What business needs to know about whistleblowing

by evolvedlegal on May 14, 2012

  • SumoMe

We’ve no doubt all heard of it but what really is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is quite simply when an employee, member of staff or worker informs the employer, someone in authority or even the public about dangerous or illegal activities taking place in the workplace.

It could be either the employer or employees carrying out these underhand activities and the whistleblower has every right to report them and remain protected so long as he follows the correct procedure when doing so.

The type of activities which may prompt the whistleblower to literally ‘blow the whistle’ can include failing to comply with a legal obligation, health and safety risks and criminal offences.

Whistleblowing is also known as making a disclosure in the public interest and, so long as the whistleblowing is carried out correctly, the employer or worker has employment law rights which are protected and should not be victimised or punished by the employer for blowing the whistle.


To ensure they remain protected the whistleblower must follow the correct course of action by making a qualifying disclosure about the malpractice they wish to blow the whistle on.

The disclosure must be honest and the whistleblower must believe, to the best of their knowledge, that the information within the disclosure is true.

The whistleblower must also ensure that the disclosure is made to the correct person/authorities, for example, if the disclosure is in reference to a breach in health and safety in the workplace then the disclosure should be made to a health and safety representative.

Should the employee responsible for blowing the whistle suffer from victimisation or unfair treatment such as demotion from their employer as a result of the whistleblowing then the employee can make a claim against the employer for ‘Detrimental Treatment’.

If, as a result of the whistleblowing, the employee loses their job they can then put in a claim for unfair dismissal.

Recent Cases of Whistleblowing

Tom Lake

Policeman Tom Lake blew the whistle on his colleague when he discovered that he had taken a piece of human skull from a victim of a fatal rail crash and was intending to keep it as a souvenir.

As a result of his whistleblowing Mr. Lake subsequently lost his job for ‘grassing up’ a fellow officer.

After a lengthy three year legal battle Mr. Lake won his case for unfair dismissal and was awarded £400,000 in compensation.

Jim Glencross

A railway worker from Carlisle, Mr. Jim Glencross, was sacked from his job because he brought to light faulty equipment which had been responsible for a personal injury to his colleague and had refused to lie about the accident when asked to do so by his managers.

During his tribunal Mr. Glencross was indeed found to have been unfairly dismissed and was awarded £200,000 in compensation.

Sharmilla Chowdhury

An NHS radiology service manager with a highly commendable 27 year career was sacked from her job for blowing the whistle on two senior doctors working at the same hospital.

Mrs. Chowdhury lost her job when she blew the whistle on the doctors who, whilst being paid to diagnose NHS patients, were moonlighting at a private hospital and dishonestly claiming literally thousands every month from the NHS.

Mrs. Chowdhury had warned the hospital’s senior managers on numerous occasions about the illegal activities but no action was taken.

The judge at Mrs. Chowdhury’s tribunal ordered the trust to reinstate Mrs. Chowdhury but, despite the serious nature of the fraud allegations, no action was taken against the two doctors responsible.

According to an article recently published in the Independent it looks as though attitudes towards both whistleblowing and the whistleblower are set to change, especially in the medical sector.

Now doctors who don’t blow the whistle on the sub-standard care of patients could find themselves out of a job.

The General Medical Council (GMC) have taken this breakthrough one step further by imposing a ban on doctors signing ‘gagging clauses’ which prevent them from raising issues regarding patient safety and care.

Although this shake up comes too little, too late for the families of the 1,200 patients who died unnecessarily in several Mid Staffordshire hospitals, it does mean that, from now on, standards in patient care can only get better.




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