GUIDANCE FOR PRESCRIBED PERSONS
Sometimes a whistleblower may not feel able to raise their concerns with their employer, they may fear being ignored or victimised, or they may have already raised concerns which have not been dealt with. Whistleblowing doesn’t work unless concerned workers can approach organisations outside of their employers. Regulators have a vital role in this framework in holding public and private sector bodies to account and ensuring best practice in the areas for which they are responsible. Prescribed persons are regulators or professional bodies who are prescribed by the Government to hear concerns and who are deemed responsible for certain sectors/industries and/or issues.
This website provides an overview for our Annual Whistleblowing Reports: A Best Practice Guide.
What is a Prescribed Person?
Under UK whistleblowing legislation, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), a prescribed person is an individual or organisation which usually has an authoritative relationship over organisations, industries or individual workers, such as regulators and professional bodies.
The Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014 sets out the list of organisations and individuals who are prescribed persons that a worker may approach outside of their workplace to report wrongdoing, risk or malpractice. An up-to-date list of prescribed persons can be found here.
Prescribed persons provide workers with a mechanism to make their whistleblowing disclosure to an independent body where the worker does not feel able to disclose directly to their employer, or as a route of escalation where the workers feel their concerns have been ignored or no action has been taken by the employer.
Prescribed persons play a major role in whistleblowing processes. The ability to blow the whistle to prescribed persons provides workers with a safer alternative to making a wider disclosure, i.e. to the media or to a non-prescribed regulator, as there are fewer tests to satisfy to qualify for legal protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Prescribed persons also provide organisations with a safer alternative to silence, as they provide another channel for concerns to be raised and, with investigatory and regulatory powers, prescribed persons are well-placed to act on the information that has been disclosed to them.
Not all regulators or professional bodies are prescribed, we encourage all to apply to be prescribed via BEIS. Here is a summary of arguments for why regulators and professional bodies should apply for this legal status:
What are the advantages of being a Prescribed Person?
What are the advantages for whistleblowers approaching Prescribed Persons?
What are the duties of a Prescribed Person?
In a bid to make prescribed persons more transparent when dealing with whistleblowers and their concerns, in 2017 the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) introduced a reporting duty on the UK’s statutory regulators. This duty makes it compulsory to publish an annual report in relation to the number of whistleblowing disclosures they have received, action they have taken as a result and how this has impacted their own regulatory work. Those exempt from the reporting requirement are auditors appointed to audit the accounts of small authorities, MPs and Ministers of the Crown.
The reporting period runs 1 April to 31 March with the reporting period beginning 1 April 2017. The report can be a standalone report or incorporated within an annual report. The report must be published on the Prescribed Person’s website within 6 months of the end of the reporting period, or “in such other manner as the body considers appropriate for bringing the report to the attention of the public”.
The reporting duties are listed in the Prescribed Persons (Reports on Disclosures of Information) Regulations 2017. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) states the aim of the duty as being:
“[T]o increase transparency in the way that whistleblowing disclosures are dealt with and to raise confidence among whistleblowers that their disclosures are taken seriously. Producing reports highlighting the number of protected disclosures received and how they were taken forward will go some way to assure individuals who blow the whistle that action is taken in respect of their disclosures.”
What are Prescribed Persons under a duty to provide in the report?
What is not included in the duties?
What makes a good Prescribed Person whistleblowing report?
Whilst the duty to report has increased transparency, there is still inconsistency in the approach to the reporting duty. At Protect, we believe that standards matter. We have created this guide to assist prescribed persons in their reporting duties in the hope to create greater consistency.
DOs for effective Prescribed Person reporting:
Conclusions from 4 years' of data
Read our blog from legal adviser, Phoebe Mather, looking at 4 years’ worth of prescribed person data and the conclusions we can (and cannot) draw from this.
In April 2020, we published our Guide, “Principles for Recommended Practice: Better Regulators”. The Guide was created from research obtained in a series of round table discussions with regulators and professional bodies to give guidance on best practice and top principles to use when handling a whistleblower.
This is a guide aimed at regulators. If you are a whistleblower looking for advice on raising concerns with a regulator, see our advice pages here.