The law provides you with protection if you make a disclosure to your employer in the right way. You can also make a disclosure to a prescribed person, an MP, or a legal adviser, or to a wider group but there are different legal tests depending on who you disclose information to. We have some guidance on what to think about when you are disclosing to your employer here. Below we set out some frequently asked questions about "internal" disclosures.
If you are only disclosing to your employer you need to show:
- you have a reasonable belief that the information disclosed is in the public interest, and
- that it tends to show one or more of the six areas of wrongdoing set out in the law.
You do not need to be correct in your belief, but you need to have some basis to say why you believe that wrongdoing has or is likely to occur.
Your employer means someone senior to you, or who has been authorised by the employer to have management responsibility. Some organisations will appoint a non-executive board member or senior person as a "whistleblowing champion" and encourage you to raise concerns with them.
If you are raising matters with your trade union official, that may not be protected (unless they have been authorised by your employer in a whistleblowing policy).
If you reasonably believe that someone other than your employer has responsibility for the wrongdoing, then a disclosure to that other person may be covered (Section 43(1)(b) ERA). For example, if an agency nurse raises a concern about safeguarding in the home where they work, they may be covered if they raise that concern with the care home manager.
For a worker, the test is the person "who substantially determines...the terms on which he is engaged" (Section 43K(2)(a) ERA)
If you disclose information about wrongdoing to a colleague, that may not be protected if you are subsequently treated badly or dismissed - it may count as a wider disclosure and there are other legal tests you would need to meet to show it was reasonable in all the circumstances to do so.
It is important that you let a more senior member of staff, or designated whistleblowing officer or "speak up" champion know about your concerns.
Your employer should take your concerns seriously and, if necessary, investigate them. It is good practice for employers to treat whistleblowing concerns separately from a grievance, but the law doesn't prescribe how your employer should act, other than to say it is unlawful to treat you detrimentally or to dismiss you because you have raised a concern. It is good practice for an employer to give you some feedback, or let you know that they plan to investigate, but they don't have to. Sometimes it will be difficult for your employer to let you know the outcome, if other people's rights are involved. For example, you are not entitled to know if the wrongdoer was disciplined - that is likely to be confidential information between the employer and the wrongdoer.
If you raise your concerns anonymously, it may be difficult later to claim the protection of the Public Interest Disclosure Act, as it will be hard to show that there is a link between the disclosure and any detriment or dismissal that follows. However, you may want to ask your employer to treat any concerns in confidence, and ask them not to reveal your name or the fact that you have raised concerns with anyone else in the organisation except on a need-to-know basis. If you are worried that you may be victimised for raising concerns, let your employer know.
If you have a good reason to think that your employer will treat you badly if you raise your concern with them, or you think that telling them may lead to cover up the wrongdoing, you may be able to raise your concern elsewhere. Have a look at our guidance on raising matters outside your employer here.