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As the UK’s leading whistleblowing experts focussed on whistleblowing and the public interest we have a unique insight into both the organisational and the employee perspective of raising concerns.

Our Advice Line – open Monday – Friday 9-6pm – is independent, confidential, and protected by legal privilege to ensure  whistleblowers can speak freely about their concern and allow a detailed conversation where we can offer informed, specialist advice.The Protect Advice Line team handle around 3,000 whistleblowing cases each year, and in our 25-year history has supported more than 40,000 whistleblowers.

In the last year, the most common concerns our Protect Advice Line has dealt with has been concerns over:

  •  governance
  •  discrimination/harassment
  •   improper use of resources
  •   conflict of interest
  •  data protection
  •  abuse of authority
  •  financial malpractice

5 common mistakes organisations make with their whistleblowing arrangements: 

  • thinking you’ve got it covered with a policy on your intranet or employee handbook
  • lack of training for those receiving/handling concerns
  • failing to give feedback to your staff, which can create resentment
  • poor communication and staff engagement which leads to a lack of awareness
  • senior management failing to endorse a positive speak up “tone from the top’’

Whistleblowing is an emotional journey. There are often many stages and many reasons why someone may not speak up having witnessed wrongdoing. Employees looking to raise concerns may be unsure where to go to raise their concerns or what to do. At Protect we cannot stress how vital it is for employers to  communicate to staff about  your organisational whistleblowing/speak up processes. Good whistleblowing arrangements provide staff with a clear message that there is a safe alternative to silence.

By Senior Business Executive, Kushi Gujral


The Supreme Court has handed down a judgment today (October 16) which confirms judges are protected under whistleblowing provisions under the Employment Rights Act 1996, following a case brought by District Judge Claire Gilham.

District Judge, Claire Gilham, raised concerns in 2013 about the stresses and dangers faced by those working in the courts and the effects on justice and due process as a result of an under-resourced system. She claimed after she raised these concerns no action was taken and she was subjected to bullying and the stress of greater workloads. She argued in her legal case that she suffered detriments as a result of blowing the whistle.

Whistleblowing charity Protect intervened in the case and were represented by law firm Leigh Day. Protect has been campaigning for some time for the whistleblowing law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA), to be extended to cover all individuals in the workplace.

Bob Matheson, Head of Advice & Advocacy at Protect, welcoming the news, said: “We were struck by the court’s observation that the government doesn’t have a plausible reason why our judges were denied the same right to call out wrongdoing as other workers, it just hadn’t put its mind to the issue. For too long, the burden of bringing our whistleblowing legislation up to date with the rest of the world has been placed on whistleblowers like Judge Gilham. To expect so much from those who have already spoken up on our behalf is unconscionable.

“Our most senior judiciary have firmly recognised the fundamental importance of whistleblowing rights for all of those in work and that the government must provide these rights in a consistent well-reasoned way.”

Protect has recently launched its campaign for a new Whistleblowing Bill to correct the fact that it has fallen behind many of our international counterparts. Protect will be calling on the government, civil society groups, and wider society, to seize the opportunity provided by this judgment to re-establish the UK as a world-leader in this area.

 Kiran Daurka, Partner and employment solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “Today’s judgment by the Supreme Court is a significant step forward in protection for whistle blowers and our client, Protect, believes that by extending whistleblowing protections to the judiciary it will make the justice system a safer place, allowing judges to raise their concerns without fear of being penalised as a result.

“Importantly, Lady Hale says that the government did not justify why judges were excluded from whistleblowing protections. She said that the government or Parliament had never considered protections for the judiciary and could not therefore explain why they should not be given the protections given to others.  In our view, similar observations can be made about other groups of office holders who have not yet been given express whistleblowing protections.”

 


Once a ground-breaking law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 which protects whistleblowers in the UK, and which has served as a benchmark for whistleblowing law, is being overtaken by newer, better and broader legislation, in Ireland and Australia, and the new EU Whistleblowing Directive which will be in operation by 2021.

Unless the UK takes action now, there is a very real danger workers’ rights in the UK will be left in the dark ages – which is why Protect are campaigning for a new whistleblowing law.

We want the same EU protection as a minimum standard for whistleblowers in the UK and Protect believes the law requires more of employers, particularly when it comes to preventing victimisation of whistleblowers in the workplace.

Providing protection and support for those who speak up about malpractice, wrongdoing  and fraud reaps both commercial and competitive benefit for Britain’s public and private sectors. Effective legislation can also act as a deterrent to potential wrongdoers.  However, far too often whistleblowers suffer because they have no internal reporting channels, or experience detriment from employers and co-workers when they speak up.

Protect propose the new bill cover the following key areas:

  1. Extending the scope of the law to include all those who raise concerns in a work-related context. This would allow volunteers, non-executive directors and others to rely on legal protections if they are victimized for raising concerns.
  2. Increasing the range of whistleblowing concerns (disclosures) to qualify for protection to include breaches of the employers’ policies and behaviour which can adversely affect the employers reputation or financial stability –  for example, as seen with the charity Kids Company which closed when donors began withdrawing support, alarmed over mismanagement stories.
  3. Setting whistleblowing standards for employers to follow. Currently, outside of health and financial services, few employers face any requirements to have policies and procedures in place. Protect would like to see the introduction of specific mandatory arrangements to ensure that employers deal effectively with whistleblowing concerns.
  4. Providing protection to individuals who raise concerns with their trade unions representatives.
  5. Setting standards for prescribed persons (recognised regulators) to promote a consistency of approach in handling whistleblowing concerns across Britain’s range of industries.
  6. Increased clarity around settlement agreements and gagging clauses.
  7. Providing legal protection to those who are mistakenly identified as a whistleblower, or who may make a future disclosure.
  8. The introduction of an Independent Whistleblowing Commissioner,  to investigate where concerns have been mishandled, set standards for employers and prescribed persons, improve public awareness and impose fines on employers or regulators for breaches of standards.
  9. Increasing the time limit an individual has to bring a claim in Employment Tribunal from three months to six months.
  10. Introducing legal aid for whistleblowers.

 

By Protect Head of Policy, Andrew Pepper-Parsons


Protect is launching a campaign for new legislation to make whistleblowing protection for people the best in the world.

Protect Chief Executive, Francesca West, said, “For some time now, we’ve been calling on the Government to review and extend the current legislation – the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) 1998, which does not provide sufficient protection for all people who speak up about workplace wrongdoing and does not require positive action from employers to support and protect staff.

“We have supported a number of whistleblowers who have had to challenge gaps in the law at the highest level. Our new Bill seeks to address these gaps and ensure consistent practice amongst employers.”

For many years, the UK has led the way in providing workplace protection for whistleblowers. However, new laws in Ireland and Australia, together with the introduction of a new EU Whistleblowing Directive rolled out across Europe by 2021means there is a danger that workers’ rights in the UK will fall behind. The EU Directive was finally approved this month.

Protect wants the same EU protection as a minimum standard for whistleblowers in the UK and believes the law should require more of employers, particularly in relation to preventing victimisation of whistleblowers in the workplace.

Ahead of the new Queen’s Speech on 14 October, Protect is launching its campaign for a new whistleblowing law and drafted a bill with support from leading lawyers and top QC James Laddie to ensure whistleblowing in the UK is gold standard and the best in the world. Following the Queen’s Speech, Protect are seeking an MP to support the Bill as a Private Members Bill.

Protect was instrumental in lobbying for PIDA but recognises new legislation is long overdue and piecemeal changes to PIDA law have led to inconsistencies and loopholes.

As well as lobbying Parliament with our new Whistleblowing Bill Protect will be engaging with a diverse group of stakeholders to seek their views on the draft bill including whistleblowing groups and campaigners such as the Whistleblowing APPG, and civil society groups who are calling for change and better protection for whistleblowers.

NHS Whistleblower, Peter Duffy, who Protect supported, said, “I fully support Protect’s campaign for enhanced protection for UK whistleblowers.  PIDA was world leading in 1998  but now falls short of the whistleblower protections offered elsewhere in the world.  I very much welcome QC James Laddie’s involvement in Protect’s campaign and look forward to legislation that offers comprehensive protection to whistleblowers, and thereby enhances public safety. ”
 


As latest figures from third sector regulator the Charity Commission reveal more people are coming forward to raise concerns, whistleblowing Protect say it’s a step in the right direction but still so much to be done to rebuild trust amongst the UK’s 166,000 charities and staff.

Whistleblowing disclosures have doubled from 185 whistleblowing reports in the year to 31 March, up from 88 in 2016/17 and an 83.2 per cent rise on the 2017/18 figure, a report from the regulator shows.

Over the past five years, safeguarding, governance and concerns about money laundering and fraud have been the most commonly reported issues – but safeguarding with 89 disclosures has become the number one concern compared with 24 the year before.

The Charity Commission report highlights how it has reviewed its approach to whistleblowing and widened its definition of whistleblowing to include volunteers. As well as including volunteers, the report highlights a new approach to make the process clearer, revising the guidance, and launching a whistleblowing helpline and training commission staff to deal with whistleblowers.

Francesca West, Chief Executive of whistleblowing charity Protect, which runs an advice line for whistleblowers as well as a pilot Charity Commission helpline, said, “It is of course encouraging the Charity Commission are seeing whistleblowing disclosures rise and taking steps to help the sector. However, what we are hearing through calls to our advice line is that charity workers, who are prepared to speak up, are still feeling very scared and worried about raising concerns with their employer. There’s a lot to do to restore trust amongst workers that it is safe to speak up at work, and that it can make a difference if they do.” The charity has seen cases double since the launch of the pilot helpline in June this year.

The Charity Commission said the increase in safeguarding calls  is ‘likely to have been influenced by the high-profile nature of safeguarding incidents emerging from the charity sector this year.’

In a bid to help improve whistleblowing/safeguarding culture within the sector, Protect have launched a free pilot to charities offering its 360 Benchmark whistleblowing tool – which sets out 33 standards for whistleblowing arrangements – to around 30-40 charities to help them understand where they might be falling short on best practice.

The pilot will be launched at a round table event,  Safeguarding & Whistleblowing in the Third Sector – Panel debate & roundtable on October 24 in Central London. If you are a large charity and would like to attend, a few places are still available. Please confirm your attendance by contacting lou@protect-advice.org.uk


Public consciousness has swung in favour of whistleblowers who speak up against wrongdoing as they shine a light on malpractice. This in turn has forced organisations to ensure that they have good governance arrangements in place to make them viable, ethical and competitive in today’s workplace culture.

A Protect survey conducted by E&Y found 93% of organisations said they have formal whistleblowing arrangements in place however only 43% of UK workers were aware of a whistleblowing policy at work. This shows a big gap when it comes to communication and training.

Whistleblowers are the most likely source of information regarding fraud and wrongdoing in any company and a good whistleblowing scheme is incredibly cost effective. So surely all companies have spent time considering what good looks like?

 

Good whistleblowing arrangements can help your organisation:

  • Deter and detect wrongdoing early – employees can flag danger, risk, and workplace wrongdoing
  • Can act as part of a company’s fraud prevention system as it minimises financial loss and inefficiencies
  • Keep corporate identity safe from reputational risk; safeguarding the integrity of the business for the public and demonstrate accountability to regulators
  • Create a healthy, ‘good place to work’ culture where staff feel safe to speak up. Helping improve staff retention and attract the right candidates.
  • Boost your CSR and public facing corporate identity

 

Business Development Director, Jon Cunningham said, “We see whistleblowers as providing the gift of information; they are the eyes and ears of any organisation. Employees, especially new ones, are often the first to identify when things go wrong before the company’s Audit, AML, Compliance or Safeguarding functions come into play.

He added, “Public, private and third sector organisations should take whistleblowing seriously and recognise the benefits it brings. ”

Many organisations may be concerned about the need to get in place arrangements due to regulators, the new EU Directive on whistleblowing, or other international laws. However it’s always worth remembering the bigger reasons as to why whistleblowing matters.

 

By Senior Sales Executive Kushi Gujral

 


Our Better Regulator – Professional Bodies Roundtable took place today (September 23) at CISI (Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment) and was well attended by delegates from a diverse range of professional bodies.

Rebecca Aston, Head of Professional Standards at CISI, opened the roundtable which was chaired by Protect’s Head of Policy, Andrew Pepper-Parsons, who led a lively discussion and debate.  Delegates shared their experiences of whistleblowing procedures, challenges encountered, and what would improve processes.

Delegates discussed what could be done if whistleblowing concerns are ignored or there is a failure to deal with them, and whether the Prescribed Regulator reporting duty should be rolled out to all professional bodies.

Thank you to all delegates for attending and being such engaged and open delegates, and special thanks to Rebecca Aston at CISI for hosting the event.

Protect hope to summarise and share a summary/guidance from this and our Prescribed Regulator roundtable held in April.

 


Protect are proud to partner with law firm Howard Kennedy to further the careers of two trainee solicitors who will be supporting whistleblowers.

Senior Protect Adviser and trainee solicitor, Hari Raithatha, joins the employment team at Howard Kennedy for three months to complete his training, whilst Protect welcomes Diarra Brown, a second-year Howard Kennedy trainee solicitor for a three-month secondment.

“We are delighted that our trainee solicitor, Diarra Brown, is carrying out a secondment with Protect. Whistleblowing is one of the most dynamic areas of employment law and Protect is at the cutting edge in developing best practice in this area, so it’s a great opportunity for Diarra to gain exposure to their work.

“We are also very pleased to welcome Hari Raithatha, a trainee solicitor at Protect, to carry out a secondment with our Employment team, gaining experience of the full range of employment law practice” said a spokesperson for the Howard Kennedy  employment team.

Diarra will be providing independent and confidential advice on the Protect advice line as well as supporting Protect’s Business Support team delivering training to clients and assisting with policy work including including helping to facilitate discussion with industry sectors.

Protect Legal Officer, Liz Gardiner said, “Diarra has already fitted in with the Protect team very well, and proving herself to be an invaluable team member. We hope she enjoys her time with us and learns a lot around whistleblowing best practice.”

 

Diarra, centre, with the Protect advice team.

 

 


The Whistleblowing International Network  (WIN) brought together experts from across the world to share best practice at its first annual conference in Glasgow this September.  Delegates, including Protect, heard some amazing case studies of how civil society groups can support whistleblowers and address very serious concerns.  

The Government Accountancy Project (GAP) in the US supported doctors raising concerns about foreseeable harm from the detention of immigrants, pulling together an alliance of human rights and medical supporters and advocating for reform in the press and Congress. Transparency International in Ireland supported police officers raising concerns about corruption in the transport police (many people were phoning police friends requesting penalty points to be removed, including those penalised for drink driving or driving without a license).  The uncovering of corruption led to the departure of the Chief of Police and to major changes in police oversight.

In Serbia, Pistaljka combined journalism with legal expertise to support a doctor who raised concerns that funeral directors were appearing at family homes in advance of the emergency services, and that resuscitation of some seriously ill people wasn’t happening because the funeral directors had bribed the emergency services.  After years of denial and threats to the doctor, he has eventually been vindicated and is honoured as a hero in his country.

Those involved in lobbying for the EU whistleblowing directive explained their experience – how an alliance of trade unions and NGOs – not used to working so closely – came together, with the necessary support from generous funding bodies, to deliver what seemed initially impossible. Tom Devine of GAP described the successful passage of the directive as the “happiest battle in 40 years” of campaigning for whistleblowing change. Luxleaks whistleblower Antoine Deltour joined us by video link and explained the Luxleaks experience.  Former MEP Virginie Roziere explained how important his case was to the language in the final directive – the opportune timing of the case meant Parliamentarians could ask “would this have protected Antoine?”.

Delegates were also warned that there is more to do – getting laws in place is a necessary but not sufficient condition for good whistleblowing practice and transposing the EU directive (rolling out the EU Directive into law) now needs 27 (or 28!) effective campaigns across each member state to ensure that best practice, not a minimum standard, is implemented.

Break out groups  – including one led by Protect’s own Cathy James – discussed advice services and shared their frustration about the lack of legal support available to those who want to bring claims. Whistleblowers need not just legal support, but also a wide range of other support – as the impact on family, finances, health and wellbeing should not be underestimated.  Those who are working with employers – as Protect does – have developed new models.  In Slovakia, private sector employers pledge their support not just to best practice, but also to help public sector whistleblowers get back into work through job coaching and offering interviews.  This model was developed because employers listened to whistleblowers about their needs.  Working with employers was seen as vital work – though not without its challenges, asavoiding any conflicts of interest is critical.

A session on working with journalists heard from Nigeria’s Corruption Anonymous which brings together journalists and civil society groups and provides a platform for whistleblowers.  Journalists agree to work together on investigating stories rather than compete for publication.  The collective approach can also protect journalists from retaliation, with the byline being the coalition – not the individual.  Other groups were educating journalists on the use of encrypted technology to better protect their sources.  We learnt about Globaleaks –  a platform of digital drop boxes being used across the world – which allows the uploading of information anonymously via the Torr network –  but with the possibility of going back to the whistleblower for further questions during an investigation.  Mostly this is used to link journalists and whistleblowers, but at least one civil society group that supports whistleblowers receives information through this network.

Across the world, how we report whistleblowing, encourage employers and support the whistleblower is changing.  Technology doesn’t offer all the answers, and too many whistleblowers still suffer appalling detriment when speaking out.  But sharing the lessons and celebrating good practice made the WIN conference uplifting and inspiring.

By Protect Legal Officer, Liz Gardiner


Our Head of Policy Andrew Pepper-Parsons recently attended a panel debate on Culture and Conduct in Financial Services – SMR, Working Practices and Emerging Cultural Concerns held by the Westminister Business Forum. Andy spoke about the challenge of embedding a better whistleblowing or speak up culture within the financial sector.  He explained to delegates that what is needed is a combination of rules or laws that sanctioned those that didn’t meet certain standards, while at the same time showing organisations the real benefit in taking whistleblowing seriously.  In short, best practice for whistleblowing arrangements needs the back up of the threat of sanctions if not adhered to.

On September 13, Andrew also had the opportunity to speak to the Insurance Internal Audit Group, at their September Quarterly Seminar. Andy introduced Protect’s 360 Benchmark which enables organisations to assess the effectiveness of their whistleblowing arrangements and benchmark their performance against organisations from their own sector. Organisations are increasingly coming under pressure from the law, and regulators to not only have whistleblowing or speak up arrangements in place, but to demonstrate they are working well in practice. The 360 Benchmark enables organisations to make these assessments and is the only whistleblowing tool available that looks at metrics beyond numbers.