I am concerned a colleague of mine is disclosing confidential, market-sensitive information to a family member. How should I raise this?

20 October 2016

If you have a genuine concern that your colleague may be disclosing market-sensitive information outside the scope of their role, you should consider blowing the whistle.

The law provides protection for whistleblowers, to deter employers from subjecting those who flag up wrongdoing to any harm to their career. A package of new rules targeting regulated firms in the financial services sector was also introduced in September of this year, designed to encourage a culture where employees feel able to raise concerns.

Whistleblowing therefore need not be as alarming a prospect as it sounds. However, it is important that you follow proper procedure when raising your concerns. This is both in order to ensure maximum protection for you, but also to maximise the likelihood of your concerns being addressed.

Your first port of call should be your firm’s whistleblowing policy, which can usually be found in the employee handbook and/or on your firm’s intranet. You should normally communicate with your direct managers, an approved external hotline or, where relevant, to what is known as a “prescribed person”. Part of the new package of rules targeting the financial services sector, is a requirement that relevant firms maintain an independent whistleblowing channel, through which disclosures can be made anonymously and in confidence. Your firm’s whistleblowing policy should contain details of this process.

In limited circumstances, disclosures may additionally or alternatively be made to the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) or the Prudential Regulation Authority (“PRA”). The circumstances in which such a disclosure would be appropriate are complex, and a disclosure will only be protected if you reasonably believe that what you want to disclose falls within their remit. However, there is no obligation on you to do so, unless your specific role requires you to, and so in most instances it is best to utilise your firm’s designated whistleblowing channels.

You should keep your disclosure confidential. You must not make any disclosures relating to your concerns to anyone else, especially where the press or clients are concerned.  Making a disclosure to a wider circle would almost certainly hinder your relationship with your employer, and weaken your chances of it being accepted as a protected disclosure.

Finally, be as clear as you can with your disclosure and, where possible, try to focus on the facts. The more information and detail you can provide, the easier it will be to investigate.  However, there is no onus on you to carry out an investigation first. A genuine belief that your concerns are true is sufficient, and the investigation should be left to your employer.

Once you have made a protected disclosure, your employer should not subject you to any detriment, including dismissal, as a result. Any dismissal found to be as a result of your disclosure will automatically be unfair, regardless of your length of service. Damages in successful whistleblowing cases are also not subject to a legal limit – an additional deterrent for any employer tempted to retaliate. If you have any concerns that you are being subjected to a detriment because of a protected disclosure, you should seek legal advice.

Further information

If you have any questions about the issues raised in this blog, please contact a member of our employment team.

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