1. ‘Whistleblowing’ is when:
- an employee
- a former employee
- a member of an organisation
- a volunteer within an organisation
raises, in the public interest, a concern about wrongdoing.
2. This guidance is for members delivering services in an organisational setting, whether remunerated or not. It relates only to serious concerns of public interest.
3. This guidance provides some context on whistleblowing and seeks to provide you with an understanding of what whistleblowing may mean for you. If you work within an organisational setting, either as a paid employee or volunteer, we would encourage you to look at the internal organisational policy and familiarise yourself with your organisation’s policy.
4. You may also make public interest disclosures as a former employee.
5. Reporting a serious concern in line with the statutory criteria will offer you protection from unfair dismissal, disciplinary action or victimisation.
6. This guidance will help you to understand what the criteria are. Please remember that any disclosure (whistleblowing) must be made to the relevant organisation and not BACP, as we are not your employer.
Overview and purpose
The aims of this guidance are to:
- define public interest disclosure (known as ‘whistleblowing’)
- encourage members to report suspected serious wrongdoing as soon as possible
- signpost to the process regarding how to raise those concerns
- explain that anyone making a disclosure should be able to raise genuine concerns in good faith without fear of reprisals, even if those concerns turn out to be mistaken
Public interest disclosures
7. A public interest disclosure (‘whistleblowing’) is the disclosure of information that relates to:
- suspected serious wrongdoing or dangers relating to the running of the organisation or setting in which an employee or volunteer works; or
- the work-related activities of staff and others delivering services in that organisation or setting, whether remunerated or not.
8. The Act refers to ‘qualifying disclosures’ which are defined below.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998
9. The Public Interest Disclosure Act (the Act) sets the criteria that must be met for raising concerns in order for them to qualify as whistleblowing.
10. The Act gives significant statutory protection to those who disclose information reasonably and responsibly in the public interest and may be victimised as a result. The Act provides protection for people who raise legitimate concerns about specified matters known as ‘qualifying disclosures.’
11. This protection applies even if you are mistaken.
12. The person raising the concern must believe they are acting in the public interest. This means that a number of people stand to benefit if action is taken on the concern, and it is not solely for personal gain.
13. Personal grievances and complaints do not usually fall under the definition of whistleblowing.
14. A qualifying disclosure is one made by a person who reasonably suspects that it shows past, present or likely future wrongdoing in one or more of the following:
- • commission of a criminal offence
- failure to observe a legal obligation, or to comply with an instrument of governance including non-disclosure of a conflict of interest
- miscarriage of justice
- serious threat to health or safety
- damage to the environment
- a breach of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (such as exploitation)
- administrative malpractice (financial or non-financial)
- obstruction or frustration of the exercise of academic freedom
- academic or professional malpractice (including, for instance, violation of intellectual property rights or failure of integrity in research)
- improper conduct or unethical behaviour
- unauthorised disclosure of confidential information
- suppression or concealment of any of the above matters
15. The person raising the concern must believe that the information they disclose is true and in raising the concern, the individual must not themselves be committing an offence.
16. The law recognises that in some circumstances it may be appropriate for a person to report concerns outside of their workplace, for example to an external body such as a regulator. It will very rarely, if ever, be appropriate to alert the media. The independent whistleblowing charity, Public Concern at Work, has a list of prescribed persons and bodies for reporting certain types of concern and also operates a confidential helpline.
Legislation and good practice
19. An article and case study appeared in the October 2013 edition of Healthcare Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal which members may find helpful.
20. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has overall responsibility for this guidance and will update as necessary.