This Act protects workers from detrimental treatment or victimisation from their employer if, in the public interest, they blow the whistle on wrongdoing. (The Act applies in England, Wales and Scotland and there is parallel legislation for Northern Ireland: the Public Interest Disclosure (Northern Ireland) Order 1998.)
The legislation aims to increase the accountability of organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors by enabling workers to bring to light wrongdoing confidentially and without detriment to them.
Workers (employees, contractors, trainees or agency staff) who are aware of wrongdoing within the food industry, including where they suspect or witness a breach in the welfare of an animal at slaughter, can disclose that wrongdoing with the benefit of the protections the Act affords, if they raise their concerns in accordance with the Act's provisions. Local authority officers who wish to report significant performance related concerns about their local authority, another local authority or another officer, should where possible use the standard whistleblowing arrangements that exist in all local authorities for the investigation of such issues. However, if officers feel unable to use the local authority’s own reporting arrangements, they can contact us and their concerns will be investigated in line with our whistle-blowing policy.
For a disclosure to be protected by the Act's provisions, it must relate to matters that 'qualify' for protection under the Act. Qualifying disclosures are disclosures that the worker reasonably believes tend to show that one or more of the following matters is either happening now, took place in the past, or is likely to happen in the future:
- a criminal offence
- the breach of a legal obligation
- a miscarriage of justice
- a danger to the health and safety of any individual
- damage to the environment
- deliberate concealment of information tending to show any of the above five matters
A qualifying disclosure to the Food Standards Agency will be a 'protected' disclosure provided the worker:
- makes the disclosure in good faith
- reasonably believes that the relevant failure relates to matters that may affect the health of any member of the public in relation to the consumption of food and other matters concerning the protection of the interests of consumers in relation to food
- reasonably believes that the information disclosed and any allegation contained in it are substantially true
This protection is invoked automatically if the qualifying criteria are satisfied.