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New government, new opportunities


As the dust settles on a dramatic election night, thoughts now turn to what a Labour Government will do. With early indications of a planned Employment Bill, and proposals to abolish the qualifying period for unfair dismissal rights and end exploitative zero-hours contracts, it’s clear this government is looking at far reaching reform.

Labour’s commitments on whistleblowing
We were very encouraged to see the Labour Government’s election manifesto included a pledge to strengthening protection for workplace whistleblowing. This may feature in the Employment Bill, promised within their first 100 days, but there is no detail on the bones and there are also talks of a consultation period about many of the proposed employment changes. Will the proposed “Single Enforcement Body” also be introduced in the first 100 days? This aims to bring together a number of existing bodies to be a more powerful regulator of employment rights. We’ll argue that it might be the right way to set and enforce rules and standards on all employers when it comes to internal whistleblowing arrangements.

We believe whistleblowing legal protection needs a major overhaul, to ensure that all workers are protected and that the concerns they raise are investigated and dealt with. Whether it’s the miscarriage of justice faced by postmasters or the slowness of those in charge of the Countess of Chester Hospital to address the concerns raised by staff in relation to Lucy Letby, the whistleblowing system is not working well. We need a law that places a legal duty on employers to investigate whistleblowing when staff raise concerns, extends protection to everyone in the workplace and makes it easier for whistleblowers to succeed at the employment tribunal.

These changes are desperately needed, and we call on the government to include these measures in their proposed Employment bill.  We’ll be looking to the King’s Speech on Wednesday 17th July for details on this.

A backbench bill?
Twenty-five years ago this month, it was a Conservative backbencher who promoted the UK’s first whistleblowing law, and the then new Labour government lent their support. We’re asking  backbenchers who enter the Private Members’ Bill ballot to consider our draft Bill as ready-to-go reforms.

Our bill calls for four key reforms:

  • A day-one duty to inform workers of whistleblowing arrangements
  • A duty to investigate whistleblowing concerns
  • Expanded protections to all those in the workplace, including trade union reps, who may be negatively impacted if they speak up
  • Improved access to justice for whistleblowers.

What else might be included in the King’s Speech?
During the election campaign, Wes Streeting (now Health Secretary) promised to address whistleblowing failures in the NHS, including by banning senior managers who ignore or victimise whistleblowers. Positive change in this area could include a new professional body for managers, or a duty on managers to listen and respond to whistleblower concerns as recommended in the report from the Infected Blood Inquiry .

Standards in public life also featured strongly in the campaign. Labour now has a chance to introduce reforms such as their proposed Ethics and Integrity Commission and introduce an independent adviser to investigate misconduct. Will this body also hear from civil servants concerned about misconduct by government ministers? Whistleblowers are crucial to upholding the rule of law and their role should not be underestimated in the mission to increase accountability and restore trust in public life. We’ll also be watching out to see if a duty of candor is introduced for senior civil servants, as recommended following public inquiries into Hillsborough and the Infected Blood scandal.

Employment law reform may finally be on the legislative agenda and we’ll be seeking every opportunity to improve whistleblowing protections in the UK.

Andrew Pepper-Parsons

Andrew Pepper-Parsons, Director of Policy & Communications

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