Free, confidential whistleblowing advice
020 3117 2520

DONATE

Raised concerns unresolved

I'VE RAISED MY CONCERNS BUT THEY ARE STILL UNRESOLVED

Asking for feedback

If you have raised your concerns to your employer and you are worried that no action has been taken, you should ask for feedback. We sometimes find that an employer will have taken some steps to address a whistleblower’s concerns but simply not communicated this back to them.

A whistleblower does not have a legal right to feedback but it is recognised best practice for an employer to provide as much information as they safely can. Investigations can sometimes be misled by incorrect or false information so an employer who is serious about conducting an effective investigation should involve the whistleblower in the findings.

Feedback is the primary way to know whether your concerns have been resolved and, whether that feedback is positive or negative, you will be better placed to decide your next step.

You should bear in mind that there may be some circumstances where the employer can give only limited or no feedback because of confidentiality – for example, safeguarding concerns about young children.

Please contact us for advice if you have asked for feedback and any of the following have happened:

  • Your employer has failed to provide feedback or you are unhappy with the feedback received
  • The concern you raised has not been investigated or was investigated in an inadequate way
  • The concern you raised is continuing to happen or has increased in frequency
  • You would like further advice on requesting feedback

People we've helped

Andre (not his real name) was a residential social worker in a children’s home. He was increasingly concerned that a colleague, Lionel (not his real name), seemed to have developed a close relationship with a 12 year old girl in the home…

Escalating the concern

If you have raised your concern with your line manager or someone equivalent and they ignored you or denied any wrongdoing, you may want to escalate the concern to someone more senior. This can often help to bring objectivity and oversight to your concerns as your line manager may be required to justify their decision.

In order to do this, you should find out whether your employer has a Whistleblowing or Speak Up policy which should explain the proper procedure for you to follow. Whistleblowing or Speak Up policies will often have named individuals for you to contact or identify a specific department that handles whistleblowing concerns.

Remember that the Whistleblowing or Speak Up policy is only a guide and not binding on the decisions you make so if there is a different manager or department whom you trust to investigate your concerns, you can consider contacting them.

Keeping notes

Keeping notes can be a very helpful thing to do.

We would recommend that you keep a written record of the major details of your concerns (the who, what, when, where, and how), as well as noting when you raised your concerns, whom you raised the concerns with, and their response.

If you have had verbal conversations with the employer, consider sending a follow-up email so that there is a written record of what was discussed and agreed.

Openly, confidentially, or anonymously: the differences

Whether you choose to raise your concerns openly, confidentially or anonymously can have practical implications and affect how easily you can assert your legal rights.

Let’s explore the differences:

Openly raising concerns means that the employer knows who you are and they can tell other people you raised concerns. This can sometimes be the safest option. Openness makes it easier for the employer to investigate and obtain more information about your concern, and it may also encourage other workers to come forward. We appreciate that this is often only possible in workplaces where there is a positive speak up culture.

Confidentially raising concerns means the person to whom you raise your concern knows who you are but promises not to reveal your identity to anyone else. This can be an effective option because it allows for an investigating officer to ask you follow-up questions and minimises the risk of others finding out that you are the source of the information. If victimisation does occur it is easier to prove the link between you raising concerns and being victimised as a result.

Most Whistleblowing or Speak Up policies will give assurances of confidentiality and employers should have mechanisms in place to protect you from any victimisation or negative treatment.

You can ask the employer to investigate the concern in a way that will not reveal you disclosed the information – but this may be difficult where only you could have known about the wrongdoing or the information is particularly unique.

An employer should ask your consent before revealing your identity but sometimes it may be under a legal duty or obligation to reveal your identity.

Anonymously raising concerns means no one knows who you are – not even the person to whom you raise the concern. This may seem an appealing option but the downside is that the person investigating will be unable to ask you for more information, and your employer will be unable to protect you because they do not know who you are. It can also be harder to ask for feedback.

If you experience victimisation it will make it very difficult for you to link it to the fact that you raised whistleblowing concerns because your employer will simply be able to argue that they did not know it was you raising the concerns.

Anonymous disclosures can be an option if it is the only way to raise the matter. If you are unsure – contact us for advice.

Dos and Don'ts

Blowing the whistle can be a difficult and lonely experience. We understand that – and we want to help. Whistleblowers should be supported throughout the process so, in the meantime, consider our list of Dos and Don’ts below.

Do:

  • Ask for feedback from your employer to understand what action is being taken – this can be a line manager, investigating officer, HR, or someone else.
  • Send a follow up-email if you had verbal conversations with a manager to confirm the details of what was said.
  • Keep notes of your concerns and any conversations you have throughout the process.
  • Keep calm. You should not assume your concerns have been ignored unless you have reason to think otherwise – for example, the wrongdoing repeats or escalates.

Don't

  • Assume your employer has failed to act on the concerns until you have received feedback.
  • Assume you have no options for escalating the concerns just because the employer ignored you or feedback was negative or you were victimised – this may be unlawful and you should not have to tolerate it.
  • Approach an external body – such as a regulator, an MP or the media – without contacting us for advice, particularly if you are still working for the employer.

Making an External Disclosure

Raising whistleblowing concerns to someone outside of your employer (or ‘making an external disclosure’) can be a difficult decision. There are many factors you will want to consider before taking this step – for example, whether internal escalation is possible, whether the information is sensitive, whether there is a risk of victimisation. These considerations can be particularly complex if you are still working at the employer so calls us for advice if you are unsure.

If you are sure to raise concerns externally, the first question you have might have will be – where do I go?

What is the difference between all of the outside ‘external’ bodies?

The list of Prescribed People and Bodies is the best starting point to identify a regulator to disclose your concerns. Prescribed People are regulators that the government had designated as responsible for hearing and dealing with whistleblowing concerns in their sector.

It is easier to gain protection under whistleblowing laws if you raise your concerns to a Prescribed Person than other external bodies.

However, you must be careful to identify the correct regulator because your disclosure will only be protected if you raise a concern that is within that regulator’s remit. For example, if you have a concern about patient safety in England you can raise concerns to the Care Quality Commission, but not to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

It can sometimes be difficult to identify the correct Prescribed Person, particularly where it looks like more than one regulator might have an interest. We can help you to make the right decision so please call us for advice.

Some sectors have their own regulators who have the power to investigate, prosecute, and publish reports – for example the Financial Conduct Authority regulates the financial services sector. Other regulators work across all sectors – for example, the Information Commissioner’s Office regulates data protection law in all industries.

Members of Parliament are all Prescribed Persons so raising your concerns to your local MP can sometimes be effective. Although they will be unlikely to resolve the concerns themselves, they can help to campaign and expose wrongdoing.

Sometimes, you may need to raise the concern to a body that is not a Prescribed Person – such as the Police. There will be certain concerns that clearly need to be reported to the Police but these disclosures can be more difficult to make for practical and legal reasons. If you are unsure – please contact us.

We are sometimes asked about making disclosures to the media. Only in very rare and exceptional circumstances will this be the most appropriate and effective way to resolve your concerns. Please call us for advice if you are considering speaking to the media – we will help you to explore whether this is truly the best option.

All of these options may carry legal protection against victimisation, but the legal tests are different depending on where you raise the concern. Please call us for advice if you are unsure – particularly if you are considering making a disclosure to a non-Prescribed Person.

Can I make an External Disclosure if I am still working for the employer?

The short answer is – yes.

You can raise concerns to a regulator at any stage and you do not have to first raise the concern to your employer. However, this is not always an effective thing to do – it is often better to take things step by step and not to ‘leapfrog’ to an outside body.

As such, consider raising the concern internally first as your employer is best placed to deal with the issue quickly and is in a better position to shield you from retaliation.

If you make an external disclosure whilst still working for the employer, you will need to think carefully about the risks this has for you. A regulator may take longer to resolve the issue and you may not be as involved in the process or consulted about the outcome. A regulator also has less power to protect you from victimisation.

Please call us for advice if you are thinking about making an external disclosure and you still work at the organisation – particularly in the following circumstances:

  • You have no confidence in your employer to do the right thing – for example, whistleblowers have been poorly treated previously or their concerns ignored
  • You have been victimised or fear victimisation for making an external disclosure
  • You are unsure how a regulator will respond and whether they will protect your confidentiality

What if I am no longer working for the employer?

In these circumstances, it may be easier to raise your concerns externally because the risk of victimisation is much lower. There is little an employer can do to you once you have left the organisation.

However, a previous employer could still victimise you for blowing the whistle – we call this ‘post-employment detriment’ and the most common example is a poor reference.

If you are worried about this or think that it may have happened to you, please contact us for advice.

You can contact us for advice if you want to make an external disclosure and you have left the employer – particularly in the following circumstances:

  • You feel you have been victimised by a former employer because you raised concerns to an external body
  • You are worried about receiving a bad reference because of whistleblowing
  • You are pursuing a claim in the Employment Tribunal – this should not prevent you from escalating your concerns, but it may affect settlement negotiations

If you have a legal adviser or trade union representative, make sure they are aware of your plans to escalate the whistleblowing.

Case study

Blake (not his real name) worked as an engineer for a food producer. He was concerned that products were not being properly cleaned during production and goods were being exposed to contaminated water and excess chemicals…

When to contact us for advice:

  • You are unsure whether to raise a concern openly, confidentially or anonymously
  • You believe that there has been a breach in confidentiality by the employer or a co-worker
  • You are being victimised and/or this is preventing you from escalating your concerns
  • The concern you raised has not stopped or increased in frequency and/or severity

We're here for you

We are here to support whistleblowers so please contact us on o20 3117  2520 or send us an email if you are unsure about what to do at any stage of the process. You may find helpful our list of Dos and Don’ts:

Do:

  • Consider whether it is possible to escalate your concern internally – particularly, if you are still employed by the organisation.
  • Ask for feedback if you feel the employer has failed to listen or address your concern.
  • Identify the correct external body to raise your concerns if that is the appropriate next step. Remember – regulators and professional bodies have formal powers to rectify concerns; MPs and the media can only highlight wrongdoing and add pressure.
  • Keep a written note of when you contacted a regulator, what you said, who you spoke to and their response.

Don't

  • Raise your concerns with an external body while still working for the organisation over fears of being ignored or victimised without first contacting us for advice.
  • Raise your concerns anonymously with an external body without first calling us for advice – especially, if you are still employed by the organisation.
  • Escalate your concerns if you are involved in an Employment Tribunal claim, grievance or disciplinary without first seeking legal advice – whether from Protect, a trade union representative, or a lawyer.