What is whistleblowing and how has COVID impacted it?
In short, whistleblowing is reporting wrongdoing. This commonly occurs in the workplace and comes from the saying “blowing the whistle,” meaning alerting attention to something.
Whistleblowing in a UK workplace
Legal protection for whistleblowers is found under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and incorporated into the Employment Rights Act 1996. Most companies have a whistleblowing policy which outlines what should be done if wrongdoing occurs and who wrongdoing should be reported to.
Usually, “wrongdoing” is something that is considered to be disclosed in the interest of society, or public interest. Wrongdoing is usually something serious which would bring a company into disrepute, such as:
- A criminal offence such as fraud or money laundering
- Risk to health and safety
- Miscarriage of justice
- The company is breaking the law
- Hiding a wrongdoing
What happens if you’re treated unfairly after you have “blown the whistle”?
As a whistleblower, you should not be treated unfairly at work and are protected by employment laws in such situations. If you are dismissed due to whistleblowing, you can raise a claim within 3 months of your employment ending. You can also go to an employment tribunal.
How is whistleblowing impacted after COVID?
With many working from home and tough measures in place for employers, how has the nature of whistleblowing been affected?
It could be suggested that with most employees in many different industries working from home, wrongdoing is more difficult to spot and call out. On the flip side, with some people still having to work in the office, it is important that employers are doing what they can to stick to government rules on the coronavirus and not pose risks to the health and safety of employees and customers. In some cases, it has been found that some employers have tried to take advantage of the furlough scheme by furloughing employees and then asking them to work. In one case, an employee reported this wrongdoing to HMRC.
It has been noted by Protect, the UK’s whistleblowing charity, that COVID-19 has exposed both good and bad whistleblowing practice particularly in the retail sector. However, there is a strong chance that this falls into other industries also.
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The information provided does not amount to legal advice.