The Government has launched a review of the whistleblowing framework, which sets out the laws that support workers who blow the whistle on wrongdoing in the workplace. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) was introduced giving certain protections to those workers who blow the whistle. Over time, the Government has sought to strengthen whistleblowing policy and practice.
The review is set to look at whether the current regime is effective and enables workers to speak up. Evidence will be gathered from whistleblowers, key charities, employers and regulators.
Why is it so important?
Whistleblowing is a key part of uncovering wrongdoing in an attempt to grapple with fraud, corruption, unsafe working conditions and other economic crime.
There has been a spotlight shone on the subject following the dismissal of a number of workers who blew the whistle to the Health and Safety Executive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent news, Protect (the UK’s whistleblowing charity) commented that there had been a further wave of whistleblowers at CBI raising allegations against the organisation through the press, showing the need for CBI to review its whistleblowing procedures. Clearly, staff do not feel that internal procedures are adequate or offer enough protection from repercussions, such as dismissal or detrimental treatment.
Scope of the review
The review is seeking evidence in relation to the following questions:
- how has the whistleblowing framework facilitated disclosures?
- how has the whistleblowing framework protected workers?
- is whistleblowing information available and accessible for workers, employers, prescribed persons and others?
- what have been the wider benefits and impacts of the whistleblowing framework, on employers, prescribed persons and others?
- what does best practice look like in responding to disclosures?
In addition to this, the review will also look at the definition of worker for whistleblowing protections.
The research part of the review is expected to conclude in autumn 2023 and it is being led by the Department for Business and Trade.
Following the UK’s departure from the EU, it did not implement the EU Whistleblowing Directive (Directive). However, it has always been the case that countries can afford greater protections for whistleblowers in their own national laws, rather than adopting the minimum expected levels as set out in the Directive. The UK has always considered PIDA to be a leading example, but in a concerted effort not to let the UK be left behind, the review could not have come at a better time.
It is true to say that the Directive is wider than PIDA, in the sense that the Directive gives protections to some self-employed individuals and family members and colleagues connected to the whistleblower. In addition, whistleblowers can raise a wider range of concerns under the Directive. It may be that the outcome of the review will move PIDA closer to the Directive, but what is certain is that there is a move towards increased obligations on employers and greater protections for whistleblowers, which in turn will mean new regimes and policies to get to grips with in the future.
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