For the last 20 years, the UK has had in place statutory employment protection for those raising whistleblowing concerns within the workplace – under the whistleblowing law, PIDA (Public Interest Disclosure Act). It is hard to imagine that before this, a worker speaking up in the public interest could not be guaranteed the support of the law.
Nevertheless, compared to other European countries, the UK was well ahead of the curve.
Many countries within the EU still have no legal protection for whistleblowers and for those that do, this protection is relatively new. This is why the proposed new EU Directive on whistleblowing – which enforce all EU countries to introduce minimum measures – is so exciting.
Protect Head of Advice and Advocacy, Bob Matheson, attended the launch event at the European Parliament this month.
He said, “This is a massive achievement for all those involved in driving forward this cause; just months ago the European Commission appeared to be sending strong signals that there wouldn’t be any legislating at all in this area. The Directive isn’t exactly what we would hope to see, but it’s a big improvement on what we were expecting.”
As the UK’s relationship with the EU changes, it may not be that the Directive will be directly applicable to our law, but it is still likely to have a big effect and create problems.
Firstly, while the workforce increasingly operates in a global market, without across-the-board protection, some whistleblowers will end up falling through the cracks between protection across different countries.
Secondly, this Directive gives us a strong platform on which to campaign for developments to our own law. The UK government has undoubtedly become complacent given the low levels of protection available across its neighbours; this is a real wake-up call, though, as to the areas our own law needs to improve in order to be effective.
Protect will certainly be lobbying for further tweaks to the Directive as well as our campaign for a review of PIDA.