Whistleblowing Policy: Guide for Employers


UK employees are entitled to certain protections if they make a disclosure in the public interest regarding their employer’s actions. For organisations, the most effective way to meet their legal obligations to protect whistleblowers is to implement a whistleblowing policy that ensures a consistent, effective and compliant approach to handling these complaints.

In this guide, we set out the law on whistleblowing at work and how employers should implement a whistleblowing policy to comply with their legal obligations.


Section A: Understanding Whistleblowing


Whistleblowing involves the disclosure of information by an employee or worker that highlights wrongdoing, risk, or malpractice within an organisation. Whistleblowing can relate to a range of issues; for example, a worker may make a disclosure about a criminal offence, a health and safety issue, a miscarriage of justice, risk of or damage to the environment, non-compliance with a legal duty or the covering up of any of these matters. The event may have happened in the past, be ongoing or be, in the whistleblower’s opinion, about to happen, but the whistleblower must have a reasonable belief in what they are saying.

The Act covers disclosures made to employers, prescribed persons (such as regulators), legal advisers, and, in some cases, the media.


1. Legal Framework in the UK


Whistleblowing in the workplace is dealt with under the Employment Rights Act 1996, as amended by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.

These provisions place a duty on employers to ensure that employees who whistleblow can raise concerns confidentially and without fear of retribution.

Not every concern reported by a worker will count as whistleblowing. Under the ERA 1996, the wrongdoing disclosed must satisfy each of the following criteria:


a. The complaint must be a ‘qualifying disclosure’ that the whistleblower reasonably believes to be substantially true.

b. The complaint must be made with a reasonable belief that it is ‘in the public interest’.

c. The complaint must be made to an appropriate or prescribed person or body, such that it is classed as a ‘protected disclosure’.

The key aspect of whistleblowing is that the reported concern is in the public interest, meaning it affects others beyond the individual making the report; personal grievances will not be classed as whistleblowing and should be dealt with according to your business’ usual grievance procedures.


a. What is a Qualifying Disclosure?

A qualifying disclosure is defined under the 1996 Act as any disclosure of information that, in the reasonable belief of the individual making the disclosure, tends to show one or more of the following:


a. That a criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed

b. That a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which they are subject

c. That a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur

d. That the health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered

e. That the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged, or

f. That information tending to show any matter falling within any one of the above has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed.

It is immaterial whether the relevant failure occurred, occurs or would occur within or outside of the UK and whether the law applying to it is that of the UK or of any other country or territory. In other words, a disclosure may still qualify where it relates to a matter occurring outside the UK or where any offence or breach of a legal requirement involves the laws of another country.

Common examples of complaints that fall within the ambit of whistleblowing law are the commission of a criminal offence such as fraud or where the company or organisation is deliberately flouting rules relating to health and safety.


b. In the public interest 

Under the ERA 1996, the individual who makes a qualifying disclosure must also reasonably believe that they are acting in the public interest in so doing.

That said, the whistleblower need not be correct about their concerns, provided they have reasonable grounds for believing that the information disclosed and any allegation contained in it are substantially true.
In other words, their belief must be honestly held in all the circumstances prevailing at the time of the disclosure. Their complaint can also relate to past, present or likely future wrongdoing.

However, a complaint will not usually count as whistleblowing where it can be characterised as a personal grievance rather than a public concern, for example, bullying, harassment and discrimination. That said, this type of behaviour is still unlawful, albeit under different rules and should be dealt with in different ways such as under the organisation’s grievance or disciplinary procedures.


c. Protected Disclosures

For a qualifying disclosure to be protected under the 1996 Act, typically, it must be made to the employer or any other person whom the whistleblower reasonably believes to be solely or mainly responsible for the relevant failure.

That said, disclosures may also be protected if they are made to a ‘prescribed person’, such as a regulatory body designated for the purpose, for example, the Health and Safety Executive or the Care Quality Commission, as well as for the purpose of seeking advice from a legal adviser.

Different rules apply as to when each of these disclosures will be protected. In particular, the rules covering disclosures ‘in other cases’ are extremely strict, whereby the individual must reasonably believe that the information is substantially true and not be acting for personal gain.

In addition, to make a protected disclosure ‘to others’, the individual must have previously raised the matter with their employer or with a prescribed body or has not done so because they reasonably believe they would be penalised for so doing or that evidence would be concealed or destroyed.


d. Is Whistleblowing a Criminal Offence?

Although the act of whistleblowing is not, in itself, illegal, there are limited circumstances in which making a disclosure of certain information can be classed as the commission of an offence.

The classic example is where a worker leaks official information in contravention of the Official Secrets Act, whereby that individual may still be prosecuted regardless of the public merit of the information revealed or whether any damage to national interests was actually caused.

Further, under the ERA 1996, where any person making a disclosure commits an offence in so doing, this will not be treated as a qualifying disclosure, thereby not affording the worker any legal protection as a whistleblower.


2. What is a ‘Whistleblower’?


A whistleblower is an individual who reports certain types of wrongdoing, typically some form of dangerous or illegal activity that they have witnessed. In the workplace environment, this may mean they take steps to make senior management and/or the relevant industry authorities aware of the wrongdoings.


3. Employer Obligations Towards Whistleblowers


Protection against detrimental treatment is given to whistleblowers under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA). As a result, if a whistleblower is victimised, unfairly treated, or dismissed as a result of their disclosure, they are entitled to bring a claim to the employment tribunal. Dismissal in these circumstances may be deemed automatically unfair, and there is no cap on the compensation amount awarded to the individual. (That said, employment tribunals do have the power to reduce any compensation award by up to 25% if the disclosure was considered to have been made in bad faith.)

An employer’s legal duty under PIDA is to ensure that no worker suffers detriment as a result of their making a disclosure. There are no legal obligations on an employer to have a whistleblowing policy or procedure in place, although it is good practice to do so.

To qualify for protection under the ERA 1996, the individual making the disclosure must be acting in good faith throughout and must have reasonable grounds for believing that the information disclosed indicates the existence of one of the problems as set out above, from the commission of a crime to the concealing of evidence relating to wrongdoing in the workplace.

The worker must also “whistleblow” in the right way and to the right person for that disclosure to qualify as protected. However, in circumstances where all these requirements are met, the whistleblower has the right not to be subjected to any detriment by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his employer done on the ground that the individual has made a protected disclosure.

A detriment could include an employer’s refusal to offer the whistleblower promotion or training opportunities or even demoting or dismissing that individual. In particular, an employee who makes a protected disclosure can make a claim for automatically unfair dismissal if they lose their job as a consequence of having reported the wrongdoing.

As such, the law on whistleblowing is there to ensure that if, for example, a person witnesses any dangerous or illegal activity at work, they are able to raise this within their company or organisation or to the appropriate authorities without jeopardising their career progression or job security.

In addition, the protection afforded to the whistleblower extends to any detriment by a co-worker in the course of that other worker’s employment, whereby anything done will be treated as done by the employer. In other words, the whistleblower must not be treated unfairly by either their employer or work colleagues or lose their job by reason of having made a protected disclosure.

That said, although it is immaterial whether any detriment occurs with the knowledge or approval of the worker’s employer, in proceedings against the employer in respect of anything alleged to have been done, it is a defence for the employer to show that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the other worker from doing that thing, or from doing anything of that description.


4. Consequences of Non-Compliance


Failure to comply with whistleblowing legislation can have significant consequences for employers.

Non-compliance can lead to legal action from whistleblowers. Employment tribunals can award compensation to whistleblowers who have suffered retaliation or detriment as a result of making a protected disclosure. In severe cases, the organisation may face substantial fines and legal costs.

Non-compliance can also severely damage an organisation’s reputation. Public awareness of whistleblowing cases and subsequent legal actions can lead to negative media coverage, loss of customer trust, and damage to the organisation’s brand and market position.

If an employer ignores a whistleblowing disclosure or fails to address a complaint appropriately, it can result in operational disruptions. Issues such as fraud, safety violations, or regulatory breaches that go unreported or unresolved can escalate, leading to financial losses, regulatory sanctions, and harm to employees or the public.

Finally, a lack of protection for whistleblowers can negatively impact employee morale and retention. When employees see that concerns are not taken seriously or that whistleblowers face retaliation, it undermines trust in the organisation and can lead to higher turnover rates.


Section B: Role of the Whistleblowing Policy


A whistleblowing policy is a written policy that sets out the procedures for dealing with a protected disclosure. In broad terms, this should set out who will be afforded protection and how protected disclosures will be dealt with.

Although an employer is not legally required to have in place a whistleblowing policy to handle protected disclosures, nor is an employee or worker bound to follow one, implementing a whistleblowing policy can bring numerous advantages to an organisation.

On a functional level, the policy should provide a structured way for employees to report unethical or illegal activities while fostering a safer and more transparent workplace.

It should also outline the rights and remedies for whistleblowers in the event of them being treated unfairly or suffering a detriment as a result of making a protected disclosure.

For the employer, implementing clear procedures and policies on making protected disclosures will help to create an open, transparent and safe environment for workers to feel able to speak up without fear of reprisal.
This may even help to prevent any wrongdoing that could damage the reputation and performance of the employer’s business and, in some cases, serve to protect others and the environment from any risk of harm.

For the whistleblower, where the matter results in a complaint to the employment tribunal, compliance with any internal whistleblowing policy may help to determine the reasonableness of their actions in making the disclosure and thereby safeguard any claim for unfair dismissal or other detriment.

Further, following the correct whistleblowing procedure may even help to safeguard the employee’s job security and prospects at work in the first place.

For employers looking to offer more detailed guidance, the whistleblowing policy should include an explanation as to the nature and extent of any feedback the whistleblower can expect to receive having made a protected disclosure, as well as an explanation of the steps that can be taken if the whistleblower is not happy with how the disclosure has been dealt with.


Section C: Key Components of a Whistleblowing Policy


A comprehensive whistleblowing policy is essential for ensuring that employees feel safe and supported when reporting misconduct. It should clearly outline the procedures and protections in place, ensuring transparency and fairness in handling reports.

The key components should include:


1. Definition of Whistleblowing with Examples


Explaining what whistleblowing actually means and including some examples relevant to the organisation, such as when disclosure should be made, can help focus individuals’ minds on whether their concern is a whistleblowing issue or a personal grievance. That said, the whistleblowing policy should also make clear that not all disclosures will be major issues at their initial stages; what may seem a fairly trivial incident could still require disclosure. Make clear that workers can, if they wish, make a disclosure jointly with others.


2. Statement of the Employer’s Commitment to Identifying, Remedying, and Eradicating Any Wrongdoing


Make clear that this applies to all levels of the workforce and that malpractice in the workplace will not be tolerated.


3. Protections for Whistleblowers


A whistleblowing policy should encourage disclosure by staff members and so should make clear what protections are afforded to them if they make a disclosure. Emphasise that they will not suffer any detriment at all for making a disclosure and that you are actively encouraging them to come forward if they have any concerns. The whistleblowing policy should also clearly state that even if the disclosure is found to be incorrect, the individual making the disclosure will not suffer any detriment, provided that they had a reasonable belief in what they were saying.


4. Bad Faith or Malicious Disclosures


The whistleblowing policy needs to explicitly state that any disclosure made by anyone in the organisation in bad faith or maliciously will not be tolerated and could lead to disciplinary action. Such disclosures undermine the whole tenet of a whistleblowing policy.


5. How to Make a Whistleblowing Complaint


The process and procedures which are to be followed by the whistleblower and the organisation in following up on the disclosure should be clearly set out. These should include:


a. The person to whom the individual should initially approach, such as their line manager. That said, the process should also allow for them to speak to someone else if they do not feel comfortable approaching the first level of contact.

b. The information the whistleblower will need to give. Although whistleblowers are not required to provide evidence, they should be able to explain their concern, why they are making the disclosure and any relevant background information that they have.

c. Following an initial disclosure, what steps will be taken by the organisation to investigate the disclosure fully? Be pragmatic when determining the process. You may wish to include several options or a hierarchy of action depending on the seriousness of the wrongdoing.


6. Timing


Although exact timescales should not be included, approximate timings can be included, for example, “We will endeavour to provide you with feedback within 14 days of your initial disclosure”. Keep open the possibility that such feedback may be a simple confirmation that any investigation is still ongoing.


7. Feedback


The whistleblower should receive feedback on the outcome of their complaint. The whistleblowing policy should make clear that feedback will be provided but that details of the outcome may be confidential and so may not be told to them. For example, if the wrongdoer is facing disciplinary action, then the details should not be publicised.


8. Prescribed Persons


Ideally, an individual should approach the designated person within the organisation to make any disclosure, but on occasion, this may not be possible. The whistleblowing policy should explain that in this situation, the individual can contact a third party “prescribed person”, their legal advisor or their MP. A list of prescribed persons is available here. Although the relevant contact may depend on the business or sector involved, the list includes HMRC, the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Health and Safety Executive. Your whistleblowing policy should be clear that disclosure to a non-prescribed person, including the media, is likely to result in the loss of the protections afforded to whistleblowers.


9. Confidentiality


In some cases, individuals will want to maintain their anonymity when making a disclosure. The whistleblowing policy should explain that this is possible but consider any difficulties that may arise with this. For example, feedback may not be possible if you are unaware of who made the disclosure, and the matter may not be able to be fully dealt with if the whistleblower cannot be contacted. In some situations, evidence may need to be given by the whistleblower, possibly in court. Methods of dealing with a request for anonymity could include communicating by anonymous telephone calls or using a depersonalised email address.


10. Right to be Accompanied


In order to encourage openness and potentially reduce tension and anxiety, make clear that individuals who have made or wish to make a disclosure can bring a third party to any meetings or discussions about the matter. This could be a friend or a trade union representative, for example.


11. Support and Advice


Offering whistleblowers support and advice both during and after the process will encourage people to come forward and voice any concerns they have about wrongdoing and malpractice in the workplace and will also communicate to staff members that your organisation takes the situation seriously.


12. Settlement Agreements


Whistleblowing policies should make clear that any confidentiality clause included in a settlement agreement will not be effective in a whistleblowing situation.


13. Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking


For employers with a turnover in excess of £36 million per year, a whistleblowing policy should also cover or link to the organisation’s policy on anti-slavery and human trafficking within the supply chain and explain how concerns relating to these issues should be raised.


Section D: Developing Your Whistleblowing Policy


A well-drafted whistleblowing policy will help protect the organisation from legal risk while promoting a culture of integrity and accountability within the organisation.


1. How to Draft a Whistleblowing Policy


First, the policy should state its purpose and highlight its importance in promoting ethical behaviour and ensuring compliance with legal requirements. It should also define the scope by specifying who the policy applies to, such as all employees, contractors, and stakeholders.

The next step is to outline the reporting procedures. This involves detailing the various channels available for reporting concerns, including anonymous and confidential options. Clear instructions on how to submit a report should be provided, along with contact information for designated personnel or hotlines.

Establishing the process for handling reports is also essential. The policy should describe the steps involved in handling and investigating reports, from initial receipt to final resolution. Timelines for acknowledging receipt, conducting investigations, and communicating outcomes should be specified to ensure a structured and timely response.

Ensuring protection for whistleblowers is a critical component of the policy. It should clearly state the protections in place to prevent retaliation against whistleblowers and outline the support mechanisms available, such as counselling services or legal advice. This fosters a safe environment for employees to report concerns without fear of reprisal.

Communicating roles and responsibilities is another important step. The policy should define the roles and responsibilities of employees, managers, and investigators in the whistleblowing process. It should also include a commitment from senior management to support the policy and ensure its effective implementation, demonstrating the organisation’s dedication to ethical practices.

Finally, it is vital to review and update the policy regularly. Establishing a schedule for regular review and updates ensures that the policy remains relevant and effective. Incorporating feedback from employees and other stakeholders can help to improve the policy and address any emerging issues, maintaining its effectiveness over time.


2. Involving Key Stakeholders


As with any organisational policy, engaging stakeholders will be critical to achieving a positive impact. Human Resources (HR) can provide valuable insights into employee concerns and assist in designing procedures that are user-friendly and supportive. HR’s involvement also ensures that the policy is accessible and addresses the practical needs of the employees.

Input from the legal team will ensure that the policy complies with the relevant laws and regulations. They can offer advice on legal protections and obligations, helping to create a policy that not only meets legal standards but also provides the necessary protection for whistleblowers.

Finally, endorsement from senior management will help to demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to ethical practices. Senior management support will also mean that the necessary resources are dedicated to the policy and to promoting a culture of transparency and accountability within the organisation. Their backing signals to all employees that the organisation values integrity and is serious about addressing misconduct.


3. Tailor the Policy to Your Organisation


Every organisation is unique, and the whistleblowing policy should reflect this uniqueness by being tailored to the specific needs and culture of your business. To begin with, it is important to assess organisational risks by identifying the types of misconduct that are most relevant to your industry and organisation. This ensures that the policy addresses the specific challenges and risks your business may face.

Additionally, it is crucial to consider the organisational structure when adapting the reporting procedures. The procedures should be designed to fit the size and structure of your organisation, ensuring that they are accessible to all employees. This tailored approach helps to facilitate reporting and ensures that all employees, regardless of their position or location, can easily use the system.

Lastly, the policy should reflect the organisation’s values and principles. Incorporating these elements into the whistleblowing policy helps to reinforce the desired culture of integrity and accountability. By aligning the policy with the organisation’s core values, it becomes a more effective tool in promoting ethical behaviour and maintaining a transparent and trustworthy workplace environment.


4. Sample Whistleblowing Policy Template


Each organisation will have differing needs and resources in relation to meeting its whistleblowing obligations. This means that policies should also vary to reflect the specific requirements of the organisation. The following are the general areas that would usually be covered by a whistleblowing policy, but it is recommended to take professional advice on developing a tailored policy for your organisation.


a. Introduction: Purpose of the policy and scope of application.

b. Definition of Whistleblowing: What constitutes whistleblowing, with examples of reportable concerns.

c. Reporting Procedures: How to report concerns (channels and methods), as well as contact information for reporting.

d. Handling and Investigation of Reports: Process for acknowledging and assessing reports, with steps of the investigation process and timelines for each stage.

e. Protection for Whistleblowers: Anti-retaliation measures, confidentiality assurances and signposting the support services available.

f. Roles and Responsibilities: Responsibilities of employees, managers and investigators, and commitment from senior management.

g. Training and Awareness: Training programmes for employees, awareness campaigns and regular updates.
h. Review and Updates: Schedule for regular policy review, and process for incorporating feedback and making revisions.


Section E: Implementing the Policy


Once drafted, the policy will require a concerted effort to implement the provisions. Effective implementation will help ensure that employees are aware of the policy, understand how to use it, and feel confident that their concerns will be taken seriously.


1. Communicating the Policy to All Employees


Effective communication is the first step in implementing a whistleblowing policy. Begin with a formal announcement from senior management, highlighting the importance of the policy and the organisation’s commitment to ethical practices.

Emphasise the key components of the policy, including what constitutes whistleblowing, how to report concerns and the protections in place for whistleblowers.

Organise Q&A sessions to address any questions or concerns employees might have about the policy. This helps to clarify any ambiguities and demonstrates management’s commitment to transparency.

Finally, ensure all employees have access to a copy of the most up-to-date version, such as on the company intranet.


2. Training Programmes for Employees and Management


Training is essential to ensure that everyone understands how the whistleblowing policy works and their role in it. Develop training programmes for all employees to explain the policy in detail, covering key aspects, including the importance of whistleblowing, how to report concerns, what to expect during the investigation process and the protections that are in place against retaliation.

Specialised training for managers is critically important to policy implementation, as they typically serve as the first point of contact for whistleblowing reports. Management training should cover how to handle reports sensitively and confidentially, the process for investigating and resolving concerns, the legal obligations and protections for whistleblowers, and techniques for ensuring a supportive environment.

These programmes should be supported by regular refresher courses and updates so that employees and management remain aware of the policy and any changes.


3. Establish Reporting Channels


Fundamental to the whistleblowing policy is the procedure that employees use to report any concerns. This may require the organisation to set up channels specifically for whistleblowing matters, which could include:


a. Telephone hotline: Establish a dedicated whistleblowing hotline that is available 24/7. Ensure that it is managed by trained professionals who can handle reports confidentially and impartially.

b. Email: Set up a secure email address specifically for whistleblowing reports. Ensure that access to this email is restricted to authorised personnel.

c. Online portal: Create an online reporting portal where employees can submit their concerns anonymously if they prefer. The portal should be easy to navigate and include features to protect the whistleblower’s identity.

d. Physical drop boxes: For organisations where digital access may be limited, consider secure physical drop boxes where employees can submit written reports.

All whistleblowing channels should be monitored regularly and managed by individuals trained to deal with whistleblowing matters.


4. Regular Review and Updates of the Policy


Your whistleblowing policy should evolve with the organisation and external regulatory changes. Set a regular schedule for reviewing the policy, such as annually or biannually, to ensure the policy remains relevant and effective.

Implement mechanisms to gather feedback from employees about the policy and its implementation, such as surveys, suggestion boxes, or focus groups.

Track the effectiveness of the policy by monitoring the number and nature of reports, the time taken to resolve them, and the outcomes. Use this data to identify areas for improvement.

Importantly, any updates to the policy should be communicated promptly to all employees, and updated training should be provided as needed.


Section F: Handling Whistleblowing Complaints


When a whistleblowing complaint is received, the employer has to take the matter seriously and act promptly.

In many cases, whistleblowing will involve the worker reporting their concerns directly to the employer in the first instance. However, in some cases, the individual may feel unable to use their employer’s disclosure procedure and will look to report the matter to a prescribed other person or body.

It is important to note, however, that in the absence of any written policy or procedure on whistleblowing within the workplace, this does not preclude a worker from making a protected disclosure.

Equally, the existence of any contractual clause relating to confidentiality within an individual’s contract of employment, or even a gagging clause in a settlement agreement, will be void in so far as it purports to preclude the worker from making a protected disclosure.

A designated officer or team, usually within the HR or compliance department, should be responsible for handling whistleblowing complaints. This ensures that the process is managed professionally and confidentially. The designated officer should acknowledge receipt of the complaint and assure the whistleblower that their concern is being taken seriously and will be investigated thoroughly.

In most cases, the next stage will be to conduct an investigation into the allegations. This would usually involve gathering all relevant information and evidence related to the complaint, which may involve interviewing witnesses, reviewing documents, and consulting with experts if necessary.

In some cases, the whistleblower may choose to make a report anonymously, while others may provide their name but request confidentiality. You should respect the whistleblower’s choice to remain anonymous if they prefer, sharing their identity only with those who need to know to conduct the investigation. Ensure that all information related to the report and investigation is handled discreetly and securely.

The investigation process should be objective and transparent, and the whistleblower should be kept informed of the progress, though specific details may need to be withheld to maintain confidentiality and protect the integrity of the investigation.

Throughout the process, employers are obligated to protect the whistleblower from any form of retaliation or victimisation. The ERA 1996 provides specific legal protection for whistleblowers, ensuring they cannot be dismissed or subjected to any detriment for raising concerns in good faith. As such, employers must enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards retaliation and ensure that the whistleblower’s position within the company is not adversely affected.

The employer should also offer support to the whistleblower, such as counselling, legal advice, or employee assistance programmes. Also, a point of contact within the organisation should be provided who can offer ongoing support and address any concerns the whistleblower may have.

After concluding the investigation, employers should take appropriate action based on the findings. If wrongdoing is confirmed, corrective measures should be implemented promptly to address the issue and prevent future occurrences. This may involve disciplinary action against individuals involved, changes to company policies, or other remedial steps.

In circumstances where a whistleblower is not satisfied with how their concerns have been dealt with, for example, where they do not feel the matter has been taken seriously and/or the wrongdoing is continuing, they may decide to report the matter to someone else, including a prescribed person or body. That said, to remain protected, this must still be done in the right way to the right person.

Monitor the implementation of the action plan to ensure that the issues are effectively resolved and that corrective measures are sustained over time. Conduct follow-up reviews to assess the effectiveness of the actions taken and make further adjustments if necessary.


Section G: Best Practice for Employers


Putting in place a clear, pragmatic and comprehensive whistleblowing policy is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of establishing and maintaining a culture of transparency and openness within the workplace, but on its own, it may not be enough.

First, regular communication about the organisation’s whistleblowing policy and process is needed. All members of the workforce need to be aware of and understand the policy and why it is in place. Copies could be placed on the staff intranet and included in induction packs for new starters or in the staff handbook. Training about whistleblowing and the policy should also be given to all staff members, and this should be repeated fairly regularly to ensure that all new starters receive it. One option is to include it in any induction programme.

To achieve transparency and a culture of openness, it is vital that members of management are all on board with the whistleblowing process and that they regularly communicate this to their teams. Staff members will not buy into the process or have the confidence to come forward with any disclosure if they do not feel that management takes it seriously.

Specific training about dealing with disclosures should also be given to those individuals responsible for dealing with any whistleblowing. Taking on this role can be daunting, but knowing that they have the requisite training and support to deal with any whistleblowing issues will ease any concerns that the relevant individuals may have. It may also encourage whistleblowers to speak out if they are aware that the person to whom they are addressing their concerns has the appropriate training and will ensure that a proper investigation takes place. From the organisation’s perspective, this training should also cover reputation management in the event of a disclosure.

The whistleblowing policy should be reviewed regularly to ensure that it is still workable and is in line with the organisation’s approach to wrongdoing. Publicising the review, even if informally, will help to spread the message that the organisation is committed to stopping wrongdoing and protecting those who stand up against it.

Protect, a whistleblowing charity, has an advice line for workers and plenty of information online. In addition, the gov.uk and ACAS websites have sections about whistleblowing on their websites and trade unions can also help. Inform staff members about how they can access this further information and support in relation to whistleblowing. Again, this will show that you have zero tolerance for wrongdoing in the workplace and will support anyone wanting to make a disclosure.

It is advisable for employers to also keep records of any whistleblowing disclosures made and the feedback provided to the whistleblowers. Even after the conclusion of the matter, regularly check in on any whistleblowers to ensure that they are not suffering any adverse consequences and have no further concerns about the matter.


Section H: Case Studies


The following case studies highlight how effective whistleblowing policies have been implemented and the lessons learned from these experiences.


Case Study 1: Financial Services Firm

A large financial services firm implemented a comprehensive whistleblowing policy following a series of high-profile scandals in the industry. The policy aimed to encourage employees to report unethical behaviour and financial misconduct.

The firm established a dedicated whistleblowing hotline managed by an independent third party to ensure confidentiality. Regular training sessions were conducted to educate employees about the policy and the importance of whistleblowing. An integrated communication campaign was launched to reinforce the firm’s commitment to ethical practices and the protection of whistleblowers.

The firm saw a significant increase in the number of reports, indicating growing trust in the system. Several cases of financial misconduct were identified and addressed promptly, preventing potential legal and financial repercussions.

Employee surveys indicated a boost in morale and confidence in the firm’s commitment to ethical practices.


Case Study 2: Healthcare Provider

A healthcare provider introduced a whistleblowing policy to address concerns about patient safety and staff misconduct. The policy aimed to create a safer environment for both patients and staff.

An online reporting portal was developed to allow anonymous and confidential submissions. A multi-disciplinary investigation team was established to handle reports, including members from HR, legal, and clinical governance. The provider introduced a support system for whistleblowers, offering counselling and legal advice.

Reports of patient safety issues led to the identification and resolution of critical problems, enhancing the quality of care. The investigation team’s multi-disciplinary approach ensured thorough and balanced investigations. The support system for whistleblowers helped mitigate fears of retaliation, encouraging more employees to come forward.


Case Study 3: Manufacturing Company

A manufacturing company faced issues with regulatory compliance and workplace safety. To address these challenges, the company implemented a whistleblowing policy to identify and mitigate risks.

The company set up multiple reporting channels, including a hotline, email, and physical drop boxes. Regular workshops and training sessions were conducted to educate employees about the policy and the importance of reporting safety concerns. Senior management publicly endorsed the policy, emphasising its importance in maintaining a safe and compliant workplace.

The company received numerous reports regarding safety breaches, which led to immediate corrective actions and improvements in workplace safety. Regulatory compliance improved significantly, reducing the risk of fines and legal actions. The visible support from senior management helped create a culture of openness and accountability.


Section I: Summary


Whistleblowing is a vital mechanism that allows employees to report misconduct, unethical practices, or illegal activities within an organisation. By enabling employees to voice their concerns, whistleblowing helps maintain integrity and accountability.

Employers are required by law to handle whistleblowing complaints with the utmost care to protect whistleblowers and address any reported wrongdoing effectively.

Employers must take proactive steps to develop, communicate, and regularly update their whistleblowing policies. This involves engaging key stakeholders, providing comprehensive training, establishing accessible reporting channels, and ensuring ongoing support for whistleblowers. By doing so, organisations can safeguard their reputation, ensure compliance, and create a positive work environment where employees feel valued and heard.


Section J: Need Assistance?


DavidsonMorris’ employment lawyers offer a specialist advisory service to organisations on all issues relating to whistleblowing, including guidance on developing and implementing whistleblowing policies. Working closely with our team of HR consultants, we offer a holistic approach, addressing both the legal and HR aspects of managing all areas of whistleblowing in the workplace. For help and advice, speak to our experts.


Section K: FAQs on Whistleblowing Policy


What is considered whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing refers to the action of an individual who publicly exposes information about perceived wrongdoings within an organisation.


Is whistleblowing illegal?
The act of whistleblowing in itself is not illegal. However, depending on the facts of the case and the information that has been exposed, a whistleblower may be found to have acted illegally in exposing certain types of information.


What is a whistleblowing policy?
A whistleblowing policy is an organisation’s written policy which explains the organisation’s approach to whistleblowing. It should encourage whistleblowers to come forward and voice any concerns they have and be used to help cultivate a culture of transparency in the workplace.


What should be included in a whistleblowing policy?
A whistleblowing policy should explain what whistleblowing is, describe the protections afforded to whistleblowers and set out the whistleblowing process. It should also explain that disclosures can be made confidentially or to prescribed persons if the individual so wishes.


What is the process of whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing is the process by which a worker can make a disclosure which is in the public interest about wrongdoing by their employer or a third party without fear of repercussions from their employer.


Why is a whistleblowing policy important?
A whistleblowing policy helps to show the employer’s commitment to transparency, encourages workers to come forward with any concerns and allows for earlier disclosure, which may result in the matter being dealt with before it gets too serious or causes reputational damage.


Who does the whistleblowing policy apply to?
The whistleblowing policy typically applies to all employees, including full-time, part-time, temporary, and contract staff. It may also extend to other stakeholders, such as suppliers, contractors, and volunteers who have a relationship with the organisation.


What types of concerns should be reported under the whistleblowing policy?
Concerns that should be reported under the whistleblowing policy include but are not limited to, criminal offences, breaches of legal obligations, miscarriages of justice, health and safety violations, environmental damage, and any attempts to conceal such activities. The policy should provide specific examples relevant to the organisation.


How can employees report their concerns?
Employees can report their concerns through various channels specified in the whistleblowing policy, such as a dedicated hotline, secure email, online portal, or physical drop boxes. The policy should provide clear instructions on how to use these channels and whom to contact.


Can employees report concerns anonymously?
Organisations should allow employees to report concerns anonymously to protect their identity. The whistleblowing policy should outline the procedures for anonymous reporting and the measures in place to ensure confidentiality.


What protections are available for whistleblowers?
Whistleblowers are protected against retaliation, which includes dismissal, demotion, harassment, and discrimination. The policy should detail these protections and outline the steps the organisation will take to safeguard whistleblowers. Additionally, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 provides legal protections for whistleblowers in the UK.


How are whistleblowing reports investigated?
Whistleblowing reports are investigated by a designated team within the organisation, often involving HR, legal, and other relevant departments. The investigation process includes an initial assessment, evidence collection, interviews, and a final report with recommendations. The policy should outline the investigation process and expected timelines.


What happens after a report is investigated?
After a report is investigated, the organisation will take appropriate action based on the findings. This may include disciplinary measures, policy changes, process improvements, or other corrective actions. The organisation should communicate the outcomes to the whistleblower (if their identity is known) and relevant stakeholders while maintaining confidentiality.


How often should the whistleblowing policy be reviewed?
The whistleblowing policy should be reviewed regularly, typically annually or biannually, to ensure it remains effective and up-to-date with legal and regulatory changes. The policy should include a provision for periodic reviews and updates.


Section L: Glossary


Whistleblowing: The act of reporting wrongdoing, misconduct, or illegal activities within an organisation to someone in authority or a regulatory body.

Whistleblower: An individual, typically an employee or member of an organisation, who exposes misconduct, unethical practices, or illegal activities within that organisation.

Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA): A UK law that provides legal protection to employees who report concerns about wrongdoing in their workplace, ensuring they are not subjected to retaliation.

Confidentiality: The principle of keeping the identity of the whistleblower and the details of their report private and only disclosing them when absolutely necessary and with the whistleblower’s consent.

Retaliation: Any adverse action taken against a whistleblower as a result of their reporting, including dismissal, demotion, harassment, or discrimination.

Anonymous Reporting: A method that allows whistleblowers to report concerns without revealing their identity, providing protection and encouraging more people to come forward.

Investigation Team: A group of individuals within an organisation, often from HR, legal, and other relevant departments, responsible for examining whistleblowing reports and determining the appropriate actions.

Ethical Culture: A work environment where ethical behaviour is promoted, and employees feel supported and encouraged to report any wrongdoing without fear of retaliation.

Compliance: Adherence to laws, regulations, and organisational policies, ensuring that the organisation operates within legal and ethical boundaries.

Reporting Channels: Various methods provided by an organisation for employees to report concerns, such as hotlines, email, online portals, and physical drop boxes.

Misconduct: Improper, unethical, or illegal behaviour by an individual within an organisation, which may include fraud, corruption, health and safety violations, and breaches of company policy.

Regulatory Body: An official organisation that oversees the compliance of businesses and individuals with laws and regulations, often having the authority to investigate and enforce these rules.

Due Diligence: The careful and thorough investigation of a concern or report to ensure all aspects are considered and addressed appropriately.

Transparency: Openness and clarity in an organisation’s operations and decision-making processes, promoting honesty and accountability.

Impartiality: The principle of conducting investigations and handling reports without bias or favouritism, ensuring fairness and objectivity.

Support Services: Assistance provided to whistleblowers, such as counselling, legal advice, and employee assistance programs, to help them through the reporting process and any subsequent challenges.

Policy Review: The process of regularly examining and updating an organisation’s whistleblowing policy to ensure it remains effective and compliant with current laws and best practices.

Disciplinary Measures: Actions taken by an organisation in response to verified misconduct, which may include warnings, suspension, or termination of employment.

Best Practices: The most effective and ethical methods and procedures that are widely accepted and recommended for achieving desired outcomes in various aspects of business operations.

This glossary provides a clear understanding of key terms related to whistleblowing policies, helping employees and employers navigate and implement these important procedures effectively.


Section M: Additional Resources


UK Government – Whistleblowing for Employees


ACAS – Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service: Whistleblowing


Public Concern at Work – Protect: The Whistleblowing Charity


Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – Whistleblowing


Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – Whistleblowing


Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) – Whistleblowing



Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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