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Protection under PIDA

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The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) protects any whistleblowing worker who discloses their concerns in the public interest. If a worker experiences any form of reprisal or mistreatment from their employer after raising a concern, they have the right to compensation at an employment tribunal.

This right applies if the worker is dismissed, forced to resign due to mistreatment, or if they continue in employment but are victimised by colleagues and/or management for raising a whistleblowing concern. Unlike other statutory employment rights, you don’t need two years’ service with your employer to be protected by PIDA – you are protected from the first day of your employment.

Who does PIDA protect?

PIDA protects anyone who is considered a ‘worker’ under employment law. This includes many contractors, workers on short or zero-hour contracts and agency staff. It excludes volunteers and people who are self-employed.

Volunteers aren’t protected by PIDA because they lack a contract of employment. This means an employment tribunal can’t award them compensation for victimisation or losing their job. But it’s important to protect volunteers and create channels for whistleblowing across your organisation.

Recent case law is developing the definition of a ‘worker’, which could mean more protection for people without a traditional contract of employment.

How does it work?

A whistleblower can only receive protection under PIDA if they reasonably believe they are disclosing information in the public interest. This is also known as making a ‘qualifying disclosure’.

The whistleblower must also reasonably believe that one or more of the following matters is either happening now, took place in the past, or is likely to happen in the future:

  • a criminal offence
  • the breach of a legal obligation
  • a miscarriage of justice
  • a danger to the health and safety of any individual
  • damage to the environment
  • deliberate concealment of information about any of the above.

Types of protected disclosures

There are three main types of disclosure protected by PIDA.:

  • Disclosure to an employer: A worker will be protected if they make a qualifying disclosure to the employer (this applies from line manager up to chief executive or chair of the board of trustees).
  • Disclosure to a regulator or prescribed person: A worker will also be protected if they make a disclosure to a regulator, as long as they reasonably believe the information they disclose is substantially true. Examples of regulators in a safeguarding context includes Ofsted, the CQC, and the Charity Commission. The NSPCC can also be contacted for disclosure. PIDA defines them as a ‘prescribed person’.
  • Disclosure to the wider public: This includes whistleblowing to the media (including social media), a campaigning organisation, or the police. To be protected by PIDA, a worker must satisfy a number of conditions. These include disclosing the information under reasonable circumstances and not disclosing the information for personal gain.

Disclosures can also be made while obtaining legal advice, and to a Minister of the Crown (where the worker’s employer is an individual or body whose members are appointed by a Minister of the Crown).

It’s a good idea to seek independent advice before whistleblowing to someone outside of your organisation. Learn more on our page, Deciding to whistleblow.

Last reviewed: 15 June 2022

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Protection for whistleblowers

  1. Protection under PIDA
  2. Key duties of organisations

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 15 June 2022

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