Effective listening is key to avoiding whistleblowing claims

In the new Covid-19 world, UK employers are having to examine health and safety obligations as never before. This includes risk-assessing broader areas, including transport to work and factoring in considerations cleaning.

Equally, UK workers are being forced to adjust to new environments, new measures, fast-paced change in employers’ measures and Government guidance. Workers feeling worried about their safety are likely to look for a way to raise those concerns. If they do not feel that their employer is taking concerns seriously, they may raise them formally through whistleblowing.

To gain legal protection as a whistleblower, the employee must show they have made a qualifying disclosure. The definition of this is a disclosure of information that, in the reasonable belief of the worker, is made in the public interest and tends to show one of the relevant failures has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur.

In this context, any whistleblowing claim is likely to focus on the health or safety being or is likely to be endangered. The legislation dictates to whom a qualifying disclosure can be made to be protected.

So what is the risk to the employer if a worker has made a qualifying disclosure? The employee needs to allege that they have sustained a “detriment”, or they have been dismissed because they made a qualifying disclosure.

Having an active whistleblowing mechanism is a good thing. However, proactive management of communication channels and active listening may go a long way to keeping the numbers of avoidable concerns down. One option is to focus less on whether or not employees have legal protection as whistleblowers and set a standard that makes employees feel that they are being listened to and valued at this uncertain time.

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