Whistleblowing, also known as blowing the whistle, is known legally as ‘making a disclosure in the public interest’; this means it must affect other workers, customers or the general public rather than a personal grievance. While protection for whistleblowers starts from the beginning of employment, they are still protected after they no longer work for the employer they are whistleblowing.

Whether the incident happened previously, currently or will be happening in the future, whistleblowers can raise a concern and are protected by law. But what if the whistleblower is wrong?

How Are Whistleblowers Protected by Law?

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 protects whistleblowers from unfair dismissal and detriment. Detriment refers to being treated worse than before or having their situation made worse.

Whistleblowers are only protected if there is reasonable belief for what is disclosed e.g. it’s in the public interest or fits into a category of a qualifying disclosure. They aren’t protected if a criminal offence is committed by disclosing this information or legal professional privilege is breached.

Consequences if a Whistleblower is Wrong

The consequences if a whistleblower is wrong depends on a variety of circumstances; the action taken is usually determined by the severity of the allegation and its impact. It’s important to note that a whistleblower does not need to provide evidence for their disclosure and will still be protected even if they did not make the disclosure to the employer.

The Whistleblower Had Reasonable Belief

If the whistleblower genuinely had reasonable belief behind their disclosure, no further action will be taken against them if they are wrong. Mistakes can be made, however if they are dismissed by their employer after doing so, they have a claim for unfair dismissal as they are still protected by law.

The Whistleblower Did Not Have Reasonable Belief

As mentioned above, if the whistleblower makes a disclosure due to a personal grievance and without reasonable belief, further action can be taken. Disciplinary action could be taken against the employee by the employer, leading to dismissal without protection, and a civil claim could be taken against the employee by the affected parties.

Importance of Whistleblowing Policies at Work

It is important for every employer to have an appropriate whistleblowing procedure, so employees are aware of how to raise concerns safely, better recognise whistleblowing disclosures and understand if they have been treated unfairly.

If you have been treated unfairly for blowing the whistle, such as experiencing unfair dismissal, you have the right to take your case to an employment tribunal. At Premier Legal, we may even be able to negotiate a settlement of your potential claim on your behalf without you having to start litigation in the employment tribunal.

Get in touch with our legal experts today to discuss your situation.