Extension to Whistleblowing Protection
Whistleblowing, or, more correctly making protected disclosures, is considered vital to public safety. High-profile failures in safety such as the Piper Alpha disaster in 1998 and more recently the problems at Stafford Hospital have highlighted the need for a method of protecting workers who feel it necessary to come forward and express their concerns about wrongdoing and safety issues.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has recently finished a call for evidence to take wider views on the need for greater protection measures. The call for evidence finished on 1st November and the Department is currently analysing the feedback it received. A response is expected from BIS in early 2014.
What is Whistleblowing Protection
Whistleblowing protection first appeared in the Public Interest Disclosure Act which was inserted into the Employment Rights Act 1986. It protects employees from being treated less favourably if they have made a ‘protected disclosure’. In other words, workers cannot be dismissed, denied promotion or otherwise subjected to a detriment if they have raised concerns about something connected with one of the following areas:
(a) a criminal offence
(b) a failure to comply with a legal obligation
(c) a miscarriage of justice
(d) health and safety
(e) environmental damage
(f) deliberate concealment of any of the above
Changes to Whistleblowing Legislation
The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 sought to strengthen the protection offered to whistleblowers and so hold rogue organisations to account. It ensured that whistleblowing disclosures could only be made in the public interest and it removed the possibility that claims by whistleblowers could be easily dismissed as having been made in bad faith.
Who is not Protected?
Unfortunately not all workers are protected by current whistleblowing legislation: volunteers, members of the armed forces, partners in law firms and job applicants are all denied protection under the law as it stands and as such may be discouraged from holding organisations to account.
The Chief Executive of the Law Society, Des Hudson comments,
” Recent high-profile cases have shown that those who are trying to do a public good are not getting the support that they deserve. The government needs to strengthen the whistleblowing framework so that it offers real protection to anyone who sticks their head above the parapet to expose wrongdoing.”