Reporting a Colleague

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.

Legal Protection

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
  • Environmental risk
  • A miscarriage of justice
  • A crime
  • 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.

Last Updated on 25 May 2021

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