UK whistleblowing law…is it working?

We recently published a post in June on an NGO report which concluded that UK whistleblowing law was ‘inadequate’ and did ‘not meet international standards’. The report argued that UK law needs to go further to protect whistleblowers, and it made a number of key recommendations.

Following this, Public Concern at Work, an independent whistleblowing authority that provides free help and advice to prospective whistleblowers, has published a review of its activities over the last five years.

The report, entitled Whistleblowing: Time for change, raised a number of points to demonstrate the inadequacy of UK whistleblowing law, including the following:

  • 4 out of 5 whistleblowers reported a negative final outcome
  • Only 12% of whistleblowing claims brought in the period 2011 to 2013 were successful.
  • There has been a significant increase in the number of costs orders handed down to both respondents and claimants.
  • Whistleblowers should seek advice as early as possible. 70% of workers only seek advice after they have blown the whistle.
  • The government should give statutory effect to PCaW’s Code of Practice for whistleblowing arrangements in order to improve employer’s practices.
  • The majority of respondents to a survey undertaken by PCaW said their employer either had no whistleblowing policy, or were unaware as to whether or not their employer had a policy.
  • There is a steady decline in the number of individuals who say they would raise a concern about serious malpractice. There has also been a reduction in the number of people actually raising concerns.
  • 50% of whistleblowers were either forced to resign or dismissed following their claims.

This report serves as a stark reminder that whistleblowing law in the UK is in its infancy, and higher levels of protection are required in order to meet international standards. The report also suggests that many employers may not have the policies and procedures in place to handle whistleblowing complaints properly and promptly. All employers should have a policy that clearly sets out the procedures by which staff can confidentially report concerns about illegal, unethical or inappropriate conduct.  They should publicise the policy internally, investigate any disclosures promptly and make it clear that victimisation of a whistleblower will lead to disciplinary action.

For further information about employer’s duties regarding whistleblowing, please contact a member of Devonshires’ Employment Team.

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