There have been recent changes to the law on Whistleblowing and this should lead to all employers reviewing and updating their policies to ensure thay are in line with the legislation changes. These amendments came into law with effect from June 25th 2013 and in summary mean that there is now no longer a requirement for the employee to raise a whistleblowing issue in “good faith” in order to be protected from dismissal or detrimental treatment because they have spoken out. This means that any references to whistleblowing disclosures being made in “good faith” or in other words with “honest intent” should be removed from policies.
Instead protection is given to the “qualifying disclosure”of any information that an employee reasonably believes is made in the public interest. Although there is no definition of what constitutes public interest it is implicit that one effect of the new “public interest” requirement is that employees will generally be prevented from speaking out about things of a purely personal nature. For example a grievance by an employee regarding breaches to their own contract of employment would not be considered to be in the public interest. Policies should be updated to include an explanation of what constitutes a protective disclosure and also make clear that complaints of a personal nature can be raised through the company grievance procedure.
Additional protection is also included to prevent whistleblowers suffering any detrimental treatment, bullying or harassment from another employee or employees because they have spoken out. Previously this protection only covered adverse treatment in relation to the activity of the employer. This means that disciplinary policies should also be updated to make clear that subjecting a colleague to detrimental treatment because they have blown the whistle is a disciplinary offence. In addition the employer will also be vicariously liable for any such treatment unless they can clearly demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps to prevent such detrimental treatment from occurring. Adherence to the companies whistleblowing policy for example may provide such a defence.
The law states that compensation at an Employment Tribunal in a successful whistleblowing case is unlimited and so in some instances this could be a substantial amount. However it should be noted that if an employee is dismissed or suffers detrimental treatment and are found not to have acted in good faith by the Employment Tribunal then any compensation awarded can be reduced by up to 25%.