A whistleblower is someone who reports an incident of wrongdoing they see at work, and does so in the public interest.
As a whistleblower, you’re protected by the law – you shouldn’t be treated unfairly or lose your job just because you have made a complaint to our office. However, only complaints on matters of public interest and about certain types of wrongdoing are protected. These are:
- Criminal offences
- Failure to comply with duties set out in law
- Miscarriages of justice
- Endangerment to someone’s health or safety
- Damage to the environment
- Deliberate cover up of wrongdoing in any of the above
That means personal grievances aren’t normally protected.
For complaints made to the Commissioner, if you reasonably believe that a person has breached a Code of Conduct, this can already be a failure to comply with a legal obligation.
When the complaint is about a local authority councillor or the board member of a public body, it can be considered by the Ethical Standards Commissioner.
However, all local authorities and public bodies have internal policies for raising concerns, and it’s usually better to follow them first. That said, if you’re worried about being victimised or think the incident will be covered up – or you believe your initial complaint wasn’t dealt with properly by your employer – you should contact the Commissioner.
The Commissioner and their team can’t give legal advice or say if you’ll be protected by the law. For that, you should seek independent advice, or contact Protect, the whistleblowing charity.
If you ask us for help, we will provide an initial response within 15 working days. Our initial response may be to ask for more information from you. This helps us understand if and how we can help. The Commissioner will let you know if we can take action (and what that action might be) – if not, we’ll try to point you towards someone else who can help.
We have to report on how many whistleblowing complaints we receive each year. Your complaint will be included in our annual reports if the Commissioner reasonably believes that your complaint, if found to be true, concerns a breach of an applicable Code of Conduct. We have to count your complaint even if we are not able to take action on it. No other information about whistleblowing complaints will be shown in our reports.
Remember, if the Commissioner decides to investigate your case, they must tell the person you’re complaining about. Your identity will never be disclosed, but there is always a risk that someone will be able to guess who you are.
We will only collect or share information about you if:
- you have given us your permission, or
- we are worried about your (or someone else's) safety.
If you want to make a complaint as a whistleblower please contact us.
Find out how we investigate complaints about:
Making a complaint
We investigate complaints about the behaviour of MSPs, local authority councillors, and board members of public bodies and about lobbyists.
How we investigate
Are you considering making a complaint? Have you complained to us already? Would you like to know more about what happens next? Here’s how we’ll investigate your complaint.