Workers have legal protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 against dismissal or other penalty as a result of disclosing information relating to malpractice such as crimes, breaches of a legal obligation, miscarriages of justice, dangers to health and safety or the environment and to the concealing of evidence relating to any of these. (Commonly known as “whistle blowing”). It does not matter that the information may be confidential.
To gain protection the person must have made the disclosure in “Good Faith” ie. To remedy the wrong that has occurred.
There are various levels of protection depending on the circumstances of the disclosure. First, disclosure to the employer will be protected if the worker has an honest and reasonable suspicion malpractice has occurred and acts in good faith. Second, disclosure to ‘prescribed persons’ such as the Financial Services Authority, is protected provided the requirements for internal protection are met and in addition the worker reasonably believes the information and any allegation in it are substantially true. Finally, wider disclosure such as to the media or the police, is protected where the disclosure is reasonable in all the circumstances and is not made for personal gain.
There are also a further 3 requirements, namely that the worker reasonably believes that he or she would be victimised if the matter were raised internally or with a prescribed person, there was no prescribed person and the worker reasonably believed the evidence was likely to be concealed or destroyed, or the concerns had already been raised with the employer or a prescribed person. These three pre-conditions do not apply where the malpractice is of an exceptionally serious nature.
Dismissal for “whistle blowing” is an automatically unfair dismissal. The Public Disclosure Act 1998 removes the ceiling on the compensatory award in a dismissal case for protected disclosure and provides for a higher level of additional award to apply where there is a failure to reinstate or re-engage.