Clarity Simplicity has dealt with claims for workers who “blew the whistle,” or revealed information to authorities about wrongdoing inside their organisations. Then, in each case, their employment position deteriorated. Further, the Employment Tribunal has acknowledged that employees should get further legal protection. Contact our whistleblowing lawyers in Glasgow to get legal advice
Understanding what’s “whistleblowing”
It’s a colloquial term for a concept that is well-known in other nations but has only been acknowledged by UK legislation since 1999: when an employee discloses that there is a major problem. Investigations into tragedies like the Piper Alpha accident and the Clapham train collapse revealed that employees frequently had knowledge of safety hazards but chose not to inform their bosses out of fear of losing their jobs if they did. This led to pressure for the law to alter. Since their introduction, the new regulations have become more complex, and some people worry that they won’t provide enough protection for real “whistle-blowers.”
The legalities of employment law
The law provides protection in two ways: it immediately declares unfair any dismissal related to whistleblowing, and it also declares unlawful any treatment that falls short of dismissal. However, the law puts the burden of proof on the whistle-blower, and there are a number of requirements for evidence that must be met before a claim can be successful.
When the claim is successful
The typical remedy for whistle-blowers is compensation for their lost wages as well as damages for what they have gone through because very few of them want to return to their previous jobs. The compensation is unlimited, in contrast to other varieties of employment cases. In 2010, research revealed that successful claimants received an average compensation award of £113,667, with the big gest payment coming in at £3.8 million. Currently, there are about 1,800 whistleblowing claims submitted annually, but with that number increasing yearly, the penalty to firms of not taking the matter properly can be significant.
Who can blow the whistle?
A lot of employment claims, such as unfair dismissal, can only be brought after two years’ of service, and some claims are not open to temporary or agency workers. These distinctions don’t apply to whistleblowing claims, which can be brought at any time. However, there is a danger for employers here that the law can be abused, with employees sacked for legitimate reasons who don’t have the required service artificially claiming they were let go because they have blown the whistle in relation to a trivial matter.
What topics does whistleblowing occur in?
Six kinds are recognised by the legislation and are referred to as “qualified disclosures.” The information must tend to demonstrate that one of the following has happened or is likely to happen: I a criminal offence; (ii) a violation of a legal obligation; (iii) a miscarriage of justice; (iv) a threat to the health and safety of any individual; (v) environmental damage; or (vi) the purposeful withholding of information regarding any of the aforementioned categories. However, according to how the law has been applied, the disclosure must be a declaration of fact rather than the reporting of a rumour or an accusation, as this won’t be sufficient.
What happens if the employee is unsure if the information is accurate or not?
The information need not be accurate; the employee may still be protected if it turns out, after an examination by the employer or another independent body, that it was false. Whether the revelation is deemed to be “in the public interest” will determine the outcome. A common argument in these situations is that the employee has a second, ulterior motive, such as trying to shame or put pressure on his boss or company, in addition to making sure that employers follow the law, safeguard the environment, and stick to their contractual commitments to employees. If the Tribunal concurs, they may lower the award to take this into account.
Who must be notified of the disclosure?
Internal disclosures will be protected, however, employees are always recommended to put them in writing or by email rather than to quit after speaking them. To avoid any potential disagreements regarding what was said in the future. The law recognises that there are some situations where employees should be permitted to report wrongdoing to external organisations, such as HMRC, the Health and Safety Executive, or various financial watchdogs, while still being protected. The law encourages disclosures to be made internally first. Going to the media, however, presents further challenges because any payment for the story would result in the loss of legal protection, and the employee will need to demonstrate that the situation was “exceptionally serious” or that evidence would have been lost if he or she had gone public. Going to the media, however, presents more challenges because any payment for the story will result in loss of legal protection, and the employee will need to demonstrate that the situation was “exceptionally serious” or that the employee would have lost crucial evidence if he or she had chosen any other course of action.
What should I do if my employer has a whistleblowing policy?
Employers should encourage whistleblowers to come forward since doing so can reveal misconduct within the company and so assist avert accidents, financial scandals, criminal offenses, and regulatory violations. The majority of organizations would rather handle problems internally in order to preserve their reputations (although in financial services they may require to notify a regulatory body). To maintain uniformity of care, several larger organisations have established “hotlines” for this purpose, which are frequently run by outside businesses. A tribunal might examine the employee’s motivation if the employer can demonstrate that they did not follow this course of action.
What if the whistleblowing claim needs to be confidential?
Any attempt by an employer to penalise an employee for violating a contract would be nullified under the whistleblowing statute. Whistleblowing claims might be made even if attempts or threats to do so were made, as well as if the employee was suspended. Other types of “detriment,” such as failing to promote or assign undesirable jobs, have also been acknowledged by tribunals as warranting compensation, including one instance where a business provided a subpar reference to a former worker who revealed the information after his departure.
Do I have a case if I reported something wrong and now I am being treated differently but I can’t prove why?
The legal requirement of “causation” is frequently a crucial issue in whistleblowing cases, with many claims failing because the employee cannot show a connection between their treatment negatively or their termination and their whistleblowing. When the Tribunal must decide whether to believe the company’s testimony on why an employee was treated in a particular way, witness testimony is frequently critical. Rolls-Royce was successful in defending a complaint made by a senior engineer who was fired after he claimed there was corruption and a cover-up in a high-profile case last year. The Tribunal determined that because he refused to accept the results of an internal investigation that determined his claims lacked support, the corporation was forced to fire him.
What are the costs?
The Glasgow Law Practice’s legal fees for reviewing a claim depend on specifics like the history and volume of documents, although thorough advice may typically be provided within the confines of a predetermined budget of between £300 and £600. The expenses are typically covered by insurance financing in the form of “legal cover.” Legal aid may also be received based on income and savings. The current filing fee with the Tribunal is £250, though this can be adjusted based on your family’s needs; we can provide advice on this.
How likely is it that the claim will end up in a tribunal hearing?
Before any evidence is heard, around 70% of whistleblowing claims are resolved or dropped. Whistleblowing cases can be costly, time-consuming, and difficult to defend, and there may be reputational repercussions for both the claimant and employer. For these reasons, settlement is frequently sought, typically through a Settlement Agreement. In negotiations, solicitors frequently take the initiative.
Contact our Whistleblowing Lawyers in Glasgow
In whistleblowing matters, Clarity Simplicity represents both employers and employees. We provide fixed-rate packages so you are aware of your first cost upfront. To learn more, get in touch with us immediately. Clients of our business are served in a plethora of nearby locations, including Airdrie, Motherwell, Bellshill, Dumbarton, Paisley, Ayr, Fife, Crossmyloof, Giffnock, Clarkston, and Newton Mearns. We have locations in Edinburgh, East Kilbride, and Glasgow. Call us at 0808 169 7033, fill out our online contact form, or stop by one of our offices in Glasgow or Edinburgh for a free* consultation with a member of our employment law team.