Statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that 5,585 whistleblower reports have been made to it since March 2020. Analysis found that almost half (48%) of the disclosures reported concerns about employers' failure to properly implement social distancing guidelines. In addition 8% complained about insufficient personal protective equipment at work.
Other matters which could give rise to Covid-19 related health and safety disclosures include concerns about colleagues' mask wearing; a failure to carry out adequate workplace cleaning; or workers being criticised for staying at home / pressurised into coming to work.
When is a disclosure protected?
To be protected against being subjected to a detriment or unfairly dismissed in terms of the whistleblowing legislation, a worker must have made a 'protected disclosure'. This means that:
- There must have been a disclosure of information which, in the reasonable belief of the worker making the disclosure, is made in the public interest and tends to show one or more of the types of wrongdoing or failure listed in the legislation (e.g. breach of a legal obligation; danger to health and safety) has occurred, is occurring, or is likely to occur. The disclosure must be more than just a general allegation of wrongdoing or failure.
- The disclosure must have been made to certain parties, including the employer or prescribed persons such as the HSE.
What should we do if we receive a whistleblowing complaint?
If a worker blows the whistle by alleging that you have failed to meet your health and safety obligations, it's important to investigate these allegations promptly and in accordance with your whistleblowing policy. Read our earlier blog on the dos and don’ts of handling a health and safety related whistleblowing investigation.