Whistleblowing is an increasingly common occurrence in the UK, and it can affect businesses of every size.
Whether you’re a startup or a growing organisation, it’s important you understand the legal position for whistleblowers, and how to respond if it happens in your company. We’ve compiled a guide to whistleblowing for employers, along with a free, customisable whistleblowing policy template developed by Clarkslegal LLP.
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Every business has its own legal requirements, but many small firms can’t afford an army of lawyers. Clarkslegal, in partnership with Simply Business, provides customisable legal documents that you can download for your own use, to make sure you stay on the right side of the law.
A whistleblower is a worker who passes on information about a company’s wrongdoing to the company, or ultimately a third party. The act of passing that information is known as “blowing the whistle” or “making a disclosure.”
Whistleblowers are protected by law, under the Employment Rights Act (1996) and the amendments made in the Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998). To get that protection, the worker must reasonably believe that they're acting in the public interest (therefore personal grievances are rarely covered under whistleblowing law).
They also need to believe the information they are disclosing shows past, present, or future wrongdoing in one or more of the following categories:
If a whistleblower’s disclosure fulfills the two requirements above, the worker can make a claim in an employment tribunal following either dismissal or poor treatment by the employer. Disclosures must generally be made to an appropriate party, initially within the company – disclosures to the media may only be protected if, for example, there is no such appropriate party, or the party who they made the disclosure to did not offer a reasonable response.
There's a government list of bodies and individuals that whistleblowers may reasonably approach, if the company doesn't address their concerns. This was drawn up alongside The Whisteblowing Commission.
Employers aren't legally obliged to have a written whistleblowing policy. However, the impact of whistleblowing can be very significant for any business, and it’s important that the process is handled properly. A written policy can help you do this. Additionally, a published whistleblowing policy can demonstrate to workers that you are genuine in your desire to hear their concerns, and that information will be taken seriously when presented to management.
It should also be noted that some sectors have specific rules regarding whistleblowing. Businesses regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or Prudential Regulation Authority, for example, must abide by stricter rules.
This free, downloadable whistleblower policy template may form the basis for your approach to whistleblowing throughout your business. It sets out several key things:
Just having a whistleblowing template isn’t enough – you also need to make sure your workers know about it. Just as importantly, though, they need to be confident that the policy will be stuck to and implemented in the event of a disclosure.
To achieve this, it’s important that all line managers receive proper training on the policy. They should know how to resolve disclosures in a way that both fulfills your legal obligations and minimises damage to the company. Anyone in a position to receive disclosures should ensure that they take every such action seriously, and that they are thoroughly and impartially investigated. If a concern is found to be valid, it’s crucial that the business takes action to remedy it. Finally, the whistleblower should be kept in the loop throughout the process.
Click to download a PDF of the whistleblowing policy template.
If you would like to make changes and don’t have Adobe Acrobat, you can also download our whistleblowing policy template in Word format.
The attached document has been produced by Clarkslegal so we can’t take responsibility for its contents. We’d recommend you take professional advice before making any important decisions based on its contents.
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