Hello all, Philip Pearson-Batt here.
Did you do anything nice over the 3 day, bank holiday weekend? Wasn’t it a lovely one? For me, it was a bit of an important one as Saturday marked 1 year since I married my husband. It has been quite the year and I think we are both ready for our honeymoon in November (I may have mentioned this a million times?)
We spent the day down in Kent. Canterbury, to be precise, which is where we first met. It was great to be back in our old haunts (emphasis very much on old!) It’s a great city and well worth a visit – especially if you make your way up Elliot hill to the University of Kent’s campus. You get the most spectacular views of the city and the cathedral down below (which was always a highlight when you were coming home, I mean starting your day, at 4am in the morning).
Sadly, that long weekend is now behind us, and we need to refocus our heads on all things work!
It will have been hard to miss the Lucy Letby case in the news recently. I’m not going to go into any detail about the horrific crimes committed, other than to say Precept’s thoughts quite obviously go out to those affected.
One of the big things that seems to be coming from this case is how the NHS may have (or may not have) handled concerns that were raised by consultants.
What is whistleblowing?
Generally speaking, when we talk about whistleblowing we’re talking about a situation where an individual raises concerns about wrongdoing in the organisation they work for.
Employment lawyers and HR professionals call this making protected disclosures (simply because that’s what the legislation calls it!)
Somebody makes a protected disclosure if:
- They are a worker (inc. agency workers), employees, apprentices, office holders;
- They make a qualifying disclosure – that is a disclosure of information that in the worker’s reasonable belief tends to show wrongdoing by the employing organisation (for example, that a criminal offence has been committed, a person has failed to comply with their legal obligations, health and safety has been endangered or that the organisation is trying to deliberately conceal any of the other wrongdoings);
- The worker reasonably believes they’re making the disclosure in the public interest;
- They made the disclosure to an appropriate or prescribed person or body – that can be the employer or any other person within the organisation who the worker reasonably believes is solely or mainly responsible for the relevant failure. Disclosures may also be protected if made to an appropriate regulatory body (for example, the Health and Safety Executive).
What shouldn’t you do if somebody blows the whistle?
The law protects whistleblowers from being dismissed because they have made protected disclosures and from being subjected to a detriment because they have made protected disclosures.
Dismissal is a relatively straightforward concept right? Just note that only employees can bring claims if they’re dismissed because they’ve made protected disclosures – it doesn’t cover workers.
Detriment can be slightly trickier but in essence it means someone is treated worse than they were before they made their protected disclosures. It could include having their hours of work reduced, being bullied or harassed, having their reasonable requests turned down without justification.
So! If somebody does make a protected disclosure, you should not treat them any differently after the disclosure has been made, otherwise you risk claims in the employment tribunal. Instead, you need to proactively deal with the concerns raised…
What should you do if somebody blows the whistle?
Your organisation may already have rules around how to deal with protected disclosures being made. That should be the first thing that you check.
If your organisation doesn’t have a whistleblowing or protected disclosure policy, then you should consider getting one in place asap. It’s not strictly speaking a legal requirement but it’s a good idea to have one as it will demonstrate your commitment to complying with the relevant laws and help create an environment where workers feel able to raise concerns. That may in and of itself act as a deterrent to those who might be up to no good!
A good whistleblowing policy will identify clearly how whistleblowing concerns will be dealt with including the steps that will be taken to investigate concerns and who will be responsible for dealing with relevant stages of the process. If you want help with a whistleblowing policy then give Precept a shout – we can get a robust policy put together for you!
Once a concern is raised you should investigate this to see whether further action is required. It may be that, as a result of the investigation, you need to take disciplinary action against potential wrongdoers. Even though the whistleblower has no say in how the wrongdoing is dealt with, you should keep them informed of any progress (but remember to respect the confidentiality of others – don’t go sharing intimate detail, just confirm that appropriate action has been taken).