Most of us will have a grievance with a work colleague at some time or other but these are usually ironed out pretty quickly. And if your grievance escalates and can’t be resolved between the two parties, there are usually procedures in place for you to take the matter further. It may begin with speaking with your immediate supervisor who may get you and the other person around a table whether formally or informally to try to resolve the situation. And, if that doesn’t work, you might care to take it to the HR department or even you’re Trade Union Representative, if you have one. In serious cases, you may need to follow your company’s Grievance Procedure further and you may choose to resort to taking your case to an Employment Tribunal.
However, what if you discover a colleague is guilty of some kind of act of gross misconduct within the company? They might not be affecting you directly but it could have major implications for the company, you and your fellow co-workers indirectly if their behaviour continues? This is quite a delicate subject and one which is often referred to as ‘whistleblowing’.
What is a Whistleblower?
It is an employee or can be a former employee who reports misconduct within a company or some other organisation to people or organisations that have the ability and the power to take action to rectify the situation. In general, the misconduct is related to a violation of the law, regulations, rules and/or behaviour which is a direct threat to public interest or to the rest of the workforce in general.
Pros and Cons of Whistleblowing
Whistleblowing can be perceived in many different ways. To some people, you’ll be thanked profusely for highlighting some serious malpractice that has taken place within the workplace - a common example being reporting a serious breach of health and safety regulations which could affect many, if not all, people who work at a particular place.
However, to others, depending on the nature of your ‘revelations’, you could be perceived as a ‘snitch’. For the most part your decision to ‘blow the whistle’ will usually be welcomed by the vast majority, if not all of the people who have an interest, if they can see that they too, could have been damaged or harmed in some way by the actions not being revealed.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 protects people who ‘blow the whistle’ about workplace malpractice. The following disclosures only are protected:
Health and safety issues
A miscarriage of justice
The breach of a legal obligation
An attempt to conceal any of the above
And in order to qualify for protection, a worker would usually have to make the disclosure to their employer, a legal adviser, a government minister or an external regulatory body. He/she can also complain to a tribunal if they feel they have become penalised as a result of their disclosure.
Considerations Before Blowing the Whistle
Becoming the ‘whistleblower’ can radically change your life. You could be praised for your actions but you could easily be made a social outcast and vilified by the rest of your colleagues if you haven’t thought your case through fully first. Some questions you should ask yourself before going ahead might be:
Is this the only solution?
Do I have hard evidence including documents and/or filmed or audio footage to back my claims up?
What is my motive?
Am I prepared for any ramifications of my actions and do I want to subject my family to these also?
If you can be satisfied with the answers you can give to these questions, believe you are acting from a proper ethical and moral standpoint on behalf of yourself and others and you can muster support from potential allies such as journalists, elected officials, activists etc., then you may decide to take the decision to ‘blow the whistle’ where you can see that the behaviour of a colleague(s) or even your employer can cause serious harm and damage to a person(s), and it’s in all of your interests to bring this to greater attention. It is, however, something you must seriously think through carefully as it could change your life for ever.
Hi, I'm looking here for my friend actually. She works as a care worker for the elderly in a zero hour contract, and she has worked in this demanding and underpaid job for 5 years now. She loves the work she does and the elderly clients she works with as well as most her colleagues, yet her area manager is an absolute nightmare. She blackmails them into horrendous shift choices by manipulating the zero hour contract such that if they say they can't do such and such shifts for good reasons, they essentially get penalized for the following month by getting difficult or very limited hours. Her conduct is very poor, and questionable, once she bears a grudge against you, but this extends to clients too. I thought my friend was exaggerating her behaviour, but then I heard the conversation for myself where my friend had called concerned about a younger (29) paraplegic client who had not been visited that evening, and the manager gave some cock and bull story that he had refused to answer the door, and that he can just stay in his chair for the night. My friend has attempted to make a formal complaint about this manager's negative behaviour three times, and every time the higher managerial staff members have made it difficult for her, and always turned it around such that my friend is scrutanised and victimised. I her last attempt to complain about her behaviour my friend came away with a final written warning, which was light as they had told her she could receive gross misconduct and never work with the elderly again, despite having done nothing wrong. The manager had simply accused her of various episodes of misconduct that were not true, finally ending with bullying. Now on returning to work having been inexplicably suspended she has scheduled her 4 hours in the next next fortnight. With 3 of those being trips being further in petrol costs than what she would make hourly. It is not just her being persecuted either, but the other staff members that made the initial formal complaint about the manager. I've resorted to writing for advice here because I simply can't see a way out for her and the other girls. Going higher up in the system is always coming down harder on the girls, and this horrendous woman has always gotten away with it.They just don't seem to have a system in place to make the complaints in confidence.
Kate - 5-Sep-15 @ 10:55 PM
My assistant manager has always had a bad attitude toward me since the day I first started over 6 months ago. It's progressed from ignoring any questions I have and excluding me from any conversation between the colleagues, to shouting at me in front of customers, pushing past me, or blocking an entrance then ignoring me when I've asked to get past. After 4 months of treatment like this, I took it to my manager with a written list of every incident that I felt had been unprofessional, and he said he would "have a word with her". After two more shifts at work I was unconvinced he had said anything as she was still acting the same towards me, so I talked to him again about it. He sat me down and wrote a couple of the incidents down i.e her making me do all the tasks whilst she sat and chat to her friend (another colleague) but then told me that I was sensitive and it was obviously effecting my judgement of the situation. He also told me that I had to learn to "get along with her" because she's just got "an abrupt personality", and the other colleagues who were offering to vouch for me on certain situations had told him the opposite of what I had reported. I checked with my colleagues who said they had told our manager what had happened but he then dismissed it. As my area manager is best friends with the manager and assistant manager, I don't feel like anything would be done about the situation either. I was told by my manager that we would all sit down and work out a plan of action to get this sorted out, but after a month, it still hasn't happened. I feel like taking this to head office would be a bit too much, so I don't know what to do about it to get it to stop.
Alessia - 3-May-15 @ 6:07 PM
@Izzy. Why not print a copy out of the legislation (see oveview below) to give it to your manager. You could also point out that not taking a break affects your productivity and concentration (the latter a potential H & S risk). If your employer persistently breaks this, you and your colleagues should raise a grievance in writing in accordance with your employer's grievance procedure. If this is unsatisfactory, then call ACAS for advice about further action.
Legislation states that: "Workers have the right to one uninterrupted 20 minute rest break during their working day (this could be a tea or lunch break), if they work more than 6 hours a day. Employers can say when employees take rest breaks during work time as long as: the break is taken in one go somewhere in the middle of the day - away from where they actually work. It doesn’t count as a rest break if an employer says an employee should go back to work before their break is finished."
SafeWorkers - 18-Mar-15 @ 10:18 AM
I have a manager at work who will often ask myself and others to work on their lunch break. This wouldn't be a problem but she never allows you to 'make the time up' and resume your lunch. I've been working at my place for over a year now and it hasn't changed and I've tried explaining to her that employees have to take a lunch break. The reason I'm asking for advice is because she is best friends of my head manager and best friends with the store owner and any attempt at explaining certain actions is never dealt with so I'm at a loss of what to do