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.