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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’ in law.

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.

1. Who is is protected under PIDA?

Section 43K of PIDA has a wider definition of worker than other areas of employment law. This means protection is granted to employees as well as certain workers, contractors, trainees and agency staff who make a protected disclosure. But there are gaps in the law which mean that some workers do not qualify for whistleblower protection. You can check here, or seek advice from us if you are unsure whether you are protected. However, self-employed persons, volunteers or job applicants (other than in the NHS) are likely not covered.

2. What concerns can I raise to be protected?

In order to qualify for protection under PIDA, you must make a “protected disclosure”. This has three main elements to it:

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    You must provide information of a concern that you “reasonably believe” shows a category of wrongdoing set out in the law
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    You must reasonably believe that the concern is in the public interest
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    You must raise your concern in accordance with the law – either internally to your employer or externally to an outside body.

We will go through each of these in turn, but first:

What is reasonable belief?

It is not necessary for the information disclosed to actually be true. In most cases where a genuine concern has been raised, it is easy for a worker to show reasonable belief. A whistleblower does not need to be right about their concern nor prove it. They simply need to show that they have some reasonable basis or grounding for believing there has been some wrongdoing. That is enough and it will not matter if the whistleblower is later shown to be mistaken.

What type of concerns can I raise?

A disclosure of “information” can be made verbally or in writing, and can include new information or drawing attention to a matter that someone is already aware of. Your disclosure must contain sufficient factual content and be sufficiently specific, as opposed to saying an opinion or making an allegation.

You must reasonably believe that the information is likely to illustrate one of six categories of
wrongdoing covered by the law. Click on the button to find out more about these categories and the types of concerns you can raise.

What does 'public interest' mean?

Usually, where a worker is raising concerns about wrongdoing which affects people other than just themselves, it would fall in the public interest. This can be distinguished from cases where the worker is going through a personal issue in the workplace or where their employment law rights are affected, making it a grievance matter. However, there may be instances where a concern may also affect the worker raising it, e.g., if there is a culture of bullying or discrimination in the workplace, which would make this a public interest concern.

Raising concerns internally

Raising your concerns internally means raising your concerns to your employer. Anyone who is more senior than you in your organisation can amount to your employer i.e. your line manager, a senior manager, a whistleblowing contact. It is relatively easy to qualify for protection when you raise your concerns internally. Find out more below.

Raising concerns externally

Raising your concerns externally means raising them to anyone outside of your employer. This is split into raising your concerns to a Prescribed Person (a regulator that is prescribed under the law to hear concerns, this includes your MP) and wider disclosures (anyone outside of your employer who is not prescribed, i.e. the police, the media etc). It is fairly easy to qualify for protection when you go to a prescribed person. However, it is more difficult when you make wider disclosures as there are more stringent tests that you need to satisfy. Click on the button below to find out more.

3. If you have made a protected disclosure

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

You can find more about what to do if you a victimised or dismissed for raising your concerns here and here.

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.