Whistleblowing

We operate in heavily regulated times. Even the best-run and most compliant organisations are vulnerable to the whistle being blown on them – rightly or wrongly.

Whistleblowers potentially enjoy special protection from dismissal and other detrimental treatment, if they disclose information which they reasonably believe points towards:

  • Criminal offence(s) (such as suspected fraud, bribery, insider trading or immigration offences)
  • Failure to comply with legal obligation(s) (such as contractual or regulatory duties)
  • Any miscarriage of justice
  • Endangerment of health or safety
  • Damage to the environment
  • A cover up of any of the above.

The effects of whistleblowing can be devastating – through:

  • Enforcement action by relevant authorities
  • Adverse publicity
  • Impact on internal morale
  • Legal action from the whistle-blower, even if there was no actual malpractice taking place

Our top five tips for minimising these risks are:

  • Have a sensible written policy in place, which encourages responsible conduct from everybody and which protects whistleblowers internally
  • Train partners and managers in how to deal properly with complaints of malpractice
  • Act – and act fast – to tackle malpractice if it is uncovered
  • Do not victimise any whistleblower
  • Do not attempt to gag any whistleblower

In practice, incidents of whistleblowing quite frequently result in legal disputes.

Our assistance to partnerships and LLPs in this area includes:

  • Drafting sensible and workable whistleblowing policies
  • Advising on the handling of malpractice allegations and disclosures
  • Training partners and managers on the legal and practical aspects
  • Resolving disputes about malpractice allegations and disclosures through negotiation and/or mediation
  • Defending firms in the Employment Tribunal against claims brought by whistleblowers.