AM Writes: There have been a lot of news stories recently regarding whistleblowing. Whilst, as an employer, I have not experienced this myself I would like to take precautions should this ever happen. Are there procedures I can put in place to prevent and tackle potential whistle blowers?
The Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) 1998 gives protection to employees in certain circumstances when they have blown the whistle on wrongdoings within the workplace. In order for a disclosure to be protected it has to be made in the public interest and it can either be brought to the employer’s or to an external organisation’s attention.
Employers may be wary of employees blowing the whistle unnecessary, but all employees have a right to protection when they make a protected disclosure, which means that you should not take measures to prevent them from whistleblowing. Employers should have implemented a whistleblowing policy which should be included in their employment documentation. A whistleblowing policy should set out to employees who they can make a disclosure to and the procedure they should follow. If a qualifying disclosure is made, then the employee must not be subjected to less favourable treatment because of the disclosure. If they are, then they can make a claim at an employment tribunal.
The media has recently focussed closely on whistle blowers within the NHS, and this increased attention has brought about legal change. The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 which was given royal ascent in March 2015, includes a provision which applies specifically to NHS workers. More specifically, this provision offers applicants for employment in the health service increased protection as it makes it unlawful for an NHS employer to refuse to employ someone on the ground that they have previously made a protected disclosure. An employer will be liable for discrimination if he rejects a job applicant or treats an NHS employee less favourably because they have blown the whistle at their previous employment.
Procedures preventing or tackling whistleblowing is not a recommended practice, as employees are protected from detrimental treatment. Dismissing an employee because they have blown the whistle is automatic unfair dismissal and these claims heard at an employment tribunal are different from other unfair dismissal claims, in that there is no upper limit to the compensation the tribunal can award. Therefore, the compensation for an employee dismissed for blowing the whistle is limitless.