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The recently formed All-Party Parliamentary Group on Whistleblowing (APPG on Whistleblowing), a group of peers and MPs who through research and debate are campaigning for better protection for whistleblowers.

The APPG on Whistleblowing, initiated by WBUK, have launched a survey to collect the experiences of whistleblowers from as many different sectors and industries as possible.  These views will be collated by the APPG and will form the basis for both future research and proposed reforms of whistleblowing protection.

Georgina Halford-Hall CEO of WhistleblowersUK said, “I have faith in the APPG which is formed of people who like me have experienced the frustration faced by whistleblowers and know that current provision is not working. However, it takes more than a group of politicians to make change happen and it’s in everyone’s interest to contribute to this discussion, the survey takes only a few minutes, is easy to access and is an important and integral part of influencing change. Do it today and change things for tomorrow.”

Andrew Pepper-Parsons Head of Policy for Protect said, “We welcome the survey as a great way for whistleblowers to pass on their experience of raising concerns directly to legislators and then to the Government for real change to occur.  We look forward to seeing the results of the survey and being part of the debate on the future of whistleblowing protection.”

For anyone interested in taking part in the survey you can find it here.


Karen Campbell-White, Head of Campaigns & Compliance at the CMA on their latest Stop Cartels campaign and why educating businesses on business cartels will hopefully put a stop to  unfair and illegal behaviour.    

Our latest work with Protect builds on our last campaign, which saw a 30% increase in tip offs to our cartels hotline.  We hope to repeat this success.  

So, what are we doing differently this time round?

We spoke to businesses across the UK to get a better understanding of how much they understood about risky business practices that could put them in danger of breaking competition law.  We also researched attitudes to speaking up and reporting bad business behaviours.

What we found

Our research shows UK businesses are still unclear about competition law:

  • Most (77%) don’t feel they understand competition law well
  • Very few (6%) run any competition law training or have senior level discussions about it (18%).
  • 41% don’t know attending a meeting where rivals agree prices is illegal

And although it is encouraging to see that most firms (88%) would act if they had information that someone in their organisation was breaking the law, they wouldn’t necessarily speak out – 39% would talk to the person directly to warn them.

How have we made reporting cartels easier?

To encourage informants to come forward to us and stay with us on the reporting journey, we’ve taken inspiration from behavioural theory, making it easy for people to ‘do the right thing’ and tell us when they see illegal practices.

Look out for our new:

  • refreshed campaign page that explains what cartels look like in practice
  • case studies that lift the lid on real life cases where businesses have broken the law
  • online tools such as an online quiz and a ‘cartel checker’ to help users understand if what they have seen is illegal
  • online reporting form that makes the reporting to us quicker and easier
  • reporting film that explains what to expect after you report a case to us

Why is it important to report?

Although business crimes may look victimless they are not. Business cartels cheat customers out of a fair deal by forcing prices up, reducing quality, choice and innovation.

The CMA takes cartel behaviour seriously and the repercussions if you are caught breaking the law are serious.

We’re telling those that may have been involved in a cartel that it’s better to Be Safe, Not Sorry and report it to us first, as they may benefit from immunity from fines and prosecution if they report before others do.

If you think you’ve witnessed others breaking the law, then Do What’s Right and report it to us to the CMA using any of our reporting channels (phone, email or online reporting form)

To find out more go to: www.gov.uk/stopcartels


The Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) latest cartel awareness campaign aims to educate businesses about which practices are illegal and is urging people to come forward if they suspect a business has taken part in cartel behaviour, such as fixing prices or rigging contracts.

The campaign is targeting industries including construction, manufacturing, recruitment, estate agents and property management and maintenance. These are sectors identified as particularly susceptible to cartels. Previous campaigns have driven a 30% rise in the number of tip-offs to the CMA’s cartels hotline.

Research released by the CMA shows that out of amongst 1,000 companies surveyed:

  • only 57% knew it was illegal to fix prices
  • nearly half either didn’t know or thought it was legal to discuss prices with competing bidders when quoting for new work (23% said ‘don’t know’, and 25% actually thought it was legal)
  • significantly more than half (59%) didn’t know or thought that dividing up and sharing customers with rivals was legal (24% said ‘don’t know’ and 35% actually thought it was legal)

Examples of CMA action include:

  • Two of the biggest suppliers of charcoal and coal for households in the UK were fined £3.4 million for taking part in a market sharing cartel.
  • Water tank firms were fined over £2.6 million, after they formed a cartel to divide up customers, fix minimum prices and share commercially sensitive information for tanks used in large construction projects (such as schools and hospitals).
  • Somerset estate agents were fined over £370,000 for fixing minimum commission rates, such that local home owners had been denied a fair deal when selling their property. The CMA also secured the disqualification of 2 company directors in this case.
  • An Amazon Marketplace seller was fined over £160,000 and its director disqualified from running a company after agreeing to fix the prices of popular posters and frames with a competitor.

Howard Cartlidge, Senior Director of Cartels at the CMA, said, “Businesses that fix prices or rig contracts are breaking the law and ripping people off. The victims are customers and other businesses, who are getting cheated out of a fair deal.  If you know of something illegal – do the right thing and tell us about it.”

Since April 2015 the CMA has issued over £155 million in fines following investigations into anti-competitive practices and it is currently investigating 15 cases including in construction services, roofing materials and estate agency.

Visit the CMA anti-cartel website

 


Protect welcomes new trustee and employment lawyer David Widdowson, who has extensive whistleblowing expertise, to the Protect Board.

David is a long-standing member of the Employment Lawyers Association, and a member and subsequent chair of a working party which commented on the two abortive private members bills and then on the bill which became the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.  Comments at the consultative stage were influential in the ultimate drafting of the bill and formed the basis of a very successful relationship with the DTi, now BEIS (Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy). He also has trustee experience.

He said, “I am really pleased to be able to offer my support to Protect which does such important work. I believe I can bring to the board strong technical knowledge of the law relating to whistleblowing, extensive experience in its practical application as well as relevant experience of acting as a trustee.”

David, has advised a number of NHS Trusts and other public sector bodies on implementation of whistleblowing procedures and has also advised individual whistleblowers. He was instructed by NHS London to investigate allegations connected with the Baby P case made by a senior clinician from the trust concerned.

Protect Chief Executive Francesca West said, “We are delighted to welcome David aboard as a trustee. His extensive knowledge and expertise in employment law and whistleblowing is going to be invaluable to our work and will help us support more whistleblowers to safely raise concerns.”

 

 

 


As Director of the Institute of Business Ethics, Philippa Foster Back, CBE, is responsible for implementing strategy, leading the team and ensuring that the Institute meets its charitable aims of raising awareness and spreading best practice in the field of business ethics.

When Sepp Blatter, former president of football’s governing body, was interviewed by David Conn, author of The Fall of the House of FIFA, Conn was struck when Blatter sneered: “’Because if you are a whistleblower, it’s not correct as well.’”

Conn asked him to clarify; “was he saying whistleblowers are not correct?

‘No,’ he confirmed. ‘At school, if you had somebody who was a whistleblower towards the tutor, then…’ and he trailed off, as if it was obvious.

‘Do you still think that?’ I asked.

‘Yes.’

‘That they are like a snitch in school?’

‘Yes, yes,’ he said.”

Sepp Blatter is not alone in his view of whistleblowers. The work of Protect highlights the continued negative perception of those who speak up about wrongdoing. From the tattle-teller at nursery to the snitch at school or mafia super-grass, the cultural narrative is that those who speak up are sneaks and spoilsports to be vilified. Whistleblowing is seen as a breach of confidentiality, a conflict between private and public, a betrayal of the tribe, disloyal, and only done by trouble-makers.

This seems perverse, as many who raise concerns do so out of loyalty, compelled by a sense of justice and a desire to ‘do the right thing’. Effective Speak Up arrangements assist with good governance and can act as an early warning system for potential risks. It makes good business sense that those who lead organisations should welcome and encourage employees to do so.

The terms ‘whistleblowing’ or ‘Speak Up’ are often used interchangeably and can cover disclosure of a wide range of legal and ethical issues. But at the IBE, we differentiate between the two terms. ‘Blowing the whistle’ externally can be considered a last resort, occurring when concerns have not been listened to or acted upon internally. Speaking up implies raising a concern internally so that it can be remedied, hopefully before it becomes a bigger problem.

The IBE prefers the term Speak Up as it has more positive and constructive connotations for organisations. This change of language can mark the beginning of fostering an ‘open’ culture, one where employees feel confident that their concerns will be taken seriously and handled sensitively internally.

Recent scandals, such as the collapse of Carillion, highlight the need for appropriate oversight by boards seeking to ensure the stabililty and sustainability of the businesses they run. Indeed, the new UK Corporate Governance Code cites this as a core principle:

“The board should establish the company’s purpose, values and strategy, and satisfy itself that these and its culture are aligned.”

The IBE recently undertook some research asking boards how they were currently assuring themselves that they understood their corporate culture. At number one position was Speak Up and whistleblowing data, highlighting its importance as a significant potential source of information about behaviour, culture and fraud.

Reliable Speak Up arrangements are an important support for a board and senior management. However, it is not always easy to tell whether the arrangements are effective. In terms of raw data, the number of calls to the system may fluctuate for a number of reasons.

Increased anxiety by employees that they may face reprisals for speaking up will cause the volume of calls to fall, but the same effect might be felt as a result of a more open culture, when employees did not feel the need to call the hotline and issues were dealt with satisfactorily by local management. The volume of calls may fluctuate in line with employee familiarity with and confidence in the process, or in response to an awareness campaign.

The level of data which boards examine varies from number of calls and how many were substantiated to information about investigations and the number of dismissals or disciplinary outcomes. Some boards only require information about the most serious cases, while others ask for more granular details – for example, the proportion of allegations versus enquiries, how many were anonymous or the job level of those implicated. An engaged board will analyse this data and use it to improve the effectiveness of the Speak Up policy and procedure.

Leading organisations are developing dashboards to monitor reporting levels, for example per 1,000 people across different locations country by country or site by site. The organisations use this data to benchmark the performance of their regions or sites. The data from, for example, the number of ethics contacts; the number of grievances and HR investigations and/or the number of safety incidences can all be looked at together to develop a holistic picture of the ethical health of the organisation. Comparative data also provides the opportunity to talk to local management about why their numbers may differ from that of other sites or regions.

It is important, however, to look behind the figures. A key question for boards to ask is how Speak Up arrangements are organised and managed, as well as the use being made of them. An important point to make is that monitoring culture frequently involves oversight of processes, not just outcomes. Boards need to know if their Speak Up arrangements are fit for purpose and whether they are operating in the intended way. This involves a qualitative judgement as well as a selection of quantitative indicators. Directors need periodically to gain some first-hand experience as part of their site visits and other familiarisation exercises. Without that, it is very difficult to judge the data the board receives.

Every three years, the IBE surveys employees in the UK and across Europe about their experiences of ethics at work. In 2018, consistent with previous years, a third of employees have witnessed some form of misconduct.  The 30% of respondents in Europe who have been aware of misconduct in the workplace were asked whether they raised – or decided to speak up about – any of their concerns directly to management, to another appropriate person or through any other mechanism. On average, only 54% did so, while 43% did not.

In each country surveyed just under half or more of those who have been aware of misconduct decided to report their concerns, which represents an improvement compared to 2015. Employees in the UK are more likely to have reported misconduct than those in any other country (67%) whilst respondents in Portugal are least likely to have done so (49%).

In order to explore further what the barriers might be to speaking up, those respondents who said they had not raised their concerns about misconduct were asked what had stopped them. The most prominent reasons given were that they did not believe that corrective action would be taken (28%), closely followed by they felt they might jeopardise their job (27%). Only 7% did not know who to contact.

These two reasons have significant implications for any organisation wishing to establish an effective Speak Up culture. Employees are now more aware than ever of the means at their disposal to raise concerns. However, it was also clear that three parts of the process – effective protection for those that speak up and monitoring of potential retaliations; robust investigations and communication of outcomes – still need attention if Speak Up processes are to be considered credible.

Reporting concerns can require courage, particularly in an unsupportive environment. Employees won’t take the risk if they believe that nothing will be done about it. Where local whistleblowing protection is poor or lacks definition in legal terms, it is good practice for organisations to establish their own higher protections for employees who Speak Up, whatever the local legal requirements. Ethics starts where the law ends and as more organisations realise the benefits of encouraging an open culture, they are looking into better ways to protect those who speak up from detriment.

As Oscar Wilde said: “No good deed goes unpunished” and this is no more true than when it comes to whistleblowers. Despite explicit assurances by companies that retaliation against those who speak up will not be tolerated, fostering an open culture where employees are able to voice their concerns confidently and without fear of reprisal remains a challenge for many organisations.

Retaliation can take many forms and is not always easy to identify. From failing to be promoted to being ignored in the canteen, it can manifest as the kind of low-level bullying that often falls under the radar of Audit and HR. Retaliation may spill out of the workplace and into the pub, the school playground and the community.

Practical steps in the Speak Up process can go some way to protect those who raise concerns, for example by ensuring that as few people as possible have access to reports and by preserving confidentiality in investigations and anonymity where requested. Companies are beginning to do more to monitor detriment by examining career paths of those who speak up, keeping in touch periodically with those who raise concerns and introducing care plans and welfare checks. Those who are found to retaliate should face misconduct and disciplinary proceedings.

The journey to establishing an open culture is a long one and it requires commitment and leadership. The implementation of a Speak Up programme can be part of a culture change that, although positive, may be considered as threatening to the status quo.  Staff may feel cynical about a new initiative if there is little trust within the organisation, while managers may view those who speak up as undermining their authority. Top management do not always recognise the role of staff in guarding corporate reputation and can be susceptible to the ‘say/do’ gap where they say one thing but do another.

An example is that of Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays Bank. In June 2016, two anonymous letters had been sent from the US to some Barclays’ board members about a senior executive. Barclays’ compliance team treated them as a whistleblowing matter and set about investigating the letters. Staley, instructed the bank’s information security team to investigate the author of the anonymous letters that made allegations about a long-term associate whom Staley had brought to the Bank. Staley admitted wrongdoing, his bonus was cut, and he was fined by the regulator. However, despite his attempts to unmask the whistleblower, he was thwarted, which showed the robustness of Barclays’ Speak Up system. Anecdotally, his poor leadership in this regard has only served to improve the reputation of the bank’s procedure, and calls to their hotline have gone up.

As part of financial regulations in the UK, financial services companies must appoint a ‘whistleblowers’ champion’ – a non-executive director with responsibility and oversight for Speak Up within their firm. The aim of these rules is to encourage a culture within financial services where individuals feel able to raise concerns and challenge poor practice and behaviour.

The appointment of a non-executive director to be a ‘Speak Up Champion’ is not limited to financial services and this model is being replicated in other industries. Some organisations, such as aerospace firms UTC and Lockheed Martin, have an organisational ombudsman who provides a neutral and impartial listening ear and helps resolve conflicts and concerns in an informal way. The ombudsman is distinctive from a Speak Up helpline as they are neutral; independent of all management structures; guarantee confidentiality and are available to any stakeholder (for example employees, customers, suppliers, contractors and shareholders).  Unlike with a Speak Up line, the ombudsman provides coaching and support to the individual who raises a concern. The ombudsman does not have the authority to overturn managerial decisions but is there to outline the options and develop potential solutions.

This is a particularly helpful model for smaller organisations, where an independent non-executive director who is perceived to have a level of impartiality can champion the Speak Up programme and employee concerns.

A key element in encouraging a Speak Up culture is to observe key trends and to continuously review performance.  Using data in this way helps organisations apply pattern recognition to spot potential issues and underlying concerns, even if those concerns have not been fully substantiated. In this way, the Speak Up process can help organisations mitigate risks and improve internal controls before there is a serious problem.

The freedom to raise concerns is a core component of an ethical business culture where employees are confident they will be supported to ‘do the right thing’. Effective Speak Up procedures help boards to understand and improve organisational culture and as such they are useful tools in the bid to follow the principles of the new UK Corporate Governance Code.

A Speak Up procedure provides a mechanism for employees to raise concerns about anything they find unsafe, unethical or unlawful.   If companies do not offer this support to their employees, or only pay nominal lip service to it, concerns that are not dealt with may become a crisis, threatening the stability – and profitability – of the organisation.

It is one thing asking employees to speak up, but quite another to listen to what they are saying. If employees repeatedly speak up and don’t feel heard, they might stop talking. And that silence can be dangerous.


by Protect Patron Michael Woodford

Michael Woodford, former President and CEO of Olympus Corporation exposed a £1.1bn scandal and left in fear for his life after unearthing a web of corruption within the company just weeks after being appointed as chief executive in 2011. His actions led to two senior Olympus board members being sentenced to three years in prison. In 2012, he reached a settlement after suing Olympus and now advises on corporate governance and campaigns to protect whistleblowers.

 

Dos

  1. Ensure that you obtain:
  • good independent advice and there is nowhere better than Protect!
  • qualified legal opinion and your lawyer has a complete dossier of all the evidence you have assembled.

 

  1. Take your time to be clear on as many facts as you can as you need to be detailed and specific throughout the process of raising concerns. If you can report internally, consider your options or seek advice.

 

  1. Consider contacting your regulator and reporting wrongdoing, and consider doing likewise in other jurisdictions. This action will ensure you are in line with statutory whistleblower protection (Public Interest Disclosure Act – PIDA).

 

  1. If appropriate, find a journalist(s) whom you can trust. It is a basic rule that, if requested, a journalist will protect their source. Furthermore, sometimes the investigative ability of media organisations can compare with, and in some circumstances be superior, to law-enforcement or regulatory agencies. Respected media outlets understandably won’t publish or broadcast anything without some evidence, they are a vital measure that can ensure wrongdoing is eventually exposed.

 

  1. Remain focused and determined – your family will be put under extreme emotional strain and this is painful to witness, but you must always remember if you know of wrongdoing and then don’t report it, you become complicit and put yourself and your family at risk.

 

 

Don’ts

  1. Don’t lose sight of your own moral compass ­- you will receive a lot of opinions but ultimately trust your own judgement as in the end most of us know what is right and wrong.

 

  1. Maintain your health and wellbeing. It can be stressful.

 

  1. Don’t expect too much of others – becoming a whistleblower is not like Noah’s Ark where you go around in twos. It inevitably means you will be on your own, and you need to prepare yourself psychologically for a disturbing sense of isolation.

 

  1. Don’t be surprised by close colleagues you considered friends distancing themselves from you and when they do, don’t let this affect your resolve. If you think you are right and have the information then you are doing nothing wrong – quite the reverse.

 

  1. Don’t give up!

 

 


Protect’s unique 360° Benchmark – designed to help organisations with best practice whistleblowing arrangements – officially launched at event ‘Whistleblowing in the Modern Workplace’  held at law firm Howard Kennedy. 

Developed with a financial working group, the 360° Benchmark works by identifying gaps and providing organisations with an action plan on how to improve.

Protect Chief Executive Francesca West said, “With our 25 years’ expertise we have found numbers alone are not an effective measure of arrangements. The 360° Benchmark is unique. It focuses instead on how your arrangements are structured, how you engage with staff and how whistleblowing works in practice in your organisation.”

Protect research shows 54% of employees said they do not train designated key members of staff (such as compliance or whistleblowing contacts) to receive concerns.

Around 50 delegates from varied sectors attended the launch, which included an overview of the Benchmark and panel debate led by Jane Amphlett, Head of Employment Team at Howard Kennedy. Delegates heard contributions from panel members Georgina Charlton, Deputy Freedom to Speak up Guardian at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, compliance consultant Laura Davies who helped develop the Protect 360° Benchmark, and Simon Rhodes, Head of HR for Kinapse Ltd.

It was an interesting debate and points raised included  the cultural differences HR has to manage when working with global teams, the confusion over grievances and whistleblowing, and how the independent role and remit of the Freedom to Speak up Guardian.

Simon Bleckly, Audit and Counter Fraud Manager, Corporate Services, Warrington Borough Council, who piloted the Benchmark, said, “The 360 Benchmark enabled us to identify where we need to improve, and identify the key actions that we need to carry out in order to improve, but also to obtain assurance in those areas where we are performing well. The ability to compare ourselves with other local authorities is very useful – this is the first time that we have been able to do this.”

Protect would like to thank Howard Kennedy for supporting our work and hosting the launch.

As Protect marks its 25th anniversary this month, Guy Dehn,  founding Director of Public Concern at Work as we were formerly known, shares his thoughts on our history, PIDA and whistleblowing then, and now.

Back in 1993 whistleblowing was such an unpopular activity that the Charity Commission initially ruled there could be no public benefit in our offering confidential advice to people concerned about wrongdoing at work.  Whistleblowers were assumed to be liars and malevolent traitors at worst; sneaks or losers at best.

1993 was a very different world in other ways too.  Then, only a handful of people had heard of the internet, let alone had access to it: so no emails, no smartphones, no social media.  There was no Parliament in Scotland, nor an Assembly in Wales.  There was no voluntary code on freedom of information, not to mention a statutory right.

The case we made for a new approach to whistleblowing was based on a run of disasters and scandals, including the capsizing of the ferry the Herald of Free Enterprise, the explosion at the Piper Alpha oil rig, the Clapham Rail Crash, the collapse of the bank BCCI and the pillaging of Mirror Group’s pension fund by Robert Maxwell.  Deep in the reports of the public inquiries it was clear that workplace cultures were a serious part of the problem – some inquiries described an autocratic environment where nobody had dared to speak up, while others found a worker had tried to sound the alarm but had been ignored, sidelined or sacked.

Our starting point was that if someone was prepared to tell friends or family about wrongdoing in their workplace, there was good reason they should be encouraged to raise that concern openly.  While we believed such concerns should ideally be raised in the workplace if practicable, we were also clear that disclosures to regulators, the police and the wider public could also be justified.

Beyond this, we knew we had much to learn before we would have a good idea how a new approach to whistleblowing might work in practice.  The research we undertook for the series Speaking up by Sector, the educational and policy work we did and the training courses we ran were all important in our learning, but the free helpline was critical to how our thinking developed.

In the early years of the helpline, clients’ concerns included financial scams, dodgy food, tax frauds, safety risks and corruption, and covered schools, banks, fairgrounds, charities, public bodies, and companies large and small. We helped clients raise concerns internally, with regulators and the police; more publicly, we went to court to set aside a gagging injunction to fight libel suits and we briefed the media.  In one case we had to turn away the MoD police who had turned up demanding to see a client’s file; and on another we secured the first retraction and a fulsome public apology in the UK from an internet provider after false and damaging rumours about us were circulated to employment lawyers.

Inevitably many of the concerns raised through our helpline turned out to have substance and a fair few showed that the wider legal and regulatory cultures were often as much a part of the problem as the solution.  Two early cases stand out – helping Adrian Schofield halt a million pound theft at a paper mill, saving several hundred jobs in the north west; and assisting nurse Judy Jones blow the whistle on the award-winning boss of a care home who was sexually abusing blind residents and subsequently jailed.

In 1995 the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life strongly backed our approach, pointing out that unless public servants felt able to raise whistleblowing concerns openly, they would stay silent or leak the information anonymously, fuelling the culture of sleaze.

At the same time two independent-minded backbench MPs – Labour’s Tony Wright and the Conservative Richard Shepherd – asked us and the Campaign for Freedom of Information to draft a Whistleblower’s Protection Bill.  The MPs said that if we could help they would want to follow our recommendations but if we couldn’t, they would do the best they could without us. As to how to structure the draft law, we decided to adopt the principles on public interest disclosures developed by judges as the template to encourage and protect whistleblowing.

Our initial proposals were widely welcomed on consultation.  In 1996 Labour’s Don Touhig introduced a revised draft after he won the ballot for Private Members’ Bills. His Bill completed its passage through the House of Commons but, lacking Government support, got no further.  Nonetheless it had shown there was strong support across Parliament for a whistleblowing law and this prompted Tony Blair to pledge that a future Labour Government would pass such a law.  The need for a new culture had again been highlighted by Lord Justice Scott’s Arms to Iraq Inquiry which revealed that the Government machine had not only ignored a whistleblower’s letter but then sought to keep its existence secret from the courts when Matrix Churchill was prosecuted for breaching a UN embargo.

Weeks after the election of the new Labour Government in 1997, the Tory MP Richard Shepherd decided to reintroduce the Public Interest Disclosure Bill after he won a place in the ballot. Within five years of the charity’s launch in 1993,  and far sooner than we had ever imagined, the Public Interest Disclosure Act was on the statute books.  Over the following decade we were able to help influence how the legislation took root in workplaces, was promoted in policies and applied in the courts.

The great success of the legislation has been to help change the culture towards whistleblowing.  I think it was able to do this because it protects concerns raised internally and not just outside, because it applies to all workplaces in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and because – as much by accident as design – workers, employers, unions, auditors, lawyers, regulators, professional bodies, the courts, the media and Parliament all have competing roles and stakes in making it work.

But the legislation is far from perfect. I regret that PIDA’s provisions on gagging clauses and official secrecy have not yet been properly tested and I still wonder whether it was a mistake to omit Tony Wright’s suggestion that whistleblowing cases should be heard not by an employment tribunal but a specialist PIDA one. Had PIDA fulfilled my hopes and expectations, it would have done much more to enable the alarm to be sounded effectively on the coming financial crisis a decade ago.  And in the wondrous NHS – even though a thousand whistles are successfully blown on patient safety issues every hour – work still needs to be done to reassure staff that there is an open, accountable culture and to give those in authority the confidence to address genuine concerns.

As to the charity, now known as Protect, many congratulations on your 25th birthday.  I trust that you will never lose sight of your public interest bias; I hope that you will champion alternatives to anonymity whenever people speak up; and I pray that – whatever brickbats it may bring – you have the strength to continue to be a self-funding charity.


 

Whistleblowing charity Protect – which turns 25 this month – have paid tribute to whistleblowers who made a difference by speaking out about wrongdoing with an exhibition at The Guardian.

The Protect 25th exhibition, ‘Whistleblowers and their impact on Society’ featured photographs and stories from whistleblowers from all sectors.

Protect Chief Executive Francesca West said, “We all owe so much to whistleblowers and this collaborative exhibition featuring commissioned photographs from the Guardian highlights the hugely important role they play in society.”

The charity is reflecting on its work over the past 25 years and will be analysing the whistleblowing law, PIDA, (Public Interest Disclosure Act) and the recognised need for reform, as well as sharing sector specific research throughout the charity’s anniversary month.

Read the Guardian article promoting our exhibition, ‘I had a moral duty’: whistleblowers on why I spoke up

The Protect 25th exhibition, ‘Whistleblowers and their impact on Society’ at The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, King’s Cross, London, (in the foyer area,) took place between October 15-27.