The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 protects employees who ‘blow the whistle' about wrongdoing at work against unfair dismissal and detriment such as refusal of a promotion or training opportunities, disciplinary action or a loss of pay. The Act sets out which type of disclosures can be protected and in which circumstances in which such disclosures are protected.
In order to claim protection, the employee when blowing the whistle, must be a worker, believe that malpractice at work is going on or has gone on or will go on in the future, disclose the right sort of information and to the right person in the right way making it a protected disclosure. The disclosure must relate to either: criminal offence(s); failure to comply with a legal obligation; miscarriages of justice; threats to an individual’s health and safety; damage to the environment; or a deliberate attempt to cover up any of the these matters. Further, the disclosure must be made in good faith and the employee must reasonably believe that the information is substantially true. Where the employee feels that they cannot make the disclosure to their employer then there are certain ‘prescribed’ people that they can make the disclosure including HM Revenue & Customs, Serious Fraud Office and the Office of Fair Trading. However, employees who break the law in making the disclosure or where the information being disclosed is protected by legal privilege then the employee will not be protected.
If the employee is dismissed for whistleblowing, they can make a claim for automatically unfair dismissal for which no length of service is required. Where the employee has been either victimised or suffered a detriment due to blowing the whistle, they can bring a claim for victimisation and detrimental treatment. In addition, where the employee resigns as a result of any detriment(s) suffered after blowing the whistle, they will have a potential claim for constructive dismissal. All claims in connection with whistleblowing must be brought to an Employment Tribunal within 3 months of the dismissal or detriment. Compensation in whistleblowing cases is potentially unlimited.