Regulators finally required to report annually on whistleblowing numbers

26th April 2017

As of this month regulators prescribed under PIDA (see here for the full list] have to report annually on the number of whistleblowing concerns they have received as a regulator.

Our Whistleblowing Commission report, back in 2013, highlighted the need for this reform and it's taken nearly four years to legislate and implement.

Organisations and individuals listed in The Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014 are referred to as prescribed persons. The Order sets out a list of over 60 organisations and individuals that a worker may approach outside their workplace to report suspected or known wrongdoing.

The organisations and individuals on the list have usually been designated a prescribed person because they have an authoritative or oversight relationship with their sector, often as a regulatory body. That said, not all regulatory bodies will be part of the prescribed list, for example, press regulator IMPRESS and the Fundraising Regulator.

It's important to note the new regulations do not apply to whistleblowers working for the regulator; rather it's about the whistleblowing activity within the sector or industry that the regulator oversees.

PIDA provides protection for whistleblowers who approach regulators. The law gives the Secretary of State for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) the duty and power to maintain a list of prescribed bodies that are recognised as having this status. What this means in practice is, BEIS maintains the list and decides on applications from bodies to enter the list. The list, I understand is updated regularly, but it's not a proactive process, it's more a case that bodies speak to officials in the department and then a decision is made to add them to the list (again the process of being added is not a formal process).

The real benefit for say a membership body being part of the list is the extra layer of protection for whistleblowers approaching them, giving workers in their sector more confidence to approach them and to challenge concerns internally.

The Regulation itself

The regulations itself require prescribed persons to report annually on the :

1) number of whistleblowers;
2) how many of these reports lead to the regulator taking action on the information received.

Where action is taken the regulators will then be expected to provide a summary of any:

1) action taken by them as a result of receiving the concern;
2) how the concerns impacted on their functions and objectives as a regulatory body (I think this means any regulatory outcomes from the concerns e.g. suspension of a license).

Publication

The data and summaries will be published annually, either on a website or a report such as an annual publication, within six months of the end of the reporting period.

The data published should be anonymised to protect the whistleblowers identity, this is an interesting issue for the regulators to grapple with given a summary needs to be provided.

In summary

Engagement: It may sound obvious but all prescribed person's will need to start engaging with whistleblowers. I wonder how many of the prescribed persons have whistleblowing reporting functions, or record disclosures made to them from whistleblowers? This is an opportunity to engage with bodies that may see whistleblowing and complaints from the public as the same type of information source.

Standard reporting: Bodies like the Care Quality Commission (CQC) or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) who already have whistleblowing functions, will still need to do work around ensuring their current recording systems for concerns meets the standards outlined in the new regulations.

Transparency:
The Government like this type of reform as it ticks the transparency box. By collecting the data and publishing the information, a light is shone on the performance of regulators in this area.

Good Practice: Even if an organisation is not prescribed, yet have some sort of regulatory function , these duties or requirements are based on common sense and are a good starting point to building a robust reporting system to record external whistleblowing.

By Head of Policy, Andrew Pepper-Parsons