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“Whistleblowing” is defined as the disclosure by an individual to the public, or those in authority, of mismanagement, corruption, illegality, or some other form of wrong-doing in the workplace. If you are employed your employer is likely to have a whistleblowing policy which will explain the steps you should take if you need to “blow the whistle”.
People who raise concerns about malpractice in an organisation or workplace are legally protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (or the Public Interest Disclosure (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 in Northern Ireland). The Act protects “whistleblowers” against victimisation or dismissal, provided they have behaved responsibly in dealing with their concerns.
Often the kinds of concerns you may need to raise within your workplace would not be serious enough to be considered as whistleblowing, but many of the principles that apply to the legal protection for whistleblowing are the same as those which apply to the action you should take to raise a less serious concern within your organisation.
What you need to know
The following advice applies to situations where you need to ‘blow the whistle’.
1. Check your employer’s policy
When you want to raise a serious concern in this way, the first thing you should do is check your employer’s whistleblowing policy. The policy will tell you how to raise your concern, and give details of the contact person for raising concerns within your organisation. If you cannot find the policy, or it is not clear, you should seek advice from some of the sources listed at the end of this article.
2. Raise your concerns internally
If your organisation has a whistleblowing policy, you should follow the steps set out within it to raise your concern. It is likely that the policy would require you to raise your concerns internally first, through your manager or employer. Raising your concerns in this way would usually be the most appropriate first response, as your concerns may be able to be most easily addressed at a local level. When you raise a concern, you should be kept informed about the action taken to deal with it.
If you need to raise a concern about the health, behaviour, or practice of another professional, you should raise your concerns internally and also notify the appropriate regulator for their profession—which may be the HCPC. Further advice on raising concerns about HCPC registrants is available here.
3. Escalate your concerns internally
It may not always be appropriate or possible to raise concerns directly with an employer or manager, perhaps if they are the source of your concern, or if they have not addressed your concerns within a reasonable amount of time. At this stage it may be appropriate to escalate your concerns to a higher level of management within your own organisation.
4. Escalate your concerns externally
‘If you have used all the options for raising your concerns internally but they still have not been addressed, you may wish to escalate your concerns to an external organisation. This would usually be with a recognised organisation that has the authority to investigate the issue – known as a prescribed person. You can find more information in our section on making a disclosure to a prescribed person.
5. Raising or escalating your concern publicly
Only in very serious circumstances should you consider making your concern public. In this situation you should always seek appropriate advice from the sources listed in the next section before taking any action. You may also wish to seek legal advice regarding the legality of any action you intend to take.