“If it’s not something you’re required to whistleblow on, see if you can go down an informal route, raising your concerns with your employer first,” suggests Kate Atkinson, head of advice at the NAHT school leaders’ union.
“This tends to be less of a bomb in the middle of a workplace.” (Seek guidance from your union or a lawyer if you’re unsure if this route is appropriate.)
If colleagues have said they’ll support you, check in with them before taking the plunge, suggests psychologist Rachel Lewis, of Birkbeck, University of London, who is also director of Affinity Health at Work: “There are cases where people have said they’d support a whistleblower but, in reality, they don’t.
“So, check whether they just support your complaint in principle or if you actually have their support for the whistleblowing itself.”
This won’t give you any additional legal protection, but may give you a sense of safety in numbers.
However, Atkinson warns against actively drumming up support.
“I wouldn’t recommend asking people if they’ve witnessed X doing Y. For one, you haven’t whistleblown yet so you haven’t got that legal protection.
“Secondly, you need to be careful of doing anything that could be seen as tipping off the person you might whistleblow against, as they could cover up their actions.”
Atkinson also notes that you could face criticism for delaying if you’re also claiming the situation was sufficiently serious to whistleblow on.
Finally, Lewis suggests that, if you go ahead and do blow the whistle, “write down why you went into this, what you want to achieve, and what would be too much for you – for example, an employment tribunal might be where you’d draw the line”.
Doing this might help to anchor you in the storm that may follow.