Whistleblowers: Protection matters

May 9, 2003

Employees who turn to the media to blow the whistle on malpractice or crime at work can win legal protection from victimisation, according to an analysis of cases in the first three years of the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

Under the act, designed to encourage whistleblowers and protect them from victimisation, staff should normally use internal procedures or turn to the relevant regulatory body if they want the full protection of the legislation.

But in an analysis of the 1,200 claims made under the act in its first three years, the charity Public Concern at Work said there were cases where employees exposing companies to the media had been protected.

In one case, a hospital worker sacked for unprofessional conduct after writing an open letter about bed shortages to a local newspaper won compensation. The tribunal said his disclosure to the paper was protected, as the matter was of serious public concern and he was entitled to free speech under the Human Rights Act.

PCW said that more than £10 million a year was being paid out in compensation to employees sacked or victimised for blowing the whistle.

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