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Topic: Staff handbook - non-contractual policies and procedures

whistleblowing policy
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3

Whistleblowing policy

Whistleblowing policy

A whistleblowing policy statement will provide your employees with a route for them to raise qualifying disclosures under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Without it, you might find that the employee runs straight to the relevant authorities to report their concerns, giving you no opportunity to try to deal with the matter internally first.

In the public interest

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 prevents workers who make protected disclosures from being dismissed or subjected to any other detriment as a result of making the disclosure. Our Whistleblowing Policy statement sets out the essentials of the legislation in terms of what types of disclosure qualify for protection and then it goes on to set out a detailed procedure encouraging the employee (and other types of worker) to raise their particular concern internally in the first instance. That way, you can at least try and resolve the issue before it gets as far as the relevant authorities. An employee's right to make protected disclosures under the Act will override any confidentiality obligations they might owe to you, so this makes it all the more important that they come to you first to try and sort out their concerns. The legislation now explicitly requires that disclosures must also, in the reasonable belief of the worker, be made in the public interest. This means that it excludes disclosures which can properly be characterised as being of an entirely personal rather than a wider public interest, such as a disclosure by an employee about a breach of their own contract of employment that doesn't affect anyone else. However, whether a disclosure is reasonably believed to be in the public interest will depend on the character of the interest served by it rather than simply on the numbers of people sharing that interest. In assessing the reasonableness of the worker’s belief, the following factors will be relevant: the number of individuals whose interests the disclosure served, the nature of the alleged wrongdoing, the nature of the interests affected and the extent to which they’re affected by the alleged wrongdoing disclosed and the identity of the wrongdoer.

Vicarious liability

You can now be vicariously liable for any acts of victimisation or detrimental treatment committed by your workers against their colleagues in the course of their employment on the grounds of the latter having made a protected disclosure unless you can show you took all reasonable steps to prevent those acts from occurring. As there’s no limit on the amount of compensation a worker can receive for detrimental treatment, it’s important you take your whistleblowing obligations seriously. Putting in place our policy statement - and ensuring you follow its terms and give regular training to your staff and managers on their obligations relating to not victimising whistleblowers - means that not only is it likely to assist in reducing the risk of detrimental treatment occurring in the first place, but also you have a much greater chance of being able to successfully rely on the statutory “reasonable steps” defence. Be aware that just having a policy statement won’t be enough though - it’s essential that the policy is well-publicised to all staff and that they are given appropriate training to support and implement it.

 

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