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I’ve been dismissed or forced out for raising a concern

UNFAIR DISMISSAL FOR WHISTLEBLOWING

I've been dismissed or pushed out for whistleblowing. What should I do?

It is unlawful for your employer to dismiss you, make you redundant or force you to resign because you raised a whistleblowing concern. You can challenge your employer’s actions by appealing the dismissal, negotiating a settlement or bringing an employment tribunal claim. This page explains the options you have and practical tips from our legal advice team.

1. Appeal the dismissal

Check if your employer allows appeals. Even if they don’t allow them, it could still be worth writing to them to say that you feel you have been unfairly dismissed because you raised whistleblowing concerns and would like to appeal your dismissal. We have a template letter you can use for this.

If your appeal is successful, then you cannot bring a claim for unfair dismissal because you continue to be employed (unless you subsequently get dismissed again). You might still have other claims for victimisation or detriment.

2. Put in an application for Interim Relief

If you are an employee and your dismissal was less than 7 days ago, you could put in an application for Interim Relief. Interim Relief is an order by the Employment Tribunal that preserves your employment (at least formally) until the Tribunal has decided on your claim.

3. Consider a settlement agreement

It is really worth considering negotiating a settlement agreement with your employer – this is the process where your employer agrees to pay you a sum of money and in return you agree not to bring a claim against them. Going through the tribunal process is very time consuming and very stressful. It is difficult to do so without a solicitor and/or barrister – making the process very expensive. It is also highly uncertain. Whistleblowing claims are hard to win in the Tribunal. A settlement agreement is often the safest and best option, allowing you to ask for things like an agreed reference on top of a payment.

A settlement can be reached at any stage, even if you have already started making an Employment Tribunal claim.

As part of some settlement agreements, employers may ask you to sign what’s known as a ‘non-disclosure agreement’ – asking you not to disclose any information about the employer’s actions. It’s important to know that such clauses in settlement agreements usually cannot legally stop you from whistleblowing, but it depends on the wording of the agreement. They are often used as a scare tactic, but the Public Interest Disclosure Act (whistleblowing law) has a defence against confidentiality agreements that may seem to stop workers from raising whistleblowing concerns. If you have signed a non-disclosure agreement, it is (usually) not legally possible for your employer to hold you liable for breaching it to raise whistleblowing concerns, but you will still need to keep other (non-whistleblowing related) issues confidential. If you’re concerned about this, please contact our Advice Line and we can advise you further.

Negotiating a settlement is not something a Protect Adviser can assist with. You can contact your trade union or one of the employment law specialists on our referral page.

4. Bring an Employment Tribunal claim

You can only make a claim for unfair dismissal if you are an employee. If you’re a worker you won’t be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal, but you may be able to bring a detriment claim instead. Contact our Advice Line for help if you are a worker or you are not sure.

Unlike ordinary unfair dismissal claims, a dismissal for whistleblowing is an automatically unfair dismissal – this means there is no minimum amount of time you need to have worked for your employer to make a claim. Whistleblowing is a ‘day one right’ so you can bring a claim for unfair dismissal for whistleblowing from the first day of your employment.

Things to consider if you are bringing an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal:

  • Time limits: there are strict time limits to bringing a claim in the Employment Tribunal – usually 3 months (minus 1 day) from the effective date of termination of your contract.

  • ACAS Early Conciliation: If you want to pursue a claim at the Employment Tribunal, the first step will be contact ACAS to start early conciliation.

  • Seek advice: Try and get advice on the Employment Tribunal process from your union, local Law Centre or Citizens’ Advice. You can find free legal support at lawworks.org.uk. Our Advice Line can also help with advice on whistleblowing law, but unfortunately we cannot accompany you to the Tribunal stage.

  • Prepare your ET1 form: Your ET1 form should include as much detail as possible about (i) what whistleblowing disclosures you made, (ii) when they were made and who to, and (iii) what your employer’s reactions were that led up to the dismissal, resignation redundancy etc. (did their behaviour towards you change after you raised concerns? If so, in what way?)

  • ‘Principal or primary reason’: You need show that the main or principal reason for your dismissal was because you raised whistleblowing concerns. You should therefore consider any other factors that might have influenced the dismissal (e.g. redundancy or poor performance) and think of ways to show that these were not the main reasons for dismissing you. If you aren’t sure about this, contact us for advice.

What our Legal Advice team can help you with:

  • Talking through your options if you have been dismissed or forced to resign because of whistleblowing
  • Drawing a link between the concerns you have raised and the dismissal or redundancy you have suffered
  • Explaining how to articulate the whistleblowing elements within your ET1 form

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 contact us for advice.