Q: I am a civil servant. Like everyone in our department I still work from home post covid lockdown. I am however aware of employees who are taking two and three-hour lunch breaks, even whole days out. They meet friends for long lunches, or shopping trips, and they just log into their computers every hour to make the managers think they’re working. It makes me so angry, not just because they’re getting away with it whilst people like me are working even harder than we did in the office, but because their salaries are paid with public money. My dilemma is whether by bringing it to the attention of the departmental head and attracting adverse publicity I could be jeopardizing my own job. What should I do?
A: Reporting your colleagues to your departmental head will firstly require proof. If you have the proof and report them, you will be “whistleblowing”. As a whistleblower you are protected by the law under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. The Act aims to protect your ability to earn a living after you have revealed what you know, so you should not be treated unfairly or lose your job through reporting your colleagues for wrongdoing. In addition, a confidentiality or ‘gagging’ clause in a contract of employment is not valid in a whistleblower’s settlement agreement.
It is essential that you are able to prove you are reporting your colleagues for wrongdoing for the protection of others (i.e. the public) and not for personal reasons such as spite or financial gain. That said, personal grievances such as bullying, harassment or discrimination may be covered by whistleblowing law in cases where it is in the public interest. Some employers have a whistleblowing policy which tells employees how to go about reporting. Check if this applies in your case. If you are unfairly treated after whistleblowing, speak immediately to an employment solicitor.
This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194