Government reviews whistleblowing laws

The government has launched a review of the whistleblowing framework of laws. These are the laws that “support workers who blow the whistle on wrongdoing in the workplace”. The review is intended to examine whether the current laws are fit for purpose, seeking input and evidence from whistleblowers, key charities, employers and regulators.

Those who raise issues of wrongdoing or those covering up wrongdoing in the workplace are currently entitled to protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) (amending the Employment Rights Act 1996). However, an All Party Parliamentary Group back in 2019 called for a ‘radical overhaul’ of the legislation and set out 10 recommendations for change in their report. Specifically, it found that:

  • The UK regulatory framework of whistleblower protection is complicated, overly legalistic, cumbersome, obsolete and fragmented.
  • The remedies provided by PIDA are mainly retrospective and largely not understood.
  • A general obligation for public and private organisations to set up whistleblowing mechanisms and protections is missing.
  • The definition of whistleblowing and whistleblowers is too narrow. Consequently, the protections set by the law apply only to a limited number of citizens and do not properly reflect existing working practice or protect the public.
  • As a result of the excessive complexity and fragmentation of the regulatory framework, there is little public knowledge or understanding of the existing legal protections for whistleblowers.
  • That policy and procedure, while looking good on paper, bears no resemblance to actual practice.
  • There is a disconnect between what is understood to be and what is the role of the prescribed persons leading to confusion, mistrust on both sides and allowing crimes and other wrongdoing to escape scrutiny.
  • The cost of litigation is too great for most citizens and this is known and exploited by employers.

The review, conducted and led by the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) is hoped to be concluded by Autumn 2023 and is intended to answer the following areas of research:

  • How has the whistleblowing framework facilitated disclosures?
  • How has the whistleblowing framework protected workers?
  • Is whistleblowing information available and accessible for workers, employers, prescribed persons and others?
  • What have been the wider benefits and impacts of the whistleblowing framework, on employers, prescribed persons and others?
  • What does best practice look like in responding to disclosures?

Organisations should be aware that compliance with whistleblowing legislation is set to increase and that it would be wise to ensure that  appropriate channels for whistleblower reporting are in place and are robust. This means they should be properly resourced, ensure that there is accountability and that workers confidentiality is protected.

Posted on 04/04/2023 by Ortolan

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