The Public Interest
Disclosure act 1998
The Public Interest Disclosure act 1998 came into
force in July 1999, and its aim is to give statutory protection
against victimisation and dismissal, to workers who speak out
against corruption and malpractice at work. Workers are often
in the best position to know when the public's interest is being
put at risk and the legal protection of the Act should allow workers
to raise these concerns without fear of reprisal.
In order to
get the protection of the Act a worker must make a "protected
disclosure" to a "stipulated body".
provisions of the Act:
The Act applies to people at work who
raise genuine concerns (ie. act in good faith) about the following
- a criminal
- a failure
to comply with a legal obligation (eg. negligence; breach of
to health and safety
to the environment
- any attempt
to cover up any of the above.
The Act applies to employees, agency
staff, contractors, homeworkers, trainees and every professional
in the NHS. It does not apply to those who are genuinely self-employed,
volunteers, Police, Army or Intelligence Services.
whom may the disclosure be made?
Whistleblowers will be protected if
they make a disclosure in good faith by:
the matter internally with the employer;
the matter with the relevant Government Minister or sponsoring
department if they work in a quango or in the NHS;
the matter with the appropriate regulator eg. Health & Safety
Executive; Inland Revenue;
Commission; Utilities Regulators.
A wider disclosure,
for example to the Police, the media, MPs or the non prescribed
regulator, will only be protected if it was reasonable in all
the circumstances and was not done for personal gain.
In addition to this, the whistleblower must either:
believe s/he would be victimised if s/he raised it internally
or through the prescribed regulator;
believe a cover up was likely and that there was no prescribed
- have already
raised the matter internally or with the prescribed
Where a whistleblower is victimised
following a protected disclosure s/he can make a claim to an Employment
Tribunal for compensation.
There is no
limit on the amount of the award of compensation;
no minimum qualifying service requirements;
If the whistleblower
is dismissed s/he may apply to the Tribunal for interim relief
and an order to retain their job until the hearing of the case;
clauses in contracts of employment or severance agreements ie.
"gagging clauses", which conflict with the protection
provided by the Act will not be legally binding.
should you give?
The legislation introduces a new right not to be victimised
or dismissed for making a protected disclosure. Not every disclosure
will be protected and therefore in providing advice to a member
who is considering whistleblowing you should have particular regard
to whether the subject matter of the disclosure is protected and
to whom the disclosure should properly be made.
Employers are now putting in place procedures
to be followed in the event of an employee whistleblowing and
it is important that the role of the union is recognised in any
it is important that the procedure allows for an official to speak
on behalf of (ie make the disclosure on behalf of) a member.
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