Whistleblowing commission set up by Public Concern At Work

by Direct 2 Lawyers on February 26, 2013

  • SumoMe

Public Concern At Work have reported that it is setting up a Whistleblowing Commission in order to “examine the existing arrangements for workplace whistleblowing and make recommendations for change”.

The Commission has been set up due to concerns over the following areas:

  1. Whether the law and policy relating to whistleblowing is effective
  2. Whether regulators should be doing more to encouarge and protect whistleblowing
  3. To examine how whistleblowers can be incentivized to speak up
  4. Whether Tribunals are protecting whistleblowers and society at large properly

The announcement of the Whistleblowing Commission follows months of focus on whistleblowing and public and private scandals in the newspapers. Recent examples of employment-related whistleblowing include the LIBOR scandal and the evidence of Gary Walker regarding Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust. This has stimulated public interest in and knowledge of this area, and has exposed certain frailties and weaknesses in the law as it stands. In particular, the Protection Interest Disclosure Act 1998 has received severe criticism from a number of sources, including Michael Scutt at Jobsworth. The Commission hopes to identify these frailties and submit a report to the Government recommending changes to be made to the law and policy relating to whistleblowing. This report is scheduled currently to be published in November 2013.

So, what is whistleblowing? “Whistleblowing” in employment law is a generic term and occurs when an employee makes a “protected disclosure” to their employer or some other suitably responsible person. A “protected disclosure” is the relaying of information to an appropriate person (such as an employment solicitor) regarding an act which has happened, may happen, or is happening relating to a criminal act, a breach of a legal obligation, damage to the environment or a danger to the health and safety of employees and third parties. Such a disclosure must be reasonable and made in good faith. For example, if the employee makes the disclosure maliciously then the disclosure will not be treated as a protected disclosure and the employee will not receive the protection they normally would under UK employment law.

Whistleblowers receive a degree of protection under UK employment law from detriment or dismissal if they’ve made a valid protected disclosure. If an employee has made a valid protected disclosure then they receive enhanced protection from being dismissed or subjected to a detriment because of this. “Workers” can’t make a claim for unfair dismissal but they can assert that they’ve been subjected to a detriment if they’ve been disadvantaged as a result of making the protected disclosure.

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