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Whistleblowing – Background to press coverage

The term ‘whistleblower’ is now familiar thanks to ongoing press coverage.

The statutory protection brought in for whistleblowers is a result of analysis of various scandals and disasters undertaken by the charity Public Concern at Work. The research found that more could be done to ensure concerns that are raised by workers are done so correctly and without fear of reprisal. This was particularly relevant in:

  • Clapham Junction rail crash: the worker did not raise the alarm because he did not want to ‘rock the boat’
  • Piper Alpha oil rig disaster: workers did not raise the alarm because they feared it might impact on their continued employment
  • Zeebrugge ferry disaster: workers had raised concerns about the ferry leaving with the doors open but the concerns were not acted on

Legal protection for whistleblowers

Legislation protecting whistleblowers came into force in July 1999 and broadly requires an individual to make an allegation about:

  • a crime
  • a breach of a legal obligation (e.g. civil wrongs such as breach of contract, negligence, etc)
  • danger to health and safety (or the environment)
  • miscarriage of justice
  • or if any of these are being covered up

There are other requirements that should also be met which we will explain in our next briefing on whistleblowing. Click here to read more articles on this complex and developing area of law.


This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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