WikiLeaks Sudbury
Accessing Information

WikiLeaks Sudbury Legal Defense Fund

We keep you informed

    Main About  Archives Editorials Donate    







Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organizations.




Released on January 06 , 2019 @ 17:10 EDT

 Whistle-blowing and the employment relations implications

There is no universal definition of whistle-blowing. Research on the topic dates back to the 1980s, with the most common definition offered. They referred to whistle-blowing as ‘the disclosure by organization members (former or current) of illegal, immoral or illegitimate practices under the control of their employers, to persons or organizations that may be able to effect action.

This article explores protection of whistle blowers and legislative frame work.  It does so by using a justice theory lens to examine the how to protect workers who may feel the need to blow the whistle on employer wrongdoings. The employers appear reluctant to embrace the idea of more legal protections, while cultural stigmas attached to the idea of ‘blowing the whistle’ may inhibit people coming forward. The article contributes to justice theory and employment regulation, as well as whistle-blowing practices, and some recommendations are suggested to improve awareness of whistle-blowing rights for workers.

Whistle-blowing concerns one area of employment regulation, shaped in part by the multiple roles of employers, employer associations, trade unions, and State agencies. The concept of ‘regulatory space’ attests to more fluid and dynamic interactions among employment actors, rather than the assumption that the government or the State is the primary or sole executive agent of regulatory impact show how regulatory laws can be colonised by employers as a conscious attempt to weaken worker rights to participate in managerial decision making processes at both transnational and national levels. More specifically, laws concerning whistle-blowing regulations require consideration of the interactions that take place not only within the foci of organizational policy but also those that occur beyond the immediate enterprise and involve the roles of actors in lobbying for legislative change.

The indeterminacy of work and employment mean that whistle-blowing is likely to be a contested terrain. Indeed, workers are typically well informed of the inner workings of an organisation and, as such, may have access to information that external regulatory bodies or the general public do not. Workers are, nonetheless, at a distinct power disadvantage relative to the authority exercised by management and their employer. The management of people on numerous issues is fraught with issues of perceived (un)fairness, (in)justice, and (in)equality. Such complexities surrounding the management of people at work means that whistle-blowing, as a contemporary regulatory practice, is underdeveloped both conceptually and empirically.


Researchers argue that there is a deficit with regard to the theoretical development of whistle-blowing. The personal stresses involved in disclosing a corporate wrongdoing or malpractice can affect perceptions of fairness and legitimacy and have implications for employee’s identity and self-esteem. Importantly, numerous factors, both internal (e.g., managerial attitudes, role of unions, etc.) and external (e.g., employer associations, laws, regulations, etc.), relate to peoples’ perceptions of the justice and legitimacy concerning whistle-blowing rights. Above all, the potential victimisation of a worker by the employer following a disclosure of information is likely to be shaped by power and authority relations over-and-above individual perceptions of whistle-blowing and, thus, connect to the core theory of the management of employment.


Theoretically, perceptions of fairness about organisational policy and especially how managers enact regulations into actual practice have been shown to provide important insights concerning the power dynamic embedded in managing people. Justice theory can help better understand those issues and perceptions of fairness or injustice surrounding employment regulations that may prompt workers (or managers) to blow the whistle on an issue or practice. As researchers have noted, from the whistle-blowers’ point of view, satisfaction with organisational procedure will depend on their perception of procedural fairness.


Justice theory has advanced understanding about the complexities and tensions surrounding employment regulation and management policy shows that an employee will determine the fairness of management policy in line with what procedures are in place. Researchers report that effective HR policies foster positive perceptions of justice. Researchers also report validity in the justice theory concept as a tool to analyse the reactions of both the employer (e.g., the recipient of a public disclosure) and the employee (e.g., the whistle-blower). We now briefly assess the relevance of ‘procedural (legal)’, ‘distribute (resource allocation)’, and ‘interactional (relationship)’ justice dimensions for whistle-blowing regulation.

Researchers suggest that the law has three separate and distinct functions (regulatory, restrictive, and auxiliary), which can affect policy and practice. Auxiliary power relates to the encouragement of certain norms and sanctions surrounding the bargaining process to regulate the behaviour of the parties towards one another. The regulation of the employment contract is crucially a key feature of government control in establishing (or removing) legal rights and obligations. Researchers explain that legal regulation is ‘a countervailing force to counteract the inequality of bargaining power which is inherent in, and must be inherent in the employment relationship’.


The regulation for whistle-blowing rights resonates with an examination of the procedural dimension of justice. In short, are new whistle-blowing rules and laws likely to be perceived as procedurally fair? Importantly, line managers and supervisors often determine procedural fairness, and workers are likely to engage in whistle-blowing if matters are not adequately handled. It is unlikely that a worker will perceive legal regulations as fair if such laws easily allow managerial retaliation or victimisation of the worker.   In addition, those who make a protected disclosure should not experience any subsequent adverse consequences, including selective downsizing, ostracism, harassment by superiors, and victimisation. Potentially, a procedurally just and equitable whistle-blower policy may assist in not only achieving legal compliance (e.g., eliminating fraud and corruption) but also encouraging managerial innovation through more engaged employee voice and freedom of speech speak-up programmes.

WikiLeaks Sudbury
January 2019

Note: This article originally published on  Irish Journal of Management, 36(3), 221-232.    Brief overview and excerpts of the articles and concepts are noted above.  

Halpin, L.,  Dundon, T. (2017). Whistle-blowing and the employment relations implications of the ‘Protected Disclosures Act 2014’ in the Republic of Ireland, Irish Journal of Management, 36(3), 221-232

Related documents

Whistle-blowing and the employment relations implications 







Contact and Media Inquiries