
  • Consider External Reporting as a Last Resort – If internal reporting does not lead to action or if you believe reporting internally will result in retaliation, you may be able to disclose the information to a prescribed body. Ensure you understand the implications of external reporting and consider seeking legal advice before taking this step.

Getting Some Tailored Advice About Whistleblowing Claims

Choosing to blow the whistle is a courageous act and the Employment Rights Act 1996 offers robust protection for whistleblowers, ensuring they can make disclosures without fear of retaliation. By understanding your rights, following established procedures and taking steps to protect yourself, you can navigate the process of whistleblowing with confidence. If you are considering making a whistleblowing claim, remember advice and support are available to guide you through, safeguarding both your career and well-being.

If you want to learn more about whistleblowing at work, take a look at the rest of Damian McCarthy’s website today. Damian is an employment law specialist and has extensive experience supporting employees with whistleblowing claims. In addition to providing advice for whistleblowers, Damian can guide you through the process of making an Employment Tribunal claim. By working hard to understand your case, Damian can guide you through the difficulties you may face and over the years, he has turned very complex cases into winning ones. You can trust that Damian will have your best interests in mind at all times.