WHISTLEBLOWING AND THE SUE GRAY REPORT – WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS LEARN?

11th February 2022

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by Abigail Reynolds, Chartered Legal Executive, Employment Law

On 31 January 2022, Sue Gray released her initial report into allegations of lockdown socialising in government buildings. The report identified 16 events that took place between May 2020 and April 2021.

In the much-anticipated report, Sue Gray highlighted a particular concern about whistleblowing, stating:

“Some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so. No member of staff should feel unable to report or challenge poor conduct where they witness it. There should be easier ways for staff to raise such concerns informally, outside of the line management chain. “[1]

With this key issue being highlighted, what does this mean for your business?

Whistleblowing – the key points

It is extremely important for any business to encourage openness in the workplace, including making sure that employees feel comfortable raising concerns about behaviours or practices at work. Many employers do not have a specific policy on whistleblowing and whilst it is not a legal requirement, there are many benefits to having such a policy in place. These can include:

  • Having an ‘open culture’ makes it easier for concerns to be addressed at an early stage, therefore avoiding more serious possible concerns;
  • Avoiding workers reporting misconduct outside the organisation, and therefore avoiding damage to reputation and the employer missing the opportunity to investigate;
  • Reassuring staff that their concerns will be taken seriously and that there will be no reprisals;
  • Raising awareness of the importance of a culture of openness and honesty; and
  • In some cases, avoiding criminal liability for bribery or tax evasion.

What is the risk to my business?

Aside from the very real risk of damage to reputation and criminal liability, there is the cost of employment tribunal claims to consider. Employees who “blow the whistle” have the right not to be dismissed or suffer any detriment at work as a result of making a protected disclosure.

In most claims for unfair dismissal, compensation is limited to a statutory cap. However, in claims where the employee establishes that the principal reason for their dismissal was because they made a protected disclosure, there is no cap. With the highest award for compensation for unfair dismissal being £947,585 in 2018/2019, the potential cost to employers is very high.

Employees also do not need to have been employed for the usual 2 years to bring a whistleblowing claim.

How can I protect my business?

The importance of dealing with whistleblowing properly and in accordance with the law has been highlighted in the Sue Gray report. No matter what the business is, it is always recommended that you have a whistleblowing policy in place.

A whistleblowing policy may include details of the types of complaints covered by the policy, who the complaints may be made to and how investigations will be handled. A policy may also include clear reference to the employer’s zero-tolerance approach to the mistreatment of those who make a complaint.

Reference to: https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/21193251/investigation_into_alleged_gatherings_on_government_premises_during_covid_restrictions_-_update.pdf

Our specialist Employment Law team are on hand to assist with drafting whistleblowing policies and to assist with any concerns. Please contact our Employment Law team on 01945 461456.

 

Find out more about Abigail Reynolds

Find out more about our Employment Law services

 

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek advice specific to your own circumstances.  Fraser Dawbarns LLP are always happy to provide such advice.

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