Workplace Rights: Protection for whistleblowers

Whistleblowing hit the headlines in 2013 - but where to employers stand?

by Michael Burd and Jamies Davies

Workers who spill the beans on nefarious activities have had reasonable protection for some time, but there have been conflicting pressures to reform the legal framework. Some want stronger safeguards to encourage whistleblowing, while others urge restrictions on the scope for workers to abuse these rights. One issue has been tribunal claimants using the whistleblowing rules to get around the limit on unfair dismissal compensation.

They could argue, for instance, that complaining about a breach of their own contract or being subjected to harassment constitutes a 'disclosure' of malpractice. This prompted some adjustments to the legislation this year, including a new 'public interest' requirement. But, more recently, the Government has been pondering changes to ensure that workers are not discouraged from reporting wrongdoing. One idea is to introduce financial incentives for making public interest disclosures, as can be the case elsewhere. In the US, rewards of as much as $100m have been reported. If this happens here, workers who speak out could be whistling to a rather different tune in future.

- Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors, email:

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