£
Personal Info

Credit Card Info
This is a secure SSL encrypted payment.

Donation Total: £1.00

-->

Advice Line – What advice do you need?

Covid-19 and Return To Work: Workers’ rights and employers’ obligations

As workplaces reopen after lockdown, many people are worried about their safety and that of their colleagues, clients or customers.  Here we set out some general advice in response to frequently asked questions.  Employers should consult, communicate and explain to their staff what measures are in place to keep them safe.  However, if your employer isn’t following government guidance or is putting you at risk, you may have employment rights – including whistleblowing.

If you cannot work from home and your place of work is not one that must remain closed, you are now “actively encouraged” to go to work (see here). The general exceptions to this are where you can work from home, you are clinically extremely vulnerable, and/or you are required to self-isolate.

If you do return to work, your employer must make the work place safe and you may have legal rights if you are worried about your health and safety. Please see other questions in this guide for further detail.

Employees have the right not to suffer detriment if you refuse to return to work where you reasonably believe that you are in serious and imminent danger which you cannot reasonably have averted, or you take appropriate steps to protect yourself or others (Section 44 Employment Rights Act 1996 (“ERA”). This means you cannot be disciplined, or dismissed under s.c 100 ERA, for acting in accordance with this law.

If your employer is not following the government guidance on safe workplaces, you should seek advice.

However, the law in this area is complex. The cases are highly-fact sensitive and you must seek legal advice on this law and how it applies to you, if at all, before you take any action. You can contact ACAS or Lawworks or your union for advice.

It is not advisable to simply not to turn up for work as you may be in breach of your contract.

Government guidance suggests that you should avoid public transport where possible, and social distancing must be observed on public transport. You should discuss with your employer what changes can be made to make it safer for you to travel to work. This may be a change to your working hours, staggering shifts, or working from home.

The rights in s 44 ERA and s 100 ERA may be relevant but there is no clear authority that travel to work is covered by these laws. You should contact ACAS or Lawworks for advice.

Government guidance is that if you are clinically vulnerable you are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if you do go out, to take particular care to minimise contact with others. However, clinically vulnerable people can be asked to attend the workplace but must be given the safest possible roles where they can maintain social distancing. You should speak to your employer about changes they can make to your role to keep you safe, alternatively you could request to be furloughed but this is the employer’s decision.

Government guidance is that if you are extremely clinically vulnerable you are advised to stay at home and shield until 30 June 2020. This includes not going to work.

The Government has produced guidance for those living with vulnerable persons, particularly extremely clinically vulnerable persons. If you are worried about going to work whilst living with a vulnerable person, you should speak to your employer about alternative measures they can put in place to help you. Employers will need to comply with their health and safety obligations and to conduct a risk assessment.

Currently, there is no law that gives you the right to work from home. Nevertheless, you can make a formal request to do so in writing to your employer.  All employees with 26 weeks’ service have a right to request flexible working – this includes working from home. . Government guidance also says that employers should make every effort to facilitate home working. There is discussion about introducing a right to work from home, but this is not the law as yet.

Your employers should carry out a specific Covid-19 risk assessment which assesses the risks, set up a safe system in light of those risks, implements the system, and reviews the system. This is a legal requirement for employers with 5 or more employees. You can ask to see the risk assessment, negotiate changes and ask your employer to explain why they have concluded it is safe to return to work. Employers should take additional steps to protect vulnerable workers.

If you believe that the health and safety of you and your colleagues is at risk, you can challenge the employer by raising the issue as whistleblowing disclosure to a line manager or with designated contacts in a whistleblowing policy.

You can also contact our free confidential advice line on 020 3117 2520 or send us an email through our contact form if you have any questions or doubts about raising these issues.

The Government has produced guidance for 8 specific sectors to create “COVID-secure” workplaces and employers should print and display a Government poster to show they have followed the guidance. As a minimum, they must take steps to help you work from home, conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment, maintain social distancing or, if not possible, manage transmission risk and clean more frequently.

If your employer has failed to do this, you can raise the issue as whistleblowing disclosure to a line manager or with designated contacts in a whistleblowing policy. Your employer will also be subject to its ordinary obligations under health and safety laws.

 

PPE is considered a last resort; only where workplace risks cannot be eliminated by other measures, should PPE be provided. However, Government guidance has stated that PPE should be reserved for workers in the health and social care sectors. The guidance suggests that PPE is not required for other workers and that social distancing and other measures are effective to reduce the risks of Covid-19. Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by law, but your employer should support you if you choose to wear one.

If you believe the work you do requires you and your colleagues to be provided with PPE, you should raise the concern with your employer as whistleblowing disclosure to a line manager or with designated contacts in a whistleblowing policy. You can also contact our free confidential advice line on 020 3117 2520 or send us an email through our contact form if you have any questions or doubts about raising these issues.

You will be able to raise your concerns with your employer whether that’s a line manager, designated contact in a Speak Up or whistleblowing policy or if you work in health the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian (FSUG). We have information on this option on our advice webpage.

We also have information on what to do if you have tried to raise your concerns with your employer but it has been ignored, as well as advice pages on contacting regulators if your considering raising the concerns outside your employer. In Scotland concerns about PPE can be sent to covid-19-health-PPE@gov.scot and in England you can 0800 915 9964or email supplydisruptionservice@nhsbsa.nhs.uk.

You can also contact our free confidential advice line on 020 3117 2520 or send us an email through our contact form if you have any questions or doubts about raising these issues.

You may be able to bring a claim in personal injury and argue that your employer acted negligently. This is a difficult course of action to take and you must seek professional legal advice before taking any action.

It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with health and safety law, and an employer could be fined for failing to do so.

The Government has issued Guidance on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings. You can ask your employer how they intend to comply with this guidance and keep staff and pupils safe.

The Department of Education has established a ‘Coronavirus Helpline’ for queries about COVID-19. Telephone: 0800 046 8687 (Monday-Friday from 8am-6pm and weekends 10am-4pm).

You can also contact our free confidential advice line on 020 3117 2520 or send us an email through our contact form if you have any questions or doubts about raising these issues.

If you reasonably believe that the employer is endangering the health and safety of you and your colleague, and potentially the wider public, you can raise your concerns as a whistleblowing disclosure. We suggest that you do this in writing to a line manager or designated contact in a whistleblowing policy, specifying in detail what your concerns are. You may have the protection of UK whistleblowing laws when doing this, depending on the circumstances. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to raise the concerns to a regulator such as the local authority or HSE.

Before you do this, you can call or email Protect for advice about the best way to raise concerns.

Whenever a worker raises concerns about wrongdoing or risk at work, the employer should take them seriously and ensure that the worker will not suffer detriment as a result. If you are unsure how to raise your concern, or your employer does not take them seriously, call Protect for advice. We can advise how to raise your concerns in a safe and effective way, and explain your legal rights under whistleblowing laws.

This is a complicated and vast area. We strongly advise that you seek professional advice on this question from  ACAS or Lawworks, or a Trade Union if you are a member. There are relevant rights in The Employment Rights Act 1996 and The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and every contract of employment contains an implied term that the employee will take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their employees. There is also secondary legislation and industry specific laws that may be relevant for you.

You can also contact our free confidential advice line on 020 3117 2520 or send us an email through our contact form if you have any questions or doubts about raising these issues.

The furlough scheme has changed from 1st July. Government guidance is clear that employees furloughed can return to work on reduced hours while remaining on the scheme. Employers and furloughed workers can agree any amount of time or any shift pattern, but the employer must confirm this in writing. The scheme will then pay the balance between part-time work and furloughed time up to 80% of pay.

Employers who apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme but insist that you work during periods where you are supposed to be furloughed (i.e. not supposed to be working), beyond certain types of training, then the employer could be breaching Government guidance and you should consider obtaining legal advice about your rights in furlough and your rights to refuse to do work in these circumstances. For questions on the scheme itself you can contact HMRC advice line.

The ACAS website is a useful tool and Lawworks can direct you to free local law centres to help you with this issue. You can also consider raising this as a whistleblowing concern with your employer or with HMRC directly.

You can also contact our free confidential advice line on 020 3117 2520 or send us an email through our contact form if you have any questions or doubts about raising these issues.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic Employment Tribunals across England, Wales and Scotland, and Industrial Tribunals in Northern Ireland have been heavily disrupted.

For up-to-date information on how this affecting tribunals on your area of the UK and Northern Ireland follow the links below for up-to-date information:

Employment Tribunals in England and Wales click here

Employment Tribunals in Scotland click here

The Industrial Tribunal in Northern Ireland click here

 

General Advice Line Queries

You’ve seen something that concerns you at work but you’re not sure how or whether you should whistleblow.

What should I do?

Think about raising the concern internally - there is the added advantage of your employer being able to act quickly on your concerns.

For instance, you may want to consider approaching your line manager or supervisor.  If for whatever reasons you can’t approach blow the whistle with them, maybe they are involved in the wrongdoing, you don’t trust them to act properly, you have a poor working relations then here are some other options to consider:

Look at your employers whistleblowing policy, it may be referred to under a different name such as a ‘Speak Up Policy’ or maybe ‘Raising Concerns Policy’, either way this document will give you an idea of how to blow the whistle within your organisation.

The whistleblowing policy is a guide rather then something that is a binding document and you could also consider approaching a manager that you personally trust

Depending on the concerns you looking to blow the whistle about their maybe a specific department you could approach. For instance, a financial concern could mean an internal audit department or finance manager might be the person to raise the concerns with.

If you’ve tried all the above without success, see “I’ve raised my concerns but they have been ignored by my employer button” or call us for advice.

Actions to take

Talk to your senior manager or even a Board member or Trustee

Many organisations have a whistleblowing policy which may include a whistleblowing contact who you could raise your concern with.

Another option is to approach human resources, or an audit or compliance department.

What if I’m wrong? It doesn’t matter. You simply need to report and raise either the incident you have witnessed or describe your concerns.

I don’t know how to go about investigating the concern and I’m scared about taking confidential documents and paperwork.…It’s not your job to investigate. It’s more important to raise your concerns as soon as possible so any action can be taken quickly, to stop the harm sooner. We’d caution against taking confidential documents or accessing confidential files to try to stand up the concerns. It could cause you more problems in the long run.

Should I raise my concern anonymously? The differences between raising concerns anonymously, openly and confidentially….How you raise your concern is important, as is understanding the difference between openly, confidentiality or anonymously raising your concerns. Anonymously raising concerns means no one knows who you are. This may seem an appealing option but there are some downsides in that the person who receives your concern will be unable to ask you follow up questions. It will also make it harder for an employer or regulator to protect you from victimisation as they will struggle to confirm you as the whistleblower. Finally, you will not be able to use the legal protection for whistleblowers, the Public Interest Disclosure Act (see our guide for more information) as the protection is based on an ability to demonstrate you have blown the whistle which if the recipient of the concerns doesn’t know who you are is impossible.

Openly raising your concerns, where you are not worried about being identified, or confidentially raising you concerns, where the person you take you concern to promises not to reveal your identity, are more effective ways to raise the concerns. Both of these methods mean follow up questions can be asked, action can be taken against any victimisation against you, and both mean you can demonstrate blowing the whistle for the purposes of legal protection (see our guide to PIDA for more details).

If you feel the only way to raise your concerns is to progress on an anonymously, please contact us for advice.

Things to consider

What if I’m wrong? It doesn’t matter. You simply need to report and raise either the incident you have witnessed or describe your concerns.

I don’t know how to go about investigating the concern and I’m scared about taking confidential documents and paperwork.…It’s not your job to investigate. It’s more important to raise your concerns as soon as possible so any action can be taken quickly, to stop the harm sooner. We’d caution against taking confidential documents or accessing confidential files to try to stand up the concerns. It could cause you more problems in the long run.

Should I raise my concern anonymously? The differences between raising concerns anonymously, openly and confidentially….
How you raise your concern is important, as is understanding the difference between openly, confidentiality or anonymously raising your concerns. Anonymously raising concerns means no one knows who you are. This may seem an appealing option but there are some downsides in that the person who receives your concern will be unable to ask you follow up questions. It will also make it harder for an employer or regulator to protect you from victimisation as they will struggle to confirm you as the whistleblower. Finally, you will not be able to use the legal protection for whistleblowers, the Public Interest Disclosure Act (see our guide for more information) as the protection is based on an ability to demonstrate you have blown the whistle which if the recipient of the concerns doesn’t know who you are is impossible.

Openly raising your concerns, where you are not worried about being identified, or confidentially raising you concerns, where the person you take you concern to promises not to reveal your identity, are more effective ways to raise the concerns. Both of these methods mean follow up questions can be asked, action can be taken against any victimisation against you, and both mean you can demonstrate blowing the whistle for the purposes of legal protection (see our guide to PIDA for more details).

If you feel the only way to raise your concerns is to progress on an anonymously, please contact us for advice.

When to call us for advice

There are various reasons that prevent people from raising their concerns. If any of these situations sound familiar, talk to us.

You fear being victimised from co-workers or actions from mangers within the organisation

You are worried concerns will not be dealt with if raised with your employer because in the past, concerns you or colleagues have raised, have not been dealt with by the employer

The senior manager, director, owner or chief executive is directly involved in the wrongdoing

You are considering contacting an outside body such as a regulator or the media

You are considering raising your concerns either confidentiality or anonymously either with your employer or with an outside body such as a regulator, police, media

You have any fears, apprehension, or doubts about raising your concern and need support

Do’s & Dont’s:

Do:

Raise a concern that affects others rather than something that purely affects you and is a personal matter

Raise your concern as soon as you’re aware of it, you do not need to be wholly accurate

Raise what you have seen, or personally aware of, and where possible stick to situations or incidents you have seen for yourself rather than what colleagues may have told you

Call us for advice if you fear victimisation from raising your concerns.

Talk to any manager or director and send a follow up email or letter – this is a good way of sending an audit trail proving what has happened further down the line.

Create a diary to record what happened once you raised the concern and then any reaction from managers.

Don’t:

Raise concerns that have been witnessed by others - call us for advice in this situation.

Raise your concerns anonymously without speaking to us first for advice.

Use the grievance policy to raise a whistleblowing concern, this should be reserved for issues that affect your personal employment rights or are about your own treatment in the workplace.

Your trade union or ACAS which is available for everyone, can provide more information about this process.

CALL NOW TO STOP HARM: 020 7404 6609

I’ve raised my concerns with my employer, e.g line manager, Board or Trustee member or HR, but nothing has been done.

What should I do?

It may well be that your employer has taken action, but has not given you any feedback.  Feedback is not something that can be demanded legally, but it is recognised best practice for an employer to provide as much information as they safely can to someone who has raised a concern.  Sometimes, investigations can be based off on incorrect information, misunderstood facts, or even be actively misled by someone. If an employer is serious about conducting an effective investigation, then involving the whistleblower in the findings is fundamental to mitigating against these risks.  Unfortunately, there maybe circumstances where feedback is very limited due to confidentiality.

Please call us for advice (on 020 3117 2520 or through our contact form) if the following situations have happened:

  • The wrongdoing, safety risk or unethical behaviour you've raised is continuing to happen
  • The wrongdoing, safety risk or unethical behaviour you've raised has increased in frequency
  • A serious issue (e.g. an incident of abuse) has either not been investigated or investigated in an inadequate way
  • If you need more advice on feedback

Actions to take

If you have raised your concerns with your employer but there has been no response, or you are unhappy with the feedback or outcome that you have received:

If you have raised your concerns with either a local manager i.e. someone who is either your line manager, supervisor etc.  Then you may want to escalate your concerns further with your employer to try trigger an proper investigation of the whistleblowing issues or to get some accountability of the decision made by your line managers or supervisor.  This could be done by by consulting your Whistleblowing or Speak Up policy where many have either named contacts you can approach with concerns, or a specific department who deals with whistleblowing issues.  Remember the whistleblowing policy is a guide and not something that is binding on the decisions you make so if there is a manager or even a department you trust will examine your concerns properly then consider contacting them.

Keep notes of when you raised your concerns, also make a note of any feedback given by your employer.  If you have had verbal conversations with managers consider sending a follow up email so there is a record of what was discussed and agreed in terms of actions to be taken.

If you have no faith that your employer will deal with the concerns your raising for example the decision made by your employer is not going to be reassessed or very senior managers are involved in the wrongdoing then you may be considering raising your concerns with an external body, typically a regulator, MP or law enforcement body.  Please consult our 'I'm considering raising my concerns with a regulator' tab on this page or contact us for advice on 020 3117 2520 or use our contact form.

Things to consider

Choosing to raise the concerns openly, confidentially or anonymously can shape the ability to ask for feedback.

Anonymously raising concerns means no one knows who you are. This may seem an appealing option but there are some downsides in that the person who receives your concern will be unable to ask you follow up questions. Your employer or the regulator will be unable to protect you because they do not know who you are. Finally, if you experience victimisation it will make it very difficult for you to link this to the concern you've raised as your employer will be able to say they did not know it was you. These are real downsides but anonymous disclosures are a real option if it's the only way the concerns can be raised.  If you would like more advice please contact us.  In some circumstances we may be able to raise the concerns on your behalf.

Confidentially raising concerns means the person you take you concern to promises not to reveal your identity when they investigate the issues raised, with most whistleblowing policies pointing out that your identity will only be revealed with your consent or advance warning.  It is easier for those investigating the concerns if they can ask you follow up questions, and if victimisation does occur it's easier to prove the link between the concerns being raised and the victimisation.

Openly  raising concerns can sometimes be safer. Openness makes it easier for the employer to investigate, and obtain more information about your concerns and it may also encourage others to come forward as they will know that a concern has been raised.  This is often only possible in workplaces where there is a positive culture for raising concerns.

SOCIAL WORKER’S INAPPROPRIATE RELATIONSHIP

Anthony was a residential social worker in a children’s home. He grew increasingly concerned that a colleague, Peter, seemed to have developed a close relationship with a 12 year-old girl in the home.

Colleagues raised eyebrows and some of the children joked that Peter was becoming rather infatuated with the girl. During a holiday trip, Anthony was alarmed that Peter insisted that the girl should travel in his car alone with him and that he spent a lot of time with her during the holiday. Anthony raised the issue with Peter who just laughed it off. On return from the holiday, Anthony decided with a colleague that they should raise their concerns discreetly with the Council. They were told they had a duty to report them formally. When they did, an investigation was launched and Peter was given special leave and told to stay away from the home. Anthony contacted us when he learned that the investigation had finished and that Peter would be returning to the home. He and colleagues were worried that this was not the right decision.

We advised him to contact the Council’s head of child protection and explain his concerns. However, we pointed out it was the Council’s job to decide what action to take and that what mattered was that the Council felt sure that Peter was not a risk. We also said that the fact that Peter was returning to the home did not mean that no action had been taken.

After discussing the matter with the Council, Anthony felt happier with its decision as he knew the Council would be keeping a watchful eye over the home and that staff would be reminded of the whistleblowing policy.

When to contact Protect for advice

  • If  you have any doubts about raising a concern openly, confidentially or anonymously
  • If you believe there has been a breach in confidentiality from the employer, co-workers or investigators
  • If you fear of victimisation or acts of victimisation are preventing you from escalating your concerns
  • If you are considering raising your concerns with an external body such as a regulator, MP, the police, the press etc. but are still working for your employer
  • If the wrongdoing or malpractice you have reported to managers has not stopped or increased in seriousness

Dos and Don’ts

Do:

Ask for feedback from your employer, this could be a line manager, investigator, the manager you approached, HR etc., to get an idea what action has been taken

If conversations with managers about feedback was verbal, send a follow up email confirming the details of what was agreed

Keep your own notes of the any conversations regarding feedback

Keep calm and don’t assume your concerns have been ignored unless you are aware of the wrongdoing repeating itself or escalating in seriousness

Don’t:

Assume your employer has not acted on the concerns until you have asked for feedback

Assume you have no options for escalating the concerns if they have been ignored by your managers, or the feedback from them is negative, call us for advice

Assume you have no options to escalate the concerns if you’re having a difficult time in the workplace, whether you fear victimisation or you have experienced it, call us for advice and support

Approach an external body such as a regulator, MP or the media while still working for your employer without contacting us for advice first

If you need advice or support please call: 020 3117 2520 or use our contact form.

You could be facing victimisation at work for whistleblowing. It may come from managers or co-workers and it can come in many different forms from bullying and harassment to dismissal from your job.   This section will give you advice on how to deal with this.

All acts of victimisation against whistleblowers are a breach of your employment rights.

We can help you challenge this behaviour and provide advice and information on the whistleblowing law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA). We can also provide advice on how to escalate the concerns.

If you have been victimised but it is not connected to whistleblowing, then we will not be able to offer you advice and we recommend that you call one of the other advice bodies found on our referral page.

Bullying and harassment from managers and co-workers

Working out if you are being victimised can sometimes be difficult to judge. You might find yourself in a situation where managers or co-workers are unhappy, disappointed or even angry about your decision to blow the whistle.

A helpful way to think about whether an emotional response to whistleblowing crosses over into victimisation is whether any acts from managers or co workers makes it difficult for you to do your job.  For example, there can be a big difference between not being greeted in the morning and being taken off a key project you were overseeing. We recommend keeping a diary of incidents.

There is no formal list of what is considered victimisation but here are some examples:

  • The removal of key responsibilities, unfair comments about performance or conduct, denial of a job a promotion, career progression or closer monitoring, unrequested relocation, etc.
  • Ostracisation, bullying or harassment that makes your life difficult in the workplace.
  • The misuse of disciplinary processes.
  • This can be a direct challenge on why or how your raised your concerns, or an unfair or fabricated performance or conduct issue.
  • Grievance or complaints made by co-workers in response to you having raised your concerns.
  • Failure to provide an appropriate reference.

Things to consider

Tell your employer.

It’s important to inform your employer if you have been victimised for raising concerns, even if it’s an informal conversation or via email. Without doing this no action can be taken.

The next question is who to approach, if the victimisation is coming from your line manager or supervisor consider someone outside of the line management structure. This could be someone in the whistleblowing policy, human resources or even a senior manager you trust.

If the victimisation is coming from a manager you do not have day-to-day contact with consider approaching your line manager or supervisor for assistance.

If the victimisation is coming from co-workers or colleagues then consider approaching your line manager or supervisor. If this person is either involved in the behaviour or has turned a blind eye to it then consider consulting the whistleblowing policy, Human Resources or a senior manager who you trust.

Putting in a Grievance

If informal discussion hasn’t stopped the victimisation then you may need to consider a grievance, which is a more formal process to challenge this behaviour.

Whether you’re challenging managers or co-workers you will need to be more detailed about the link between the concerns you raised, and the victimisation you have suffered.

Spell out the concerns you have witnessed, the date you raised it, who you raised the concerns with and the victimisation that flowed from this.

Theft in a Care Home

Mohammad worked as a care assistant in an old people’s home. He and some of his colleagues were worried that Selma, one of the managers, might be stealing cash from the residents. Selma looked after residents’ pocket money and kept a record of when sums were paid out. Mohammad was sure the records showed the money was paid to a resident when this person had received no money.

Mohammad raised his concerns with the owners of the home, an investigation quickly found Selma was stealing the money and was dismissed with the police called in. Relations within the home were tense as some of Selima’s friends strongly objected to the whistleblowing. Within weeks, Mohammad was suspended over allegations that he had mistreated the residents. At this point Mohammad called us and we advised him to answer the allegations on their merits while pointing out they were probably made in response to his whistleblowing.

Although the investigation found no substance to the allegations, the owners decided to transfer him to another home. Mohammad was very unhappy and we helped him draft a letter to the owners explaining that he wanted to stay at that home and that transferring him after he had blown the whistle would give out the wrong messages to other staff.

In response to this, the owners reconsidered the transfer and Mohammad stayed working in the home. In the end Selma was convicted of stealing £1400 from the residents and the atmosphere in the home was now much improved.

If the grievance is not upheld

You will need to take prompt action to appeal this decision. If the decision is not upheld, then it may lead of to an employment tribunal (ET) claim, but there is a strict time limit (three months less one day) from the act of victimisation. We can offer advice on victimisation, but not the finer legal points on the time limits. For this, you will need to contact either your trade union, Law Works, the Citizen Advice or ACAS their contact details can be found on our referral page.

Defending yourself in a formal process

If you are being disciplined by managers or are facing a grievance launched by co-workers in response to you raising concerns then here are some things to consider:

If you believe either that managers or co-workers are using a formal disciplinary or grievance process to victimise you will need to highlight how this process is being brought forward because you raised concerns.

Remember though at the same time to defend any allegations against your own conduct or performance on their merits. Whistleblowing will not give you a shield against legitimate concerns about your conduct.

When drawing the link between the concerns you’ve raised and the formal process you should be detailed about what you raised, who it was raised with and what the response was. Drawing up a time line of what has happened will assist you on this.  If you are facing gross misconduct charges then please call us for advice.

The formal process has found against you

This is where a formal employer process such as a disciplinary or grievance has gone against you.  Here are some actions to consider taking:

You will need to consider appealing against the decision, challenging the allegations made and showing a link between the formal decision and the concerns you have raised. If you are in this situation then please call us for advice (you can call us 020 3117 2520 or use our contact form), also consider speaking to your trade union representative if you’re a member.

If this formal process has led to your dismissal, please see our dismissal section further down the page.

Seeking advice

You can call or email our advice line (020 3117 2520 or use our contact form) for support and advice but if you are a trade union member you should also consider contacting them in addition to speaking to us.

Company Behaving Badly

Jo was an award-winning manager for a food chain. A new Divisional Manager (DM) arrived, who did things his own way. He told managers that they should fill in the staff satisfaction surveys and not their team as this would boost their bonuses. Jo thought this was wrong and, following the company’s whistleblowing policy reported the concerns to a compliance department. They told Jo they would investigate and promised her confidentiality. The next she heard was the DM was telling other managers she had reported him. Jo went off sick with stress and was asked to a meeting with the Head of HR. She contacted Protect for advice.

We ran through how the legal protection could help Jo, explained that her employer’s promises of confidentiality were undeliverable and advised Jo that she had done nothing wrong. At the HR meeting, Jo had been told she shouldn’t rock the boat as the DM was a high flyer, and it was suggested she take more time off. Jo rang the compliance department to ask what was happening and they appointed investigators.

The investigators met with Jo and said her concerns stood up. Two weeks later Jo was called to a meeting to explain two incidents: one was a year old and the other occurred on her day off work. We advised Jo to stay calm, warning that they were trying to set her up. At the meeting Jo was told she would get a final written warning. As she left the meeting, the DM was outside and she gave him a piece of her mind. She was then suspended. She asked us to put her in touch with litigation lawyers who helped her bring a Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) claim. At the door of the tribunal, her case was settled for over £100,000. We advised Jo to be open with her job applications and she now has another good job and is studying law in the evenings.

Jo has no regrets and still values her former company, commenting that its ethics had been hijacked by one individual. Jo says she doubted she would have coped without the counselling and support Protect provided.

When to call us for advice

If victimisation is stopping you from either raising your concerns, or escalating your concerns then please contact the Advice Line.

If you are unsure who to approach and you want to informally discuss the victimsation that you are suffering.

If you are unsure how to put together an grievance or complaint formally challenging the victimsation you are suffering.

If you are concerned that the disciplinary process will result in your dismissal please call us, and consider contacting your trade union.

Dos and Don’ts

Do:

Keep calm and reasonable, this will be the best way to highlight unreasonable behaviour from the other party

Keep a diary that records victimisation - it will be useful to refer to when you call us, trade union representatives and others etc.

Challenge victimisation whether that’s informally or formally through a grievance, your employer needs to know what you’re going through

In verbal discussions with the employer (whether that’s managers or HR or the whistleblowing team) send a follow up email summarising the key points

Take notes in any meetings

Don’t:

Suffer in silence, if you’re being victimised speak to someone, seek advice whether that’s from us, the trade union, ACAS, Citizens Advice or a lawyer

Assume that if your line manager or local management are victimising you that other senior managers or other employer functions (such as HR or the whistleblowing function) will be of the same attitude

Assume that blowing the whistle will protect you from allegations about your own conduct, you will need to engage with any allegations put forward by your employer

‘I have been dismissed or forced out for raising my concerns’

This section will cover situation where you have either been dismissed, made redundant or forced to resign due to whistleblowing.

If you have been dismissed, you should consider in addition to looking at our website or calling our Advice Line consider contacting your trade union, looking legal representation from our referral page and checking things like your household insurance for legal coverage.  While will be able to offer advice on your legal rights, we are not in a position to represent you at employment tribunal.

Consider the following:

  • Make Contact with ACAS
  • If you want to pursue a claim at the employment tribunal you will need to go through early conciliation which is run by ACAS, you can contact them here.
  • Contact your trade union representative for advice.
  • Exploring whether there could be a settlement agreement

This is the process by which you agree with your former employer to settle any employment tribunal claim before it reaches Employment Tribunal.

If you are a trade union member discuss this option with your representative or advisor.

Negotiating a settlement is not something a Protect Advisor can assist with, if you’re not a trade union member please contact one of the employment law specialists in our referral body list.

Protect advisors can assist you in escalating or raising your whistleblowing concerns, signing a settlement agreement will not prevent you from doing this. The legal protection for whistleblowers, the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA), has a defense against gagging clauses or confidentiality agreement that may seem to prevent the raising of concerns.  If your concerned about this issue please contact the Advice Line.

Putting together an Employment Tribunal claim

If you are in position where early conciliation has been completed and you are contemplating pursuing a claim through the Employment Tribunal here are some things to consider:

We cannot provide an assessment of the value of a claim, or legally represent (‘advocate’) for people at ET but we can assist in thinking about what is needed to put in an ET1 form.

The ET1 form should have as much detail as possible about the disclosure made, when they were made, who to and then what the reaction was that then lead up to the dismissal, resignation, redundancy etc. The key point is that you should be drawing a line from the concerns raised to the victimisation suffered.

Contact Protect for advice on completing this form if needed.

CHARITY BEGINS ON HOLIDAY

The Director and senior colleague of a community resource project had left their positions to take up new posts in a charity. To replace them, the project recruited a finance officer, CM, who had a lot of experience in the area, and appointed the deputy director to act as interim manager until this post was filled. Not long after joining, CM discovered that the two former staff had drawn and signed cheques to one another at a value of almost £1000. While these were listed as outstanding holiday pay, CM was concerned that no deduction had been made for tax or national insurance and there was no indication that the payments had been authorised. To try and sort the issue out, she asked a colleague for their holiday records but was concerned that large sections had been encrusted with Tippex. CM raised the issue with the Deputy Director and dropped him a short note to say she awaited his instructions. The next day CM was suspended for “malicious mischief resulting in dangeadr to fellow employees; reading personnel records without prior consent; discussing these issues with other members of staff other than the Deputy Director; and discourteous behaviour.” Two weeks later at her disciplinary hearing she was dismissed for gross misconduct. She then contacted us.

We discussed all the options with her, as to her own position and the concern. Though she was very hurt by what had happened, she felt the project was good and was keen to stay and try to sort out its finances. If things did not improve, she would seek another job.

We helped her bring an internal appeal against the dismissal explaining what had happened and mentioning the law. This was successful and she returned to her post.

Escalating the concern

Going through employment tribunal or a settlement agreement process can be stressful at the best of times, and understandably the concerns you've been raising may take a backseat. If you believe the concerns you've raised have not been addressed then you could raise the concerns with a regulator.  If you feel that the tribunal process or the settlement negotiations are preventing you from escalating your concerns, then please call us for advice.

When to call us for advice

If you want some advice from a Protect adviser on how to draw a link between the concerns, you have raised and the dismissal or redundancy you have suffered.

If you want some advice from a Protect adviser on how to articulate the whistleblowing elements within your ET1 form.

If either a settlement agreement or the employment tribunal process is preventing your from raising or escalating your concerns.

Do’s and Don’ts

Do:

Keep calm and be reasonable, this will be the best way to highlight the other sides unreasonable behaviour

Seek advice from your trade union, ACAS, CITIZENS ADVICE, Law Works (see our referral page for more details) who can provide specialist employment law advice, and our advice line for guidance on PIDA.

Contact ACAS about early conciliation if you have been dismissed or forced out of your job.

4) Before seeking advice, or in preparation for filling out an ET1 form create a time line of what has happened, record the concerns you have made, who you’ve raise it with, the date and then the reaction to this concern including victimisation that flows form the concerns.

Don’t:

Wait around for advice there are strict time limits (3 months plus a day from date of the last detriment) see our referral for employment law advice bodies.

Contact Protect for advice on non-whistleblowing ET claims, we are not general employment law experts, see referral page for other bodies that can offer advice.

If you need advice or support please call: 020 7404 6609 or use our contact form.

I don’t want to raise my concern to my employer. I want to take it outside to a regulator, the police, my MP or the media.

Should I do this?

Are you still working for your employer or have you moved on to a different job? Have you already raised it internally?  Are you worried about the reaction of your employer? Does your concern relate to sensitive information about others e.g. patients or children?  Have you been victimised? Forced out or dismissed?

The advice below and any action you take depends on your current situation.

There maybe a variety of different things you'll want to consider, and we can help you work through these issues.

What is the difference between all of the outside ‘external’ bodies?

Many sectors have their own regulator who have the power to act on concerns and can carry out an investigation, prosecute, and publish reports. They will be a sensible place to go next if you have, or feel unable, to raise your concern with your employer. They have a special 'prescribed' role under the whsitleblowing legislation, which means it is easier to gain protection if you raise your concern with them than other bodies. You can find a list of these regulators here.

There will be certain concerns that need to be reported to the Police. Again they will be a critical place to take concerns to have them addressed and may well be a reasonable place for you to go. If you have any doubts we can give you advice on what to do.

In contrast, MPs (who are also 'prescribed' under the legislation) and the media and campaign groups, such as Greenpeace and Liberty, are powerful advocates and can help campaign and expose a serious wrongdoing that is not being dealt with.

All of these options may carry legal protection against victimisation, but the legal tests and how they are applied, is different depending on who you take your concern to. See our PIDA guide for more detail or call our Advice Line.

I am still working for the same employer

Things to consider

Think about raising the concern internally as a first step. Your employer is often best placed to deal with the issue quickly and effectively, as well as being in a much better position to shield you from retaliation. If you don’t think they will deal with the concern appropriately: is this based on your own or colleagues' past experiences of raising concerns (perhaps the employer has previously mistreated people who speak out, or not effectively dealt with their concerns)?

If you have already raised your concern and your employer has failed to deal with the concerns, have you considered asking for feedback? Click here to see advice and information where your concerns have been ignored by your employer.

 When to call us for advice

In the following situation you should call us for advice:

If you have no confidence in your employer to do the right thing.  This might be because of poor relations with managers or past whistleblowing cases which have been mishandled or where whistleblowers have been poorly treated.

If you raised the concerns confidentially or anonymously

If you're considering raising your concerns externally because you are being victimised, or you’re having doubts about raising concerns externally due to a fear of being victimised

If you have any problems with your employment, whether they are related to whistleblowing or are unrelated (e.g. you are are taking a grievance out against your line manager)

If you are worried about whether a regulator can safeguard your confidentiality or where you're thinking of raising their concerns anonymously to a regulator

If you have any questions about raising the concerns externally

Food Safety

John worked in quality control at an abattoir and factory dealing mainly with pork. John was concerned that the abattoir was changing kill dates on the meat in order to give it a longer shelf life. This meat was then being sent to large supermarkets nationally with the wrong sell-by and use-by dates. John was particularly concerned when he realised that one kill date had been changed by up to 9 days. John knew that government regulations require all pork to be eaten within ten days of the kill date and this meat would be unsafe if sold to consumers. John had tried to speak to his manager but he had been told to mind his own business. John was unsure who at the top of the company knew about this but thought that the owners would also be aware of this practice. Although John knew other staff were worried, no one wanted to speak up.

We advised John that given the immediate risk we could contact the supermarket directly and give them the batch number and date it was sent out. This way they could ensure the meat would never reach the supermarket shelves. We said we could also let the industry regulator, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), know about the issue. John agreed and we contacted the supermarket and the FSA.

The next day the abattoir was told their contract with the supermarket had been put on red alert. As a result the practice of changing the kill dates stopped.

You are no longer working for the organisation

If you have left or are no longer working for the employer where you had or have concerns, it may be easier to raise your concerns externally. This is because the risk of victimisation is much lower if you are no longer working in the organisations.  If you feel a previous employer has victimised you for raising concerns externally then do not hesitate to contact us for advice.

What should I do?

If you resigned or were dismissed then you are in a good position to raise the concern with an external body. Most victimisation takes place when a concern is raised by someone still in employment.

Regardless of whether you raised the concern with your employer or not, if you no longer work for the organisation you are in a good position to raise the concern with a regulator. You do not have notify your former employer of your decision to raise the concern.

When to call us for advice

If you feel you have been victimised or your reputation has been damaged by a former employer because you raised concerns to an external body after you left employment

If you are worried about receiving a bad reference because of raising a concern

If you are pursuing a claim at employment tribunal, whether that’s under PIDA or unfair dismissal, this should not prevent you escalating the concern to an external body, but it may affect settlement negotiations. If you have a legal adviser or trade union representative, make sure they are aware of your plans to escalate the whistleblowing.

Do’s:

Consider whether there is a further internal route to raising the concern if you’re still employed by the organisation you have concerns about.

If you feel the employer has failed to deal with your concerns, before contacting an external body consider asking for feedback and look at our ‘your concerns have been ignored by your employer’.

Consider which external body you're approaching. Remember that regulators and professional bodies have powers and resources to take action on the concerns. The role of the media and MPs is to highlight failure but they have no formal powers to take action; they are better placed to highlight a situation where both the employer and regulator have failed.

If you have left the organisation remember that victimisation is a lower risk as you’re no longer working there. If you fear victimisation or feel that you have been victimised for making an external disclosure, then please call us for advice.

If you’re looking to raise concerns confidentially with a regulator while still employed at the organisation

When contacting an external body, send a follow-up email or note down who you spoken to within that organisation as this will establish an audit trail.

Don’t:

Raise your concerns with an external body while still working for the organisation over fears of being ignored or victimised without calling us for advice first.

Raise your concerns anonymously with an external body, especially if you are still employed by the organisation you have concerns about. If you are considering this option as the only means of escalating your concern, call us for advice.

Escalate your concerns without referring to legal advisers (whether that’s a trade union representative, lawyer or us) if you are taking forward an employment tribunal claim, grievance or where there is a disciplinary issue. You will need advice in this situation.

If you need advice or support please call 020 3117 2520 or use our contact form.

Our Advice Line: Free and confidential

Speaking up is not an easy thing to do. We know that.

Contact with a Protect adviser is a two-way exchange: we can offer you expert, practical advice which we hope will really help. Be it a telephone call, email or letter everything you share with us is confidential and protected by legal privilege.

Protect advisers are whistleblowing experts, handling almost 3,000 cases each year from the health, finance, retail, charity, education and retail sectors among others which, if not acted on, could harm or affect other people.

As well as being whistleblowing specialists, our Protect advisers are compassionate and care about the people they advise, as well as the concerns being raised.

What we can do:

  • As a legal advice service we offer free expert advice around whistleblowing protection
  • We listen and ask the right questions to get a clear picture on complex cases
  • Offer support and in some cases, referrals to pro bono lawyers in exceptional cases
  • Act as a respected and trusted legal ‘third party’ e.g. writing to a regulator or Government
  • Help highlight your whistleblowing concern in the media, if suitable

What we can’t do:

  • We are not general employment lawyers so cannot provide general employment law advice
  • We do not advocate at employment tribunal, so we cannot represent you.
  • We are not a regulatory body, so cannot investigate your whistleblowing concerns.

Legal Message

Information communicated to us has lawyer-client privilege – this means all communications between us and people who contact us for advice cannot be disclosed without the permission of the individual who contacted us. Protect is a legal advice service and our solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the regulatory body for solicitors in England and Wales.

 

If you need advice or support please call: 020 3117 2520 or use our contact form.