Whistleblowing in the Construction Industry

Whistleblowing in the Construction Industry

10th November 2016

First of all, let’s define the term “whistleblowing” (also known as “protected disclosure”) – it’s when a worker raises an issue surrounding a matter in the workplace and is usually seen as a negative matter.  However, it can be a useful way of letting those higher up in the management chain know that things are not right on the front line and that this needs to be addressed.  Workers who bring attention to such matters are protected by whistleblowing laws if they have a reasonable belief that they are behaving in the interest of the public and the disclosure does not relate to a personal complaint. 

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, a worker who has made a protected disclosure is protected from being victimised at work or even dismissed as a result of this disclosure.  Agency workers are also protected against unfair treatment by the end user. 

When an employer is faced with a worker blowing the whistle, they are probably at a loss as to how to handle the situation.  It’s best to have a whistleblowing policy in place with documentation that is transparent for both the employer and workers and a procedure for handling the disclosure in an appropriate and timely manner.  If workers feel that it’s not possible to blow the whistle in house, then they’re likely to do so externally and, in extreme cases, alert the media to the situation. 

If you’re a business owner in the construction industry who would like to introduce a whistleblowing policy then it should detail the following:

·         The correct procedure to be followed when making a disclosure

·         The name of the person to whom the disclosure should be made

·         What counts as “protected disclosure”

·         The process following a disclosure (this should include whether or not any feedback will be passed to the whistle-blower)

·         The protection offered to the whistle-blower against unfair treatment or dismissal

When it comes to choosing the person to whom disclosure should be made, larger companies often have a separate person who controls this.  However, in smaller companies this is not usually possible – if there is only one senior manager or owner who is the whistleblowing officer, some consideration will need to be made about who will carry out the later processes if the employee is not happy about the way in which it is handled. 

Once the policy has been adopted, all staff should be made aware of it and managers should be trained on how to deal with any disclosures.  When a disclosure has been made, the employer must address it immediately in line with the policy.  If there is not enough information in the original disclosure it may be necessary to hold a meeting with the whistle-blower to obtain further details.  All information must be documented with any decisions made or action taken by the employer after the disclosure.  It’s useful to let the whistle-blower know about any actions that have been taken as a result of the disclosure as this will make sure that he/she feels listened to and will encourage them to continue to raise any concerns they may have.

If the person who makes the protected disclosure feel that they have been treated unfairly, they have a right to make a claim at an employment tribunal – an expensive proposition for an employer so it’s best to deal with any disclosures in a fair, transparent and consistent manner.