Whistleblowing: Making a protected disclosure to Ofcom
If you work in a sector we regulate, you can report a concern to Ofcom as a whistleblower under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA).
A whistleblower is an individual who has concerns about certain types of wrongdoing, risk or malpractice carried out by their employer, and who seeks to disclose information about their concerns in the public interest. You can blow the whistle within your own workplace, or to an external organisation such as a regulator.
When to contact us
Ofcom is the independent regulator, competition authority and designated enforcer of consumer law for the UK communications sector. You can contact us with a whistleblowing disclosure if:
- you are an individual working in a sector which Ofcom regulates, and you have concerns about possible wrongdoing at your own organisation; and
- you have tried unsuccessfully to raise the issues internally within your organisation, or you feel concerned about raising this type of issue within your own organisation.
You should not contact us with a disclosure if:
- you feel able to raise the issue within your organisation’s whistleblower scheme – we recommend raising issues internally first if it is reasonable to do so;
- the issue is solely about your personal employment situation, such as pay, leave entitlements or promotion opportunities. In this situation if you feel unable to raise the matter directly with your manager/supervisor you may wish to raise your concerns through your employer’s internal whistleblowing process or seek external advice about employment protection (ACAS, Citizens Advice or your trade union); or
- you are an Ofcom employee, as Ofcom has its own internal process for whistleblowers.
We cannot promise to take action, but we will always carefully assess what you tell us to decide if it needs further investigation. So, before you contact us, you should consider:
- raising your concerns directly with your employer;
- consulting the whistleblowing charity Protect, which provides advice to potential whistleblowers; and
- familiarising yourself with the legal protections offered to whistleblowers by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.
What we need to know
As far as you can, please explain exactly what is happening and why you consider it to be in the public interest to disclose the information to Ofcom. It would be helpful to know:
- your name, email address and phone number, so that we can contact you (although you can report anonymously if you prefer);
- the identity of the organisation(s) and/ individual(s) involved;
- what is happening that has raised your concern;
- how long it has been going on, to your knowledge;
- what impact the behaviour might have on consumers and citizens;
- whether you have tried to raise your concerns internally and, if so, what happened;
- any supporting evidence or documents you may have; and
- any personal interests you may have in relation to the disclosure.
Don’t attempt to gather additional evidence or information – simply tell us what you already know.
How to contact us
Get in touch with us first by completing our online form. You should only use this form if you are whistleblowing as an employee.
We will take all practicable steps to protect your identity from your employer. If you want to, you can choose to remain anonymous. We will still assess your information carefully, but it may be more difficult for us to pursue the matter if we cannot contact you for clarification or more information.
If you want to complain about your phone, broadband or postal services, something you have seen or heard on a TV, radio or on-demand programme, interference to a wireless device, or something you have seen on a video-sharing platform, you can make a complaint to us online.
You can also get in touch with us by phone or post.
What happens next
We will assign a case officer to review the information you have provided. They will make an initial assessment of whether or not Ofcom should investigate further, in line with our Enforcement Guidelines (PDF, 754.9 KB). If you have provided your contact details, they may get in touch with you to find out more about the allegations.
There are a range of possible outcomes. We may:
- seek to gather further information before reaching a decision on whether to investigate. This may involve contacting the organisation that is the subject of the allegations. We would not disclose your identity or contact details without your consent.
- decide to open an investigation. We would follow the normal procedures set out in our Enforcement Guidelines, which include publishing an opening notification on our website.
- address the allegations without opening a formal investigation. This may involve writing to the organisation or individual to remind them of any relevant regulatory requirements.
- pass your information to a more appropriate regulator, for example if the behaviour relates to a sector Ofcom doesn’t regulate.
- decide not to investigate further. We are not legally required to investigate every disclosure received. When deciding whether or not to investigate, we consider how well we are using the resources at our disposal to protect the public interest.
If you provide your contact details, we will normally tell you what we have decided to do with your information.
Protection for whistleblowers
You may have questions or concerns about what protection is offered to whistleblowers. We cannot offer you legal advice, but there are other sources of support, such as:
Whistleblowers are protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA). This provides a possible remedy if you are hurt, suffer detriment or are dismissed because you have blown the whistle in the public interest. This is enforceable through an Employment Tribunal.
Ofcom has a special role as a ‘prescribed person’ under PIDA, such that making a disclosure to us could potentially qualify you for the same employment rights as if you had made a report directly to your employer. There are specific criteria that must be met for the protection to apply, including having a reasonable belief that the information reported is substantially true. This is laid out in government guidance.
Ofcom cannot determine whether your disclosure qualifies for protection or intervene in employment relations. You should seek advice from one of the bodies mentioned above if you are concerned.
We will treat any information you give us sensitively and responsibly. We will restrict knowledge of your identity within Ofcom to a minimum necessary to assess and investigate the matter. If we publish anything related to a whistleblower case we would not reveal the identity of the whistleblower, and we would not divulge that information unless we were legally obliged to do so, for example by a judge in a court of law. But even if we do our utmost to protect a whistleblower’s identity, we cannot guarantee anonymity, as an employer may independently identify a whistleblower.
Our annual whistleblowing report
In our annual whistleblowing report, we cover the disclosures we received as a ‘Prescribed Person’ in 2022-23.