Whistleblowing or Raising Concerns at Work
This chapter was added in June 2022.
1. Introduction and Definition
Whistleblowing is when someone who works in or for an organisation passes on information, which they reasonably believe shows wrongdoing or a cover-up by that organisation. For example, the information may be about activity that is illegal or that creates risks to the health and safety of others. The concern may relate to something that has happened, is happening or that a person may fear will happen in the future.
The definition of ‘worker’ for whistleblowing purposes includes employees, temporary agency staff, trainees, and those whose employment has ceased. It does not cover the self-employed, volunteers or foster carers. While these groups are not covered by the legislation that protects whistle-blowers, their concerns should be listened to seriously and raised with the appropriate responsible person. For example, if a foster carer wishes to whistle-blow then the disclosure would be received by the Children and Families Division.
The importance of raising concerns at work in the public interest or ‘whistleblowing’ is recognised by employers, workers, trade unions and the general public.
Employees are often the first to realise that there may be something seriously wrong within their organisation. However, they may not wish to speak up about concerns because they may feel disloyal towards colleagues and their employer if they do so. Employees may also feel concerned that they may be subject to victimisation and harassment if they speak out, or even may feel that they should ignore their concerns if they only have a suspicion that something might be wrong.
It is important for individuals to feel safe and listened to when raising concerns. An open approach to whistleblowing promotes the values of openness and transparency and encourages employees to treat those who use services with dignity, respect and compassion. In that way, their wellbeing and safety along with the provision of good care and support become part of the culture, and are seen as “the way we do things around here”.
From the employer’s point of view, there are good business reasons for listening to workers who raise concerns, as it gives an opportunity to stop poor practice at an early stage before it becomes normalised and serious incidents take place. Whistleblowing has been shown to be an effective way to achieve service improvement, which has led to better practice.
From the workers’ perspective, the freedom to raise concerns without fear means that they have the confidence to go ahead and “do the right thing”. It is part of encouraging workers to reflect on practice as a way of learning.
With effect from January 2017 all regulated organisations on the Isle of Man are obliged to have their own Whistleblowing Policy in place. Internal procedures should be straightforward enough to enable workers to feel confident to follow the process and more likely to make a disclosure to their employer to enable a resolution to be found, rather than an employee seeking external sources of support. Employers must make employees aware where the whistleblowing policies are to be found eg staff handbook, induction processes etc.
The Isle of Man Government promotes its commitment to the highest possible standards of openness, probity and accountability. In line with this commitment to whistleblowing, all employees with serious concerns about any aspects of the Government’s work are encouraged to voice them through appropriate channels within their own organisation. In doing so, it is recognised that, in certain cases they may have to proceed on a confidential basis.
The confidential reporting policy is intended to encourage employees to speak out without fear of victimisation or disadvantage. It is vital that issues of serious concern are reported so that they can be fully investigated. The full policy can be accessed through the Isle of Man Government Reporting (Whistleblowing) Policy.
2. Legal Requirements
The law provides legal protection to workers who have been victimised at work or lost their job because they have ‘blown the whistle’. To receive legal protection, a whistle-blower must:
- Be a ‘worker’ for the organisation about which they are whistleblowing;
- Reasonably believe they are acting in the public interest;
- Whistleblow to either the appropriate people within their organisation or to a relevant third party, such as one that inspects or regulates the activity of that organisation.
The Isle of Man has provisions under the Employment Act 2006 to protect workers in certain situations who make disclosures about wrongdoing to their employer. The protection is under employment rather than regulatory law and means that the dismissal of a worker will be automatically unfair if the principal reason for dismissal is that they have made a protected disclosure in good faith. Individuals should initially raise concerns with their employer.
The law is set out in the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2016.
Serious concerns can be reported to the Authority about regulated organisations ideally after raising them with the employer and if the whistle-blower remains unsatisfied at the end of the employer’s process.
The Authority is a prescribed person who acts accordingly under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2016.
Complaints and grievances are different to whistleblowing and other employing organisations’ policies and procedures should be followed.
3. What To Do
If a worker is unsure of what to do, there are a number of ways they can talk the matter over in confidence to decide how they would prefer to proceed:
- The union or professional body;
- An independent legal advisor;
- Manx Industrial Relation Service
- The worker should initially refer to their own organisational whistleblowing policy for clear guidance before making their disclosure.
Whistleblowing directly to the services concerned can result in a quick response as they have the power to act immediately on the concerns.
The worker can also whistle-blow to the relevant regulatory body for example, the General Medical Council (GMC), Social Work England or other regulatory bodies.
Wherever the worker decides to make the disclosure to, they will be asked a number of questions so that they can determine how to proceed. It is therefore good planning to set down the concerns clearly to ensure that the matter is dealt with more speedily. Some of the questions that may be asked are:
- Does the worker believe that a service user is at immediate risk of harm?
- To set out the facts;
- Do other workers share the concerns?
- Whether the concerns have already been raised with the employer and, if so, what the response was?
- What the workers views are about what should be done?
The organisation receiving the concerns must tell the worker what they will do next, what the likely timescale will be and establish a way to keep in contact with the worker. There may be issues of confidentiality which mean that the worker may not be provided with all details but a report of an outcome should be provided.
4. Action by Regulatory Bodies and Employers
The organisation will assess the information and determine the best way to investigate the concerns in a timely manner. The action they take will depend on the type of service the worker has contacted them about and what the concerns suggest is happening.
The organisation may have support services in place to support the worker while any enquiries are taking place.
The outcome of the investigation into the concerns should be shared with the worker bearing in mind any matters of confidentiality.
The organisation should regularly report all concerns raised (whether substantiated or not), the investigations and outcomes to the senior management/ board of the organisation to raise awareness of the concerns, identify trends and ‘hot spots’, and ensure issues are being dealt with properly.
5. Further Information
Isle of Man- Whistleblowing A Brief Guide August 2019
Isle of Man Employment Rights: A Guide August 2020
The Employment and Equality Tribunals and Remedies – firstname.lastname@example.org
Protect - Speak up, stop harm - Free, confidential whistleblowing advice
NSPCC Whistleblowing Advice Line - Support for professionals who are worried about how child protection issues are being handled in their workplace.