Whistleblowing for employees
Where there is no threat of immediate danger, whistleblowers should protect themselves. Potential whistleblowers should prepare carefully to make a disclosure, making a note of any relevant evidence (for example, record dates, times and the names of any witnesses), seek support and take external advice, possibly from Public Concern at Work (PCaW), the Whistleblowing Helpline, a voluntary advice service or trade union.
Consider the following whistleblowing do’s and don’ts:
- keep calm
- think about the risks and outcomes before you act
- remember you are a witness, not a complainant
- phone PCaW for advice on 020 7404 6609.
- forget there may be an innocent or good explanation
- become a private detective
- use a whistleblowing procedure to pursue a personal grievance
- expect thanks.
(Van Den Hende, 2001)
Public Concern at Work (PCaW) is an independent charity that offers support to whistleblowers. The organisation supports both individuals and employers by:
- offering free, confidential advice to people concerned about crime, danger or wrongdoing at work
- helping organisations to deliver and demonstrate good governance
- informing public policy
- promoting individual responsibility, organisational accountability and the public interest.
The Whistleblowing Helpline is a free-phone service (08000 724 725) for employees, and organisations working within the NHS and social care sector. It is not a disclosure line; it provides advice and guidance to staff, employers, contractors, unions and professional bodies. This includes:
- free, confidential advice to NHS and social care staff who witness wrongdoing and are unsure whether or how to raise their concern
- advice and support to managers or those responsible for matters of policy development and best practice within the health and social care market
- assistance with developing and embedding whistleblowing procedures
- assistance with whistleblowing policy review and development
- advice on how to respond to whistleblowing concerns that have been raised.
The law offers some protection to people who blow the whistle under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. The Act offers protection, from victimisation in employment following a disclosure, to public, private and voluntary sector workers. The parameters of ‘protected disclosure’ are set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA). The person making the disclosure should not commit an offence in doing so (e.g. breach the Official Secrets Act 1989) and must reasonably believe one or more of the following:
- that a criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed
- that a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which he is subject
- that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur
- that the health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered
- that the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged
- that information tending to show any matter falling within any one of the preceding paragraphs has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed. (ERA,1996)