This factsheet was last updated in May 2013.
What is ‘whistleblowing’?
Most people will have heard of 'whistleblowing' from the high-profile cases reported in the media. Following the recent economic crisis there have been numerous examples of whistleblowing in the financial and banking sector and many examples within the NHS and the area of social care. Put at its simplest, whistleblowing occurs when an employee or worker provides certain types of information, usually to the employer or a regulator, which has come to their attention through work. The disclosure may be about the alleged wrongful conduct of the employer, or about the conduct of a fellow employee, client, or any third party. The whistleblower is usually not directly, personally affected by the danger or illegality, although they may be. Whistleblowing is therefore ‘making a disclosure in the public interest’ and occurs when a worker raises a concern about danger or illegality that affects others, for example members of the public.
Employees and workers who make a ‘protected disclosure’ are protected from being treated badly or being dismissed. The key piece of whistleblowing legislation is the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) which applies to almost all workers and employees who ordinarily work in Great Britain. The situations covered include criminal offences, risks to health and safety, failure to comply with a legal obligation, a miscarriage of justice and environmental damage.
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