PUBLIC INTEREST DISCLOSURE ACT 1998 (PIDA)
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.
Disclosures qualifying for protection
Disclosure to legal adviser
Disclosure to Minister of the Crown
Disclosure to prescribed person
Disclosure in other cases
Contractual duties of confidentiality
Extension of meaning of “worker”
Application of PIDA for Police Officers
Other interpretative provisions
Right not to suffer detriment
Complaints to employment tribunal
Limit on amount of compensation
Exclusion of restrictions on right not to be unfairly dismissed
Compensation for unfair dismissal
Work outside Great Britain
Remedy for infringement of rights
Interpretative provisions of 1996 Act
Dismissal of participants taking unofficial industrial action
Corresponding provision for Northern Ireland
Short title, interpretation, commencement and extent