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Protect to Campaign for a New Whistleblowing Law

How many more scandals will it take for the Government to see the power of whistleblowing? Carillion. Midstaffs. Grenfell. Wikileaks. Boeing. The ongoing Trump Impeachment inquiry.... Just some of the many high profile scandals that have rocked society.  The million dollar question - would they have ever happened if healthy speak up/listen up cultures existed?  We'll never know. What we do know is the role whistleblowers play to an organisation and society as a whole is invaluable.

Protect is launching its campaign for a new whistleblowing law and has drafted a bill to ensure the UK’s law remains the best in the world.

“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” said Protect Chief Executive Francesca West.

She added, "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 – for example in Ireland and Australia, together with the introduction of a new EU Whistleblowing Directive to be rolled out across Europe by 2021 -means there is a danger that workers’ rights in the UK will fall behind.

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

Protect’s Whistleblowing Bill - Background

In our 25 year-history Protect has supported 40,000 whistleblowers and advised hundreds of organisations, providing us with an unparalleled expert view. Nobody understands whistleblowing as well as we do.

Instrumental in lobbying for the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), which has helped hundreds of people over the years, we recognise new legislation is long overdue. Piecemeal changes to PIDA law have led to inconsistencies and loopholes, for instance NHS students and job applicants are now protected by PIDA, while other industries have been left out of these reforms.

The EU Directive ensures people who speak up and who are not strictly ‘workers’ such as volunteers, non-executive directors, contractors, public office holders and other third parties, including family members will also be protected.  Employers with 50 or more staff will have to introduce new channels to receive whistleblowing reports, and deal with them effectively.

Our plan of action

We have launched a draft Whistleblowing Bill that we will be lobbying Government and Parliamentarians to adopt and support.

As well as our lobbying the Government and Parliament with our new Whistleblowing Bill we will be working with other whistleblowing groups and campaigners such as the Whistleblowing APPG, and civil society groups who are calling for change and better protection for whistleblowers.  The bill is in draft form and we are keen to hear your views on the bills contents, please take some time to fill our our survey.

Protect was a co-founder of WIN – the Whistleblowing International Network – who were key players in bringing about the EU Whistleblowing Directive. Protect will be working closely with WIN to campaign for change in the UK.

We will also be calling on legal experts, whistleblowers, employer organisations, trade unions and the general public to back our Whistleblowing Bill.

Our Bill aims to....

The current legal protection only applies to workers which excludes a lot of whistleblowers in the workplace including job applicants, volunteers, interns, non-executive directors, public appointments, foster carers, non-NHS students, self-employed workers etc.

We want to see the wrongdoing, malpractice or risk protected by whistleblowing protection to include waste of public money, misuse of authority, breaches of company policy and anything that may damage the reputation of the employer.

Whistleblowing protection is silent on what is expected from employers and regulators in how they are expected to deal with whistleblowers.

For employers we want there to be a minimum standard in law for whistleblowing policies and arrangements, we would like to see this applied to organisations with 50 or more staff.  For regulators we want the new standards to cover issues such as the ability for whistleblowers to report concerns confidentially to regulators, as well as rules over feedback to the whistleblower etc.

We want a new duty on employers to prevent the detrimental treatment of a whistleblower by managers, staff or a third party (e.g. a supplier, a manager who oversees a secondment place).

We would like to see a new independent body that would be able to set standards for whistleblowing arrangements among employers and regulators.  The new body would also be able to investigate and publish reports where organisations or regulators have breached these standards.

We want to see stronger wording to prevent the use of gagging clauses and a guarantee whistleblowers faced with a settlement agreement will get legal advice on any non-disclosure clauses.

 

You can find our Draft Whistleblowing Bill here.  We are also conducting a survey on the bill and we are keen to hear your views on it's contents.

What our supporters are saying......

Strengthening current whistleblowing law should make it easier for the likes of District Judge Claire Gilham.

Her case, which Protect intervened in, went to the Supreme Court in June 2019 to decide whether judges are able to blow the whistle. She won her case after seven long years and can now have her case heard at an employment tribunal.

Speaking after the ruling, Judge Gilham said: "Winning is a great relief after these seven long years. Ethically I always knew that my point was right: that judges should have human rights protections. You can't have justice without independent and unafraid judges, and if judges can't speak out to protect the court system, then justice suffers and the people caught up in the system suffer too."

Dr Chris Day, who blew the whistle on staffing shortages in the NHS and who Protect has supported, is backing our Whistleblowing Bill.

Dr Day said, "I am delighted that Protect have teamed up with legal and industry experts to try solve this important problem for the nation. Parliament clearly intended for the Public Interest Disclosure Act to protect and empower those that raise concerns in the public interest. I hope Parliament gives serious thought to the proposed Private Members Bill and to what has gone so wrong with PIDA so it is not repeated."

NHS Whistleblower Peter Duffy is also lending his support to our new Bill, saying, "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. "

Protect is grateful for support from several leading lawyers in the field, including former trustee, James Laddie QC of Matrix Chambers as well as our co-founders WIN - Whistleblowing International Network who played a major role in the EU Directive.

WIN’s Executive Director, Anna Myers, said “As a founding member of WIN, Protect helped elucidate and advocate for strong whistleblower protection in Europe for more than 20 years. Now that we finally have an EU Directive doing just that. WIN is delighted to support Protect in its efforts to reboot the Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998 and bring whistleblower protection in the UK into the 21st century.”