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Advice Line Update – Victimisation of whistleblowers

Protect’s Advice Line is a unique support to whistleblowers across the country, providing legal advice, emotional support and practical guidance for free to those in need.  

However, it also serves another key purpose. It provides incredibly important statistical information on how workers are treated when they raise concerns at work in the UK. 

We record how each whistleblower who has contacted our advice line has been treated when they raised their concern. We detail the response they receive, whether they were thanked and able to continue in their role or whether they experienced negative treatment such as bullying, dismissal or feeling they had no choice but to resign.  

The results of this survey are distressing, highlighting how badly whistleblowers are treated in the UK for speaking up.  

From 2017-2021 68.8% of those who contacted our advice line were victimised for speaking up on a public interest matter in the workplace. Victimised in this context means that the worker was either treated badly at work or lost their job as a result of speaking up.  

In other words, the vast majority of the whistleblowers we talk to are punished simply for doing the right thing, a sobering statistic.  

What’s more, this trend appears to be getting worse. In 2017 67.3% of those who contacted us had been victimised, whereas in 2021 73% had been, the highest level of the past 5 years. Thus far this year it has been worse still, with 78.9% of those who have called us in 2022 having been victimised. Of course, this is a small sample of all whisteblowers in the UK and does not necessarily mean whistleblowers are being treated more negatively in general. However, it does suggest that whistleblowers desperately need support and that employers and the government need to work to set up proper whistleblowing systems and laws to protect them.   

Parliament’s aim when it introduced whistleblowing protection with the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) was to encourage responsible whistleblowing. We know that whistleblowing is a key tool in detecting and deterring fraud, managing risks, ensuring accountability and nurturing a productive, loyal and psychologically safe workforce.  

But when most whistleblowers face victimisation when they do speak up, this is just not working. Employers can put in place processes to prevent this.  

We have just published a very detailed and practical manual going through some of the most innovative practices on this. 

We have also set out clear proposals for exactly how the government can fix whistleblowing law. Our proposals would help make whistleblowing more effective for workers who should be encouraged and properly protected, for the good of organisations and for society as a whole.   

We are best able to help when whistleblowers contact us early. Our free Advice Line number is 020 3117 2520. We are open Mon, Tue, Thurs: 9:30am – 1pm, 2pm – 5:30pm; Wed, Fri: 9:30am – 1pm. Alternatively you can email us or contact us via a webcontact form. Protect is the UK’s leading whistleblowing charity. If you work in the UK and would like advice on your whistleblowing rights or how to raise a whistleblowing concern, contact us.