Legal protections are available to employees who blow the whistle i.e. bring to the attention of their employer or a regulator that there are practices which are of concern within an organisation. These protections came about following various public inquiries including the Clapham Rail Crash and the Zebrugge and Piper Alpha disasters. These incidents highlighted that workers were aware of the dangers but had been too scared to speak up.
Whistleblowing: Tips for employers
make sure you have a robust whistleblowing policy in place which covers the raising and handling of any staff concerns
provide guidance to employees on when the policy will apply and when other procedures will be more appropriate
ensure that staff know that if a whistleblowing complaint is raised, they will not be penalised because of it
keep accurate records of all concerns raised and how they are dealt with
give staff at all levels training on whistleblowing and keep records of this training
investigate thoroughly any complaints by employees who feel they have suffered because they made a whistleblowing disclosure
make it clear that there will be serious consequences for anyone who victimises a whistleblower.
Managing a situation where whistleblowing arises effectively can be complex. The recent case of Royal Mail v Jhuti clarified that an employer will not be liable for the automatic unfair dismissal of a whistleblower if the decision maker was: (a) not aware of the whistleblowing; and (b) did not make the decision to dismiss as a result of the disclosure. This reverses a previous decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal which determined that it was not only the reasoning of the decision maker that was important, but also the motivations of other managers who may have influenced the decision.
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This should come as a relief to employers who, until this decision was reached, could have been faced with a situation where they were liable for unfair dismissal in situations where the decision maker was not aware of the whistleblowing disclosure. Where the whistleblowing complaint is concealed from a decision maker, the employer will not have automatically acted unfairly in dismissing the whistleblower for another reason. This is provided they have carried out a fair and thorough investigation before dismissal occurs.
Despite this, it is crucial that employers have procedures in place to deal with whistleblowing so that they can be effectively managed which, in turn, will minimise the risk of claims.
Source: Devon live