Protection for whistle blowers under UK employment law

A business may find that one or more of its employees alert the police or the media to activities they believe to be dangerous or even illegal. In these 'whistle blower' situations, it is highly advisable for the firm affected to seek advice from employment law solicitors to ensure compliance with the law protecting these individuals.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) is the primary legislation regarding whistle blowing in UK business, and will therefore be central to such advice. It states that its provisions are intended "to protect individuals who make certain disclosures of information in the public interest; to allow such individuals to bring action in respect of victimisation; and for connected purposes." This has created a highly sophisticated scheme to prevent the victimisation of whistle blowers.

However, it does not offer blanket protection; whistle blowers must satisfy the definition of a 'qualifying disclosure'. Circumstances that count as qualifying disclosures for the protection of PIDA include the belief that a criminal offence or a miscarriage of justice has been or is likely to be committed, or that the organisation is engaging in activity which would endanger the environment or a person's health and safety. Disclosures falling outside PIDA's provisions may not be protected.

The Act states explicitly that disclosures are not protected if an offence is committed by the making of such a disclosure; this means, for example, that the Official Secrets Act 1989 may supersede the provisions of PIDA. Precedent has also shown that whistle blowers may not be protected if the methods used to gather information are illegal.

In cases where employees have made a qualifying disclosure, employers must take great care in their treatment. If detriment or unfair dismissal occurs as a result of whistle blowing, PIDA allows for the employee to take a case to an employment tribunal. There is no limit on compensation levels where PIDA has been breached.

Specialist employment law solicitors for whistle blower cases

The Employment Law team at JMW Solicitors are experts on the legislation surrounding whistle blowing in the UK. We can advise employers on the best ways of proceeding in compliance with the law, and can provide strong representation at employment tribunals or settlements should a case reach this stage.

We aim to provide all our clients with high quality legal services, and to do so with the personal approach that a partner-led department can offer. Should you wish to arrange a meeting with an employment law solicitor from our team, without commitment, please contact us on 0345 872 6666 or complete our online enquiry form.


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