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Our Better Regulator – Professional Bodies Roundtable took place today (September 23) at CISI (Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment) and was well attended by delegates from a diverse range of professional bodies.

Rebecca Aston, Head of Professional Standards at CISI, opened the roundtable which was chaired by Protect’s Head of Policy, Andrew Pepper-Parsons, who led a lively discussion and debate.  Delegates shared their experiences of whistleblowing procedures, challenges encountered, and what would improve processes.

Delegates discussed what could be done if whistleblowing concerns are ignored or there is a failure to deal with them, and whether the Prescribed Regulator reporting duty should be rolled out to all professional bodies.

Thank you to all delegates for attending and being such engaged and open delegates, and special thanks to Rebecca Aston at CISI for hosting the event.

Protect hope to summarise and share a summary/guidance from this and our Prescribed Regulator roundtable held in April.

 


Blacklisting is when someone, (or group of individuals) is seen by an organisation as a person (or group) who cannot be trusted or who have done something wrong. A blacklist can list people to be discriminated against, refused employment, or censored.

In employment terms, blacklisting refers to denying people employment for either political reasons (due to actual or suspected political affiliation), due to a history of trade union activity, or due to a history of whistleblowing, for example on safety or corruption issues.

The construction blacklisting scandal in 2009 uncovered a list of more than 3,000 workers who were considered to pose a risk to their employers if employed within the construction industry. The Information Commissioners Office conducted an investigation and raid of an organization called The Consulting Association. Trade union Unite claim that ten years on, blacklisting still exists in the construction sector.

The issue: Some of the most harmful victimisation can occur when a whistleblower has left their place of work, but finds out through references, emails, word of mouth or a more formal blacklist, that their reputation has been damaged. This can lead to the whistleblower struggling to find work, or in the worst cases, they find their career has been destroyed.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) 1998 provides a remedy against those organisations or managers who write the reference or use a blacklist to damage the worker, but provides no legal action against a perspective employer who denies a job opportunity to a whistleblower because they become aware of the whistleblower raising concerns in a previous job role.

The problem is PIDA does not see job applicants (those applying, interviewing or providing references for a job role) as ‘workers’, and the law only recognises those formally appointed to a position. The only exception to this is NHS job applicants who are who protected under PIDA from job application and beyond.


Protect are proud to partner with law firm Howard Kennedy to further the careers of two trainee solicitors who will be supporting whistleblowers.

Senior Protect Adviser and trainee solicitor, Hari Raithatha, joins the employment team at Howard Kennedy for three months to complete his training, whilst Protect welcomes Diarra Brown, a second-year Howard Kennedy trainee solicitor for a three-month secondment.

“We are delighted that our trainee solicitor, Diarra Brown, is carrying out a secondment with Protect. Whistleblowing is one of the most dynamic areas of employment law and Protect is at the cutting edge in developing best practice in this area, so it’s a great opportunity for Diarra to gain exposure to their work.

“We are also very pleased to welcome Hari Raithatha, a trainee solicitor at Protect, to carry out a secondment with our Employment team, gaining experience of the full range of employment law practice” said a spokesperson for the Howard Kennedy  employment team.

Diarra will be providing independent and confidential advice on the Protect advice line as well as supporting Protect’s Business Support team delivering training to clients and assisting with policy work including including helping to facilitate discussion with industry sectors.

Protect Legal Officer, Liz Gardiner said, “Diarra has already fitted in with the Protect team very well, and proving herself to be an invaluable team member. We hope she enjoys her time with us and learns a lot around whistleblowing best practice.”

 

Diarra, centre, with the Protect advice team.

 

 


The Whistleblowing International Network  (WIN) brought together experts from across the world to share best practice at its first annual conference in Glasgow this September.  Delegates, including Protect, heard some amazing case studies of how civil society groups can support whistleblowers and address very serious concerns.  

The Government Accountancy Project (GAP) in the US supported doctors raising concerns about foreseeable harm from the detention of immigrants, pulling together an alliance of human rights and medical supporters and advocating for reform in the press and Congress. Transparency International in Ireland supported police officers raising concerns about corruption in the transport police (many people were phoning police friends requesting penalty points to be removed, including those penalised for drink driving or driving without a license).  The uncovering of corruption led to the departure of the Chief of Police and to major changes in police oversight.

In Serbia, Pistaljka combined journalism with legal expertise to support a doctor who raised concerns that funeral directors were appearing at family homes in advance of the emergency services, and that resuscitation of some seriously ill people wasn’t happening because the funeral directors had bribed the emergency services.  After years of denial and threats to the doctor, he has eventually been vindicated and is honoured as a hero in his country.

Those involved in lobbying for the EU whistleblowing directive explained their experience – how an alliance of trade unions and NGOs – not used to working so closely – came together, with the necessary support from generous funding bodies, to deliver what seemed initially impossible. Tom Devine of GAP described the successful passage of the directive as the “happiest battle in 40 years” of campaigning for whistleblowing change. Luxleaks whistleblower Antoine Deltour joined us by video link and explained the Luxleaks experience.  Former MEP Virginie Roziere explained how important his case was to the language in the final directive – the opportune timing of the case meant Parliamentarians could ask “would this have protected Antoine?”.

Delegates were also warned that there is more to do – getting laws in place is a necessary but not sufficient condition for good whistleblowing practice and transposing the EU directive (rolling out the EU Directive into law) now needs 27 (or 28!) effective campaigns across each member state to ensure that best practice, not a minimum standard, is implemented.

Break out groups  – including one led by Protect’s own Cathy James – discussed advice services and shared their frustration about the lack of legal support available to those who want to bring claims. Whistleblowers need not just legal support, but also a wide range of other support – as the impact on family, finances, health and wellbeing should not be underestimated.  Those who are working with employers – as Protect does – have developed new models.  In Slovakia, private sector employers pledge their support not just to best practice, but also to help public sector whistleblowers get back into work through job coaching and offering interviews.  This model was developed because employers listened to whistleblowers about their needs.  Working with employers was seen as vital work – though not without its challenges, asavoiding any conflicts of interest is critical.

A session on working with journalists heard from Nigeria’s Corruption Anonymous which brings together journalists and civil society groups and provides a platform for whistleblowers.  Journalists agree to work together on investigating stories rather than compete for publication.  The collective approach can also protect journalists from retaliation, with the byline being the coalition – not the individual.  Other groups were educating journalists on the use of encrypted technology to better protect their sources.  We learnt about Globaleaks –  a platform of digital drop boxes being used across the world – which allows the uploading of information anonymously via the Torr network –  but with the possibility of going back to the whistleblower for further questions during an investigation.  Mostly this is used to link journalists and whistleblowers, but at least one civil society group that supports whistleblowers receives information through this network.

Across the world, how we report whistleblowing, encourage employers and support the whistleblower is changing.  Technology doesn’t offer all the answers, and too many whistleblowers still suffer appalling detriment when speaking out.  But sharing the lessons and celebrating good practice made the WIN conference uplifting and inspiring.

By Protect Legal Officer, Liz Gardiner


Our Head of Policy Andrew Pepper-Parsons recently attended a panel debate on Culture and Conduct in Financial Services – SMR, Working Practices and Emerging Cultural Concerns held by the Westminister Business Forum. Andy spoke about the challenge of embedding a better whistleblowing or speak up culture within the financial sector.  He explained to delegates that what is needed is a combination of rules or laws that sanctioned those that didn’t meet certain standards, while at the same time showing organisations the real benefit in taking whistleblowing seriously.  In short, best practice for whistleblowing arrangements needs the back up of the threat of sanctions if not adhered to.

On September 13, Andrew also had the opportunity to speak to the Insurance Internal Audit Group, at their September Quarterly Seminar. Andy introduced Protect’s 360 Benchmark which enables organisations to assess the effectiveness of their whistleblowing arrangements and benchmark their performance against organisations from their own sector. Organisations are increasingly coming under pressure from the law, and regulators to not only have whistleblowing or speak up arrangements in place, but to demonstrate they are working well in practice. The 360 Benchmark enables organisations to make these assessments and is the only whistleblowing tool available that looks at metrics beyond numbers.