Being a witness to wrongdoing in the workplace can put you in an awkward position. You don’t want to create bad blood between you and your employer by disclosing it, but you know that what’s going on isn’t right or could cause harm. So as an employee, what should you do when you feel you need to blow the whistle on bad conduct?
Whistleblowing is the act of disclosing a dangerous or illegal act you have become aware of through your work. It’s legal – so you needn’t worry about becoming the next Edward Snowden or Julian Assange. However, there are some things you should be aware of to ensure you’re not jeopardising your position.
The first thing to do is to decide how loud you want to blow the whistle. It’s almost never a good idea to run straight to the media or announce your allegations on social media. You need to blow the whistle first to somebody in authority in your organisation. Indeed, bigger companies often have independent whistleblowing phone lines for employees to anonymously report their concerns to. And if that doesn’t work, there are other organisations you can turn to (see below).
But if you’re worried where this will all lead, how can you protect yourself? Firstly, you need to be confident that you can prove that one of the following has happened at your work: a criminal offence, a failure to comply with legal obligation, a miscarriage of justice, an endangerment of health and safety, damage to the environment, or a deliberate concealment of any of these. If someone’s stolen your milk, it’s best to settle that dispute mutually, as it won’t be accepted as a legitimate whistleblowing disclosure.
Prepare a logical case to take to your employer and try to keep it as factual as possible, avoiding emotion or outrage.
If the issue you’re concerned about is something that you really don’t feel you can take to your employer (for instance, they’re involved in whatever is going on), there’s a list of prescribed people and bodies to whom you can also talk to. At some point during the process you’ll likely be expected to give a witness statement outlining the nature and details of your disclosure and the basis for it. This should factor into account how the breach contradicted company values.
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