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Let’s Fix UK Whistleblowing Law webinar: The haves & have nots

Protect hosted a second webinar as part of our ongoing campaign, ‘Let’s Fix UK Whistleblowing Law’ – discussing why Non-Executive Directors, volunteers, job applicants and the self-employed should be protected by UK whistleblowing law.

‘Whistleblowing in the workplace – the haves and have nots’ welcomed keynote speaker Claire Gilham, District Judge and whistleblower whose landmark Supreme Court case (Ministry of Justice v Gilham) successfully achieved whistleblower rights for judges. She was joined by Louis Cooper, CE, Non-Executive Directors Association (NEDA), Lorraine Laryea, Recruitment Standards Director, Recruitment and Employment Confederation, and David Ainsworth, Third Sector writer and consultant.

The webinar began with each of the panelists explaining why whistleblowing and protection is important in their respective fields including an introduction from keynote speaker Claire Gilham, detailing her experience as a whistleblower in the district courts. She gave a powerful and thought-provoking speech, reminding us that “people will not speak out if they cannot change what is happening and incur risk if they do.”

The attendees asked thoughtful questions about the panelists’ experience and how they thought a possible new whistleblowing law would be accepted in the workplace. Claire Gilham noted that, “Policies alone in my experience don’t do anything if they sit on a shelf. I called on grievance and bullying policies. What’s needed is someone to take it up and drive it through with commitment to resolve the issues. I don’t see any evidence of those processes being there yet”.

The majority of the conversation centered around improving the culture within the workplace to be better suited to welcome whistleblowing and whistleblowing measures. David Ainsworth noted that “the law is a catalyst, not a cure”, explaining that a high-profile legal change would put whistleblowing on people’s minds, but educating and a change in attitude within the culture will truly make a difference.  He suggested that whistleblowing reform should be seen as akin to the GDPR changes – which were top of all employers’ priorities when introduced.  Lorraine Laryea agreed with this, stating that the law provides the structure, but providing information is a vital part of the process.  .

Each of the panelists agreed that in order to truly make whistleblowing part of the culture in the workplace, each person has to be educated and have a process in place already, instead of waiting for the problem to arise. Louis Cooper added that non-executive directors play a large role in this,  – they may have concerns themselves, but they may also be the people with whom employees raise concerns..

The event raised important questions about the place of whistleblowing in the workplace culture as well as the hesitancy of government to  change whistleblowing law. Protect’s view is that everyone in the workplace should have the benefit of whistleblowing protection.

We launched a poll after the panelists had spoken to gauge the audience’s reactions. We are very pleased that an overwhelming 97% of respondents answered YES to the question “Having listened to today’s discussion, do you support the law being extended?”

Our next webinar planned for September will focus on our second key reform: minimum legal standards for employers.

Remember you can support Protect’s campaign by writing to your MP using our template letter (here) asking them to support our campaign.

A full recording of the webinar can be found here.

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