The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (the Act) was introduced to protect employees who are worried about wrongdoing where they work and want to 'blow the whistle', and therefore to encourage employees to speak out. The Act applies to most employees and includes those employed on a temporary basis or through an agency. An employee is protected against any victimisation or discrimination because they have 'blown the whistle' (known as making a 'protected disclosure'), and if they are they can take their employer to an employment tribunal. The legislation is technical and specific – only limited categories of disclosure qualify for protection and only if made in certain ways.
The FRC does not have the power to decide whether a disclosure is protected and we cannot provide legal advice. You may wish to take independent legal advice from a lawyer. Public Concern at Work also provides confidential free advice about whistleblowing.
Role of the FRC
Under the Act, an employee can report to the FRC any concerns about their employer in relation to matters which are within the scope of the FRC’s regulatory duties. The matters which may be reported to the FRC are those in relation to:
- the independent oversight of the regulation of the accountancy, auditing and actuarial professions;
- the independent supervision of Auditors General (as defined in section 1226 of the Companies Act 2006);
- the registration of third country auditors (as defined in section 1261 of that Act); and
- the monitoring of major and public interest audits;
- the monitoring and securing of compliance by companies with the requirements of legislation relating to accounts and directors’ reports;
- the monitoring of compliance by issuers of transferable securities with accounting requirements imposed by legislation in relation to periodic accounts and reports;
- the investigation of the conduct of auditors, accountants or actuaries and, where appropriate, the holding of disciplinary hearings in public interest cases (as defined in paragraph 24, Schedule 10 Companies Act 2006).
Under the Act, the FRC is not required to investigate every disclosure it receives: the FRC can only investigate any disclosure on the basis of its legal powers.
Raising a concern
It is good practice for employers to have their own internal whistle-blowing procedures, which should explain how you can raise any concerns. If your employer does have such procedures, you should follow them first.
However, if there aren’t any procedures in your own workplace or you are uncomfortable about using the procedures or the procedures have been followed but you are concerned by the nature of the response or lack of response, then it may be appropriate for you to raise your concerns with the FRC.
If you raise your concerns with the FRC instead of your employer, your disclosure will be protected providing you:
- make the disclosure in the public interest (rather than for any ulterior motives);
- reasonably believe that the information, and any allegation it contains, is true as far as you know; and
- have reason to believe that the matter is the FRC's responsibility.
If you make a protected disclosure to the FRC, you will be protected from reprisal in the course of your employment in the same way as if you had made the disclosure to your employer.
Contacting the FRC
You can contact the FRC as follows:
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By post: PIDA Officer, Financial Reporting Council, 8th Floor, 125 London Wall, London EC2Y 5AS
By phone: 0207 492 2479
When you first contact the FRC we will explain to you that we will only be able to give you very limited feedback about the steps we take as a result of the disclosure. In many cases there are restrictions on the disclosure of information obtained by the FRC in the course of exercising our functions which will prevent us from giving detailed feedback.
The FRC Response
There are a number of ways we may respond to a disclosure, depending on what you tell us and how serious the matter is. In the first place, we will consider whether the FRC is the appropriate organisation to receive the information, or whether there are other agencies or bodies which may have a legitimate interest in the information. If other agencies or bodies are more appropriate we will either:
- encourage you to contact the agency(s) yourself; or
- consider passing on the information to the agency or body itself. We will do our best to obtain your consent before disclosing either the information disclosed by you or your identity to another agency or body. However, we may disclose this information without your consent if it is thought necessary.
If the FRC is the appropriate organisation to receive the information then the matter will be referred to the relevant team within the FRC. That team will decide whether any further action can be taken and if so, what action. You will be informed of the referral by the receiving team and they will make clear to you what feedback they will be able to give to you depending on the applicable procedures and any statutory provisions.
Information and Evidence
We expect the vast majority of information provided by whistleblowers to be provided in writing, even if initial contact is made by telephone. It is not FRC policy to hold interviews with whistleblowers.
Any evidence you do have in support of your concerns is helpful. However, the Act does not require you to have evidence before blowing the whistle: as stated above, you must reasonably believe the information, and any allegations in it, are substantially true. We will not encourage you to proactively obtain any further information from any source, whatever the circumstances, but we may ask you to clarify the information you have already provided.
Disclosure of identity
The FRC will seek to protect your identity from the organisation you are reporting, but we cannot guarantee anonymity in all cases. During the course of any enquiries made pursuant to any disclosure the organisation may be able to work out your identity or it may be necessary for the FRC to disclose your identity. In the case of the latter we would attempt to seek your consent first.