“I’ve been victimised for blowing the whistle”
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 illegal and raising concerns comes with employment law rights.
We can help you challenge this behavior and provide advice and information on the whistleblowing law 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 be greeted in the morning from being taken off a key project you were overseeing. We recommend keeping a diary of incidents.
There though some obvious examples of victimsation, and broadly they fall into two categories, formal victimsation and informal victimisation:
- These are act of victimisation from managers that do not involve a formal process and can include the removal of key responsibilities, unfair comments about performance or conduct, denial of a job a promotion or career progression etc.
- From coworkers this could include acts of bullying or harassment that make your life difficult in the workplace.
- This is the misuse of disciplinary processes by managers to victimise you for raising concerns, this can be a direct challenge on why or how your raised your concerns, or an unfair or fabricated performance or conduct issue.
- Coworkers may use either grievance or complaints procedures in response to you having blown the whistle, this may be used as means to attempt to discredit you. It is more likely that these actions will focus on your conduct outside of raising your concerns, rather then being a direct challenge to the fact you blew the whistle.
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 coworkers or colleagues then consider approaching your line manager or supervisor, if this person is either involved in the behavior or has turned a blind eye to it then consider consulting the whistleblowing policy, Human resources or a senior manager you trust.
Putting in a Grievance
- If informal discussion hasn’t stopped the victimsation then you may need to consider a grievance, which is a more formal process to challenge this behavior.
- Whether you’re challenging managers or coworkers 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 the 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.
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 coworkers in response to blowing the whistle then here are some tips to challenge the situation:
- If you believe either that managers or coworkers are using a formal disciplanry 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 issues over your behavior.
- 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 disciplanry 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 whistleblowing. If you are in this situation then please call us for advice, 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.
- You can call or email our advice line for support and advice but if you are a trade union member you should also consider contacting them in addition to speaking to us.
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 resident sand the atmosphere in the home was now much improved.
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 if 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 your suffering.
- If you are concerned that the disciplinary process will result in your dismissal please call us, and consider contacting your trade union.
Do’s and Don’ts
Victimisation Do’s and Don’ts:
- 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, the 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
- If you are putting in a formal grievance or preparing your defence for a disciplinary meeting, 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 follows
- In a formal disciplinary process, remember whistleblowing is not a shield against your own conduct (e.g. behaviour or performance). You will need to answer these allegations on top of dealing with your whistleblowing concerns
- 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