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What is PIDA?

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, shortened to PIDA, is the law that protects whistleblowers from negative treatment or unfair dismissal. It is part of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA).

PIDA makes it unlawful to subject a worker to negative treatment or to dismiss them because they have raised a whistleblowing concern. Raising a whistleblowing concern is also known as a making a ‘protected disclosure’.

Who is is protected under PIDA?

Section 43K of PIDA grants protection to employees, as well as certain workers, contractors, trainees and agency staff who raise concerns about wrongdoing, risk or malpractice which it is in the public interest to disclose. But there are gaps in the law meaning that some workers do not qualify for whistleblower protection.

What is a 'protected disclosure'?

A ‘protected disclosure’ has two components; what the worker disclosed and who they disclosed it to:

  • What was disclosed: a disclosure is made when a worker provides information that they reasonably believe shows wrongdoing that falls under one of the six categories of wrongdoing set out in the legislation (see s43B). A worker must also reasonably believe that the disclosure is in the public interest.
  • Who was the disclosure made to: depending on whom a worker makes their disclosure to, the law sets out a number of legal tests that an worker must satisfy in order to be protected. A general rule is that it is usually easier for a worker to make a disclosure to their employer than it is to the media or other bodies (where stricter legal tests apply).

What does 'public interest' mean?

Public interest would generally mean that a concern has an impact on more than one individual’s employment contract (which may be better dealt with by a grievance). However, there may be matters which affect both you and other individuals, and for which there is sufficient public interest.

Making a protected disclosure

If a worker has made a protected disclosure and is treated negatively in any way for doing so, then this is a breach of their legal rights under PIDA. They may be able exercise their rights under the legislation to bring a claim for compensation at Employment Tribunal.

Whistleblowing rights under PIDA are day one rights. This means that the worker does not need the same two years’ service that is needed for other employment rights.

PIDA also has a wider definition of ‘worker’ than other areas of law. However, self-employed persons, volunteers or job applicants (other than in the NHS) are likely not covered.

Need advice on whistleblowing?

If you are thinking of raising a concern and would like some advice, you can contact our free and confidential Advice Line.

A guide to PIDA

Originally published by Sweet & Maxwell in its series Current Law Statutes, this edition sets out the revised and amended text of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Authoritative notes – originally drawn on background papers and parliamentary debates – have been fully updated and now take account of an extensive review of one hundred legal decisions made under the Act.

Part 1 describes the background to the legislation, how it was intended to work and includes guidance on whistleblowing arrangements and practical tips for workers, organisations and their advisers.

Part 2 is the text of the Act with annotations. This was published in Feb 2003 and the case law is accurate at that date.

Sections 17-20 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 have introduced a series of changes to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.

Section 17 narrows the definition of ‘protected disclosure’ to those that are made in the ‘public interest’.
Section 18 removes the requirement that a worker or employee must make a protected disclosure ‘in good faith’. Instead, tribunals will have the power to reduce compensation by up to 25% for detriment or dismissal relating to a protected disclosure that was not made in good faith.
Section 19 introduces protection for whistleblowers from bullying or harassment by co-workers.
Section 20 enables the Secretary of State to extend the meaning of ‘worker’ for the purpose of defining who comes within the remit of the whistleblowing provisions.

Section 1

ERA s.43A
Meaning of Protected Disclosure (with ref to Employment Act 2002)

ERA s.43B
Disclosures qualifying for protection

ERA s.43C
Disclosure to employer or other responsible person

ERA s.43D
Disclosure to legal adviser

ERA s.43E
Disclosure to Minister of the Crown

ERA s.43F
Disclosure to prescribed person

ERA s.43G
Disclosure in other cases

ERA s.43H
Disclosure of exceptionally serious failure

ERA s.43J
Contractual duties of confidentiality

ERA s.43K
Extension of meaning of “worker”

ERA s.43KA
Application of PIDA for Police Officers

ERA s.43L
Other interpretative provisions

Section 2
Right not to suffer detriment

Section 3
Complaints to employment tribunal

Section 4
Limit on amount of compensation

Section 5
Unfair dismissal

Section 6

Section 7
Exclusion of restrictions on right not to be unfairly dismissed

Section 8
Compensation for unfair dismissal

Section 9
Interim relief

Section 10
Crown employment

Section 11
National Security

Section 12
Work outside Great Britain

Section 13
Police Officers

Section 14
Remedy for infringement of rights

Section 15
Interpretative provisions of 1996 Act

Section 16
Dismissal of participants taking unofficial industrial action

Section 17
Corresponding provision for Northern Ireland

Section 18
Short title, interpretation, commencement and extent

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