Labour law expert Michael Bagraim will also answer all your labour-related questions. Picture: Tracey Adams/ANA Pictures
As every ardent reader of the Argus newspaper will know, we have high levels of corruption and fraud in South Africa.

Despite this, very few employees feel comfortable about coming forward to tell the authorities or the police that wrong doing is occurring in their company.

Employees obviously rightly feel that their jobs would be threatened once the disclosure, having been made, is brought to the attention of the employer.

It is often small comfort for those employees to know and understand that they are protected in terms of various pieces of legislation and this protection can be envoked if any action is taken against them by either the employer or anyone else for that matter.

First and foremost, the Protected Disclosures Act (commonly known as the Whistle Blowers Legislation) is enforceable and does protect people who follow the outline of the legislation in whistle-blowing information.

This act is there to protect all employees either in the private of public sector. This disclosure should be done properly in terms of the legislation.

Most notably criminal offences, unfair discrimination and any deliberate cover-up of various factors can be disclosed.

If there is some sort of miscarriage of justice or a failure to comply with any legal obligation, the employee is entitled to come forward and disclose this fact to various statal institutions such as the public protector or the police. In some cases, an employee may go directly to the employer who might not be aware of this cover-up.

The legislation will protect and come to the support of any individual who has to face a disciplinary action because of the disclosure.

Anyone who is being unfairly treated in any way can raise the protection as granted under the Protected Disclosures Act. Sometimes people may feel more comfortable by going to their attorneys or legal advisers.

These attorneys, legal advisers or police would protect the employees who blow the whistle. There are also remedies for any detrimental situation an employee finds him or herself in.

If any person is intending to make a protected disclosure there are procedures in terms of which the employees may disclose the information. The law is specifically there to help and protect employees who want to raise their concerns and report wrong doing. It is human nature for individuals to rather remain silent.

Unfortunately, silence often amounts to acceptance of the wrong doing and in fact is the very poison that allows fraud to thrive in our society.

Workers need to be reassured that they will be given strong protection and that institutions such as the public protector and the auditor-general would give them enormous help. The obvious first point of departure would be to ensure that the employer actually knows about the wrong doing and that the disclosure contains the information about their wrong doing.

Employees who are members of a trade union are encouraged to approach their shop steward and even the union directly. It would then be for the union to ensure that this disclosure is acted upon immediately. Legal practitioners can also guide individuals to ensure that the disclosure is made in terms of the legislation.

Often large employers have whistle-blower policies and this should be used whenever an issue does arise.

There is a general protected disclosure where individuals feel it is necessary to go to the police or to the media. The protection applies when the employee honestly and reasonably believes that the information is true and that the disclosure is not made for personal gain.

This wider disclosure would only be made if there is a true belief that the employer will not act or has refused to act in the past against the wrong doing. For instance, if a concern was raised with the employer and the employer has refused to do anything about it. Obviously, if the employer is part of the cover-up then it would be wise to take legal advice and to follow that legal advice even if it means going directly to the media.

The concern must be of a serious nature.

Employers are encouraged to put into place whistle-blower policies making it easy for employees to come forward with their concerns. This policy should be simply outlined and structured in such a way that the employee does not feel intimidated. It must be remembered that the employee must have the utmost of good faith when making the allegations.

Normally allegations would be made directly to the employer and there must be good reason and a need to go externally.

Whistle-blowing is good for the employer and for the country, and as individuals are becoming more and more aware of how fraud and corruption is destroying our society, people are now using the legislation to stamp out the wrong doing.

Our legal institutions such as the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration treat the dismissal of a whistle-blower in a serious light. Clearly, our courts will step in and protect any individual who has made a disclosure in terms of the Protected Disclosure Legislation.

* Michael Bagraim is a labour lawyer.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media

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