A “whistleblower” is the term given to a person who reports wrongdoing – usually within a large organisation. The activity in question may be considered immoral, illegal or against the organisation’s own code of conduct. The decision to blow the whistle may be a difficult one depending on the circumstances and often the person who feels that they want to report the wrongdoing may not be aware of the options available to them.
There have been many high profile cases of whistleblowing down the years and often the identity of the whistle blower is not known until many months or years after the disclosure was made public.
Some whistleblowers of course have become infamous. Possibly the most famous case of whistleblowing is Watergate, that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation but there have been many more cases of whistlebowing that made the headlines; Karen Silkwood, about whom a film was made, was an Oklahoma nuclear plant worker who blew the whistle on safety violations at the plant.
She later died in mysterious circumstances.
However many instances of whistelblowing are more mundane . But what can you do if you suspect wrongdoing in your company? The law that protects whistleblowers from reprisals is the Public Interest Disclosure Act. The Act makes sure that if you do report any kind of wrongdoing your rights as an employee will still be protected.
The Act also means that demoting or bullying you as a result of you blowing the whistle is illegal.
Deciding who to go to with your information can also be confusing. High profile cases became famous because of the involvement of the media.
As a first step it is always good advice to consult a senior member of your team or your Manager (unless you suspect that they are involved in the wrong doing). If you cannot go to them it may be possible to consult an appointed person within your organisaiton. Find out who they are if you are unsure.
It is vital that any disclosures are reserved for actual wrongdoing and not used as an excuse to raise a grievance against your employer. Posting on social media that you have been overlooked for that promotion you wanted is not acceptable whistleblowing and your rights would not be protected under the Act in this instance. It is always a bad idea to post anything negative about the company you work for on any social media channel!
If you need further help go to your HR department or get some training.There are good online training course available which are suitable for all levels of employee.