Public information disclosure

Whistleblowing is where an employee discloses confidential information about an organisation in the public interest. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 protects employees if this is done in good faith and if the disclosure is carried out in a reasonable way.

The public interest disclosure rules encourage workers to make known to the public particular actions by anyone in the workplace. These are actions that he or she ‘reasonably believes’ are illegal, amount to malpractice, are improper, are a danger to health and safety of employees, are damaging to the environment or negligent.

The law allows a ‘worker’ to make a disclosure. In such cases, ‘worker’ means employees, agency workers, trainees not employed by an employer, and some self-employed people if they are supervised or work off-site.

An employer should not refuse a whistleblowing employee opportunities that he or she would otherwise have had. Furthermore, they cannot prevent whistleblowing by banning it in employment contracts or other agreements.

There are, though, disclosures that the law does not protect. If a worker is sacked for whistleblowing or has suffered mistreatment, such as demotion, then a legal claim for unfair dismissal or detrimental treatment can be made.