If you act as a whistleblower, there is a chance your employer might try to find a way to end your employment and offer you a settlement agreement. This is because a whistleblower is an employee who makes a ‘protected disclosure’ about some type of wrongdoing that the employer is responsible for. This can relate to something that has happened in the past, is currently happening or is very likely to happen in the future.
A whistleblower can report the following:
- Breaking the law or committing a criminal offence;
- Covering up a criminal act that has taken place;
- Causing another person’s health and safety to be in danger;
- Causing damage to the environment; or
- Risking damage to the environment.
What is whistleblowing for employees?
You can only be a whistleblower if you provide information about something that is in the public interest. This means the wrongdoing that you are reporting must affect the well-being or safety of other people. A report about any personal bullying, harassment, or discrimination you may have experienced does not count as whistleblowing. The consequence of acting as a whistleblower is that your employer might start to treat you unfairly.
Who does the whistleblower report to?
You can report your concerns to your employer while keeping in mind that you do not have the right to say how they should be rectified. You should also tell your employer right away if you do not want anyone else to know you were the whistleblower.
Your employer should decide what action is needed to correct the problem. If you are not satisfied with how your concerns have been dealt with, you can tell a more senior member of staff or ask for advice from an employment solicitor.
If you would rather not speak to your employer at all about your concerns, you can tell ‘a prescribed person or body’ that normally deals with the issues that you want to report. You can also speak to a settlement agreement solicitor in the UK who will be able to give you advice about what to do. An employment solicitor would also be able to communicate with your employer on your behalf.
When considering who you should speak to, you should be aware of the fact that if you report your concerns to the media, then in most cases, you will lose your right to be protected as a whistleblower.
Whistleblowing treated unfairly
If your employer seeks to dismiss you and offers you a settlement agreement, you might be able to claim unfair dismissal if you can prove that you are being dismissed because you acted as a whistleblower.
Under normal circumstances, you would need to have worked for your employer for two years before you can claim unfair dismissal, but this time limit does not apply when it comes to whistleblowing. You might be able to claim compensation even if you are not dismissed but are still mistreated or harassed by your employer because you have acted as a whistleblower. However, it is often not easy to prove that you have suffered a ‘detriment’ or been placed at a disadvantage by your employer for being a whistleblower. You would need enough evidence to show that this has happened.
The best thing to do would be to speak to an employment solicitor who would be able to tell you if your case is strong enough for you to bring a claim for constructive dismissal at an Employment Tribunal.
If your case is strong enough to take to the Employment Tribunal, your employer might offer you a settlement agreement to avoid the publicity of being taken to court for wrongdoing. Accepting a settlement agreement would mean that you give up your right to take your employer to the Employment Tribunal in exchange for an offer of financial compensation.
With over 10 years of experience in employment law matters, David Philip Harris specialises in providing legal advice on settlement agreements to both employees and employers throughout the UK. David’s opinion and advice are frequently sought after as he contributes often to BBC Radio Berkshire and the People Management Magazine. David Is a long-standing member of The Employment Lawyers Association and The Law Society.