What Protections Do Whistleblowers Need In Legislation?
18th November 2013
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) recently hosted a consultation into the whistleblowing framework in the modern labour market. This consultation, which closed on November 1st, looked into the legal measures in place to safeguard whistleblowers in order to determine whether these are adequate.
Currently, legislation relating to whistleblowing can be seen in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, and the reforms to this act through the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. The government is investigating whether 2013’s reforms have been effective and whether any changes are required.
Whistleblowing is vital in modern workplaces, and is key for hospitals to prevent medical negligence claims and for businesses to avoid accident at work claims, abuse claims or other personal injury claims. The government should use this review to provide greater protection to whistleblowers and to reduce mistreatment of them as much as possible. The UK has recently seen scandals in the treatment of whistleblowers, such as the construction industry blacklist or the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust scandal, and these issues hamper the country’s ability to improve health and safety standards and prevent corporate wrongdoing.
Currently, the law does not protect whistleblowers; instead it provides them with the opportunity to make a compensation claim to seek redress. Many whistleblowers are unable to afford the legal costs of making a claim, especially against the force of a large employer, and have to deal with the consequences of their mistreatment until the end of proceedings. Many whistleblowers will find they are unable to seek redress due to financial constraints.
When people end up making a compensation claim for mistreatment after whistleblowing, this indicates that the company’s system of dealing with whistleblowers has already failed. Some businesses recognise that whistleblowers are an asset to the company, but many companies still see whistleblowers as a problem that has to be dealt with.
The law therefore favours employers and puts significant challenges in the way of whistleblowers. If the government is serious about protecting whistleblowers, it will have to create supporting legislation to protect those who expose malpractice, negligence and wrongdoing.
Proposals For Whistleblowing Legislation
The following suggestions could improve protection for whistleblowers in the UK:
– Prohibit the blacklisting of whistleblowers
– Require employers to set up and maintain procedures for the effective handling of whistleblowers, ensuring that reports are welcomed and investigated
– Include all workers in whistleblowing regulation
– Establish the right to report problems as a fundamental right
– Increase the number of protected disclosures
– Introduce guidelines that detail what public interest means for whistleblowers, as the government intends for whistleblowers to only make reports on public interest matters
Failing to ensure employees feel fully protected will allow malpractice, abuse, law-breaking and other substandard business practices to go unreported and to continue occurring indefinitely. Laws regarding whistleblowing should be reformed radically to ensure that protection of workers is at their heart.
Businesses themselves should consider how they deal with whistleblowers and if those who blow the whistle feel supported and do not face any mistreatment or detriment as a result.