DID ANYBODY HEAR A WHISTLE?

Every employer needs to be aware of whistle-blowing. There is a huge misunderstanding amongst employers about what amounts to whistle-blowing. The term carries with it connotations of corruption and bribery, and large scale issues. As a result of this, employers don’t realise when the whistle has been blown.

So what is whistle-blowing? The technical term is a Protected Disclosure. It’s actually really simple – it is when a worker in an organisation informs their employer that the company is doing something that they shouldn’t. It covers criminal conduct but also “conduct that poses a serious risk to public health, safety, the environment or the maintenance of the law”. This can, therefore, be subtler.

If an Employer hasn’t done a Health and Safety Risk Assessment, this can represent a serious risk. So, you can see that it isn’t just related to crime and fraud – but is an everyday issue.

Here is what you need to remember. An employee who has less than two years’ service cannot bring a claim for unfair dismissal. However, they can if they can argue that they have blown the whistle. In fact, if you dismiss a member of staff who has made a whistle-blowing complaint, then the Tribunal will see this as Automatic unfair dismissal.

The reason why companies get this wrong is because they are not wise to the fact that a member of staff has in fact blown the whistle. A typical example is a worker telling their line manager about a concern and the manager doing nothing with it. If, for whatever reason, that worker is dismissed they can then bring a very expensive claim against your business.

You need to make sure that your managers know what whistle-blowing is, and the EXACT steps that must be taken in response to it. If you have the correct system, you don’t get the claim.

Don’t be on the receiving end of an Employment Tribunal claim when by a few simple steps you can avoid the problem.

Adam Pavey (Solicitor)
Employment and HR
DD 01270 619 699

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