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What is the difference between whistleblowing and grievance?


A worker raising a concern with someone in authority internally and/or externally (e.g. to regulators, MPs, MSPs, the media) about wrongdoing, risk or malpractice that affects others.

Protect’s definition of whistleblowing

This definition is in line with the legal definition of whistleblowing Under the Employment Rights Act Section 43B.

Not limited to raising concerns externally

Whistleblowing concerns can be raised internally to persons in authority (such as your line manager) and externally to regulators, MPs and the media, amongst others.

Workers only

Whistleblowing law protects ‘workers’, not members of the public or customers. Please visit our page on Who is protected under PIDA for more information.

What types of wrongdoing are whistleblowing?

A variety of wrongdoings fall under whistleblowing. Examples that we hear frequently on our Advice Line include: an employer breaking the law or breaching contract, a financial wrongdoing such as fraud, the health and safety of patients, staff or the general public being put at risk. More information can be found here.

For a wrongdoing to be whistleblowing, it must affect others (not just yourself). More information on the public interest test can be found here.

Our Advice Line

If you’ve seen, heard or suspect wrongdoing in your workplace, or know of a serious risk or accident ‘waiting to happen’ – we can help.

What is the difference between whistleblowing and raising a grievance?

This can be a really tricky distinction. If you are unsure whether your concerns are best raised as whistleblowing concerns or as grievances, have a look at the differences between the two processes, outlined below:


  • Risk to others – whistleblowing is about raising concerns relating to wrongdoing, risk or malpractice that you witness in the workplace which affects others.
  • Process – there is no set process for investigating whistleblowing concerns. There is also no right to be accompanied to a meeting with your employer to discuss your concerns.
  • Confidentiality – your employer should respect your wish for confidentiality.
  • Outcome – you may never know the outcome of a whistleblowing concern. For example, if your employer investigates the behaviour of another individual and disciplines them as a result, that would be confidential information between the employer and that other individual.
  • Appeal – there is no general right to appeal if you are unhappy with how your employer deals with your whistleblowing concerns. However, you can request.


  • Risk to self – grievances typically relate to how you, specifically, are being treated rather than relating to the treatment of others.
  • Risk to self – grievances may be raised about various issues, including: things you are asked to do as part of your job; breaches by your employer of your employment rights / your contract of employment, or the way you are personally being treated at work.
  • Process – the independent public body, ACAS, has set out Codes of Practice in relation to discipline and grievance procedures. You can find more information about how to raise a grievance on the ACAS website.
  • Support – you have the right to be accompanied at a grievance hearing if the complaint is about your employer breaching a term of your employment contract.
  • Outcome – grievances result in a legal determination (decision) on the issue that you raise. The ACAS Codes provide for employees to be given the outcome of their grievance e.g. an apology, a payment due or a change to the working practices.
  • Appeal – you should be given the opportunity to appeal should you feel unsatisfied with the outcome.

Thinking of blowing a whistle?

If you want to blow the whistle to your employer and they don’t have a whistleblowing policy, contact our Advice Line on 020 3117 2520 or send us an email. We can help you think through how best to raise your concerns and check whether your concerns regard a matter of public interest or how you have been treated as an individual.

When does bullying become a whistleblowing concern?

There can be instances where you as well as others are being bullied or discriminated against and this can become a whistleblowing concern. For more information please see our webpage on “Should I raise concerns of bullying, harassment and discrimination as whistleblowing?”

My employer doesn’t have a whistleblowing policy – should I raise a grievance instead?

As we set out above, your employer should follow a different route for dealing with whistleblowing concerns and grievances. Using the wrong process can make matters difficult. For example, it is difficult for a whistleblower to have their confidentiality respected if a grievance is followed (a fair process may mean an individual complained about needs to know the basis of a problem to allow them to put their case).

If you want to blow the whistle to your employer and they don’t have a policy to follow, contact us for advice. We can help you think through who best to raise your concerns with, and how to express the concern as a matter of public interest, rather than a complaint about how you have been treated as an individual.