This document gives advice for members who have seen or discover something within their professional lives that they believe falls into the following categories:
- Criminal offences (this may include, for example, types of financial impropriety such as fraud)
- Failure to comply with an obligation set out in law
- Miscarriages of justice
- Endangering of someone’s health and safety
- Damage to the environment
- Covering up wrongdoing in the above categories
Whistleblowing is the commonly used term for making a disclosure, passing on information, concerning wrongdoing. Whistleblowing law (Employment Rights Act 1996) gives workers rights to take their employer to tribunal if they have been victimized at work or lost their job because they have ‘blown the whistle’. This makes it what is known as a ‘protected disclosure’.
The concern that the employee is disclosing can have happened in the past, be happening currently, or could be something that they believe is likely to happen in the future.
It is important to note that the wrongdoing disclosed must relate to an element of public safety as outlined in the bullet points above; it is not enough for it to be a personal matter for the individual disclosing, such as a disagreement, or any other personal grievance. These should be covered by a grievance policy, rather than under Whistleblowing Law.
Who should I blow the whistle to?
You can tell your employer, a regulator or regulatory body, a customer, an MP, the Civil Aviation Authority, the police, or the media: whichever is most appropriate.
If you have witnessed wrongdoing that falls outside of your working environment, you should report to the police or the relevant authority.
If the wrongdoing you have witnessed is related to or impacts upon your work, you should raise this with your employer or – in the event that the issue pertains to, for example, another therapist in private practice with whom you share an office – you should report to the police or other relevant authority, such as their professional body.
For your disclosure to be protected by the law you must:
- make the disclosure in good faith (which means with honest intent and without malice)
- reasonably believe that the information is substantially true
- reasonably believe you are making the disclosure to the right ‘prescribed person’
Whistleblowing in an Organisation
The organisation you work in may have their own whistleblowing policy and procedures in place; this may be published in your handbook, on the organisation’s internal communication platform, or available via your line manager or HR department.
You should follow the steps that they outline – reporting to the right person in the right way. This makes it a ‘protected disclosure’.
Whistleblowing in Private Practice
If you become aware of a serious issue related to those listed above whilst in private practice with another colleague, you can choose either to raise it with the police if it is a serious criminal matter, or with that person’s relevant regulatory body.
In terms of Whistleblowing Law, the protection is there to stop you from being treated negatively by your employer if you disclose wrongdoing. While this applies if you are contracted to work for an agency, for example, it does protect you from issues relating to other private practitioners or those from whom you rent premises, or others.
You have every right to make your disclosure anonymously, however it is worth bearing in mind that this may have an impact on the ability to fully investigate any wrongdoing.
What might I need to share?
If you are making a disclosure of wrongdoing, you may wish to keep a note of the following (maintaining confidentiality where necessary):
- The time and date that the issue took place, and the time and date that you became aware of it (if different)
- The place(s) in which the incident(s) occurred
- The people involved
- Anything said and by whom
- Details of other people present
You can find out more about Whistleblowing here: https://www.gov.uk/whistleblowing
We also have a Safeguarding Policy here: https://www.nationalcounsellingsociety.org/help/have-a-concern/safeguarding-policy