The Long-Term Impact of Whistleblowing on Employees and Employers

Whistleblowing is the process of reporting certain acts of wrongdoing within an organisation, including criminal offences, failure to comply with legal obligations, miscarriages of justice, health and safety violations, damage to the environment or the deliberate concealing of wrongdoing. It is a significant aspect of employment law and disclosing information can help to create a transparent and accountable work environment.


Before blowing the whistle, it is important to understand the long-term effects disclosing information can have on both employees and employers. Understanding these effects can help employees navigate the complexities of whistleblowing employment law and ensure their disclosure qualifies as ‘protected disclosure’, so they remain protected by the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) should they suffer any detriment in the future. 


Impact on Employees


The process of whistleblowing can have a significant impact on an employee’s personal and professional life. A disclosure of information can have both positive and negative effects on how employees are perceived, and there are some key things to consider before blowing the whistle. 


  • Career Prospects


For employees who blow the whistle, the aftermath can be daunting with concerns about retaliation, such as detriment. However, the long-term impact can vary greatly. While some face challenges in their current workplace due to perceived disloyalty, others may find their actions lead to improved employment opportunities elsewhere, as they are seen as individuals with strong ethical standards. Employment law provides protection against unfair treatment too, helping to prevent whistleblowing from hindering an employee’s future career prospects.


  • Professional Relationships


The decision to expose wrongdoing in the workplace can put strains on professional relationships, especially if the reported issues involve colleagues or supervisors. Over time, this can either isolate the whistleblower or strengthen ties with those who share the same commitment to doing the right thing. The social and professional dynamics within the workplace may shift, influencing the whistleblower’s sense of belonging.


  • Mental Well-Being


The stress associated with blowing the whistle can affect an employee’s mental health, both in the short term and long term. The burden of the whistleblowing process, the fear of retaliation and the potential isolation in the workplace can contribute to stress and anxiety. It is often recommended that whistleblowers seek support during this challenging time and employers have a duty of care to ensure the workplace remains a supportive environment that safeguards the whistleblower’s well-being.


Impact on Employers


In addition to impacting employees, whistleblowing can also affect employers. The type of information that is disclosed and the way the situation is handled by all parties can influence the impact on an organisation. 


  • Organisation Reputation


Employers may initially view whistleblowing as a threat to their reputation. However, effectively addressing the issues raised can enhance an organisation’s reputation in the long term, demonstrating a commitment to transparency, accountability and ethical standards. Failure to address disclosures of information appropriately can lead to public scrutiny, legal consequences and a damaged reputation that takes years to rebuild.


  • Workplace Culture


Whistleblowing can be a catalyst for change, prompting organisations to re-evaluate their ethical practices, compliance programmes and internal reporting procedures. Ideally, an organisation should use a whistleblowing incident as an opportunity to develop a culture that values integrity and honesty, where employees feel empowered to speak up without fear of retaliation. This cultural shift can enhance employee engagement, loyalty and trust in the future.


  • Legal Ramifications


For employers, ignoring or mishandling whistleblowing claims can result in significant legal and financial repercussions. Employment law provides strict protections for whistleblowers and subjecting an employee to detriment following a disclosure of information can result in a whistleblowing claim and compensation payouts. Proactively addressing whistleblowing disclosures can not only minimise legal risks but also prevent the escalation of underlying issues that could have far-reaching implications. 


Navigating Whistleblowing


Navigating the whistleblowing process requires both employees and employers to act with integrity. As an employee contemplating blowing the whistle, it is crucial to proceed with caution and have a thorough understanding of your legal rights. The Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) protects whistleblowers from retaliation. Understanding this protection is essential, ensuring you can report concerns without fear of unjust consequences. 


Learning more about the specific rights provided under the ERA is vital. This act offers protection from dismissal, making it automatically unfair to dismiss an employee who has made a protected disclosure. It also safeguards employees from any form of detriment, a term encompassing a range of unfair treatments. These protections extend to employees, workers, trainees, agency workers and members of a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), starting from the first day of employment. This means you do not need to have been employed for a minimum of two years to be eligible for these protections.


Getting some advice from legal experts specialising in whistleblowing law can be hugely beneficial when disclosing information about an organisation. These professionals can provide tailored advice, helping you determine the best course of action and the potential implications of blowing the whistle. Should you need to take a whistleblowing claim to the Employment Tribunal, an employment law specialist can guide you through this process too. Their legal advice can be invaluable and help you get the compensation you deserve if you are treated unfairly following the disclosure of information.


Getting Some Tailored Whistleblowing Advice 


Before deciding to blow the whistle, it is beneficial to consider the long-term impact of doing so. It is important to remember that whistleblowing can lead to positive change, reinforcing integrity and transparency within the workplace. By understanding your rights and following the correct steps, you can contribute to a culture of accountability while protecting yourself. If you need some whistleblowing advice, our team at Nationwide Employment Lawyers is here to assist you. As employment law specialists, we have a superb record of representing our clients.


When making a whistleblowing claim, we can represent you from beginning to end. The same dedicated team will be assigned to your case, ensuring the highest level of service is provided throughout. We are committed to helping our clients achieve the best possible outcomes and providing the best value for excellent work. With years of experience in whistleblowing employment law and working on both smaller cases as well as complex cases, we will ensure you have the best possible prospect of succeeding.

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