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Whistleblowing

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Use this page to learn what to do in the event of whistleblowing at your organisation. It also includes tips to help you write your own whistleblowing policy and procedure.

What is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is when an individual reports suspected wrongdoing at work (also known as ‘blowing the whistle’).

Who the law protects

Whistleblowers are protected by law under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Under this law, whistleblowers must not be treated unfairly or lose their job because they report suspected wrongdoing.

This law protects employees and workers.

GOV.UK has guidance on who counts as an employee and who counts as a worker.

What counts as whistleblowing

Whistleblowers are protected by law if their whistleblowing is in the public interest and they suspect and report one of the following.

  • A criminal offence – for example, fraud
  • Someone’s health and safety is in danger
  • Risk or actual damage to the environment
  • A miscarriage of justice
  • Their organisation is breaking the law – for example, if the organisation doesn’t have the right insurance
  • Someone is covering up wrongdoing

Whistleblowing is deemed to be in the public interest if it affects the general public or a specific group of people or other employees/workers.

The whistleblower doesn’t need to be right about their concerns – they’re still protected if their concerns subsequently prove to be unfounded.

Personal grievances are covered by whistleblowing legislation if they’re in the public interest and cover one of the areas of wrongdoing above.

Read our guidance on handling grievances.

Writing a whistleblowing policy and procedure

It’s good practice to have a written whistleblowing policy and procedure.

This document should:

  • make clear the importance your organisation attaches to identifying and rectifying wrongdoing at work (malpractice)
  • define malpractice and identify the standard of conduct required of employees
  • set out who employees should report suspected malpractice to
  • set out the mechanism for investigating alleged malpractice
  • where possible, allow whistleblowers to disclose information in confidence and remain anonymous
  • stress that no disciplinary action will be taken against whistleblowers if disclosures are made in good faith
  • explain that employees could approach an external prescribed person or body (such as the Health and Safety Executive or the Pensions Regulator) if they believe their concern was not taken seriously or the wrongdoing is continuing – see the list of prescribed people and bodies on the GOV.UK
  • explain that employees should not contact the press, and doing so could result in disciplinary action.

NCVO members can download our editable sample whistleblowing policy and procedure.

Further information

Last reviewed: 01 August 2022

Help us improve this content

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 01 August 2022

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