Protect research finds a lack of consistency in how regulators deal with whistleblowers who approach them with concerns
Protect has produced a best practice guide for regulators, based on their review of reports made by Prescribed Persons, regulators who are legally required to publish annual reports on the number of whistleblowing disclosures made to them and the action taken in response to these concerns.
The findings from four years of reports show:
- Too many regulators provide scant information, or no information at all on the regulatory action they take from whistleblowing concerns raised with them as a regulator
- The reporting duty on regulators is implemented in a patchy and inconsistent manner
- Over the 4 years of the reporting period, the number of concerns reported on has almost tripled, going from over 18,760 in 2017/18 to 52,360 in 2020/21.
Protect Policy and Parliamentary Officer, and author of the report, Rhiannon Plimmer-Craig said
“The aim of the reporting duty, introduced 5 years ago, was to increase confidence among whistleblowers and the public that action is taken when concerns are raised. This aim will not be achieved while some regulators provide little or no detail on the actions that they take. Too many whistleblowers tell us that they receive no feedback when they raise concerns with regulators, and fear that no action is taken.
“While the requirement to produce reports aids transparency, we were disappointed by the inconsistent and patchy approach to publishing this information. The best reports were standalone reports with room for detailed analysis and commentary on trends. Some reports, however, were very brief comments slotted into annual reports.
“We have published this guide to highlight examples of best practice which we hope will improve future publications under the reporting duty. There is an opportunity here for regulators to explain to whistleblowers the importance that they attach to concerns raised with them, and the diligence with which they investigate concerns.
“However, the Government needs to address the lack of enforcement around the reporting duty and require all regulators to report not just on the numbers, but also on the impact whistleblowers have had on their enforcement work.”
Notes to editors:
- Protect is the UK’s whistleblowing charity. We support around 3000 whistleblowers a year by providing free and confidential legal advice and we support employers to implement effective whistleblowing arrangements. We campaign for legal and policy reform to better protect whistleblowing.
- Protect have published a guide for prescribed persons which provides examples of good reporting practice from our research on the reporting duty.
- Over the 4 years of the reporting period, the number of concerns reported on has almost tripled from 18,760 reports received in the period 2017-18 compared to the last complete reporting period 2020-21 which had 52,360 reports.
- 27 out of 69 Prescribed Persons comply with the reporting duty by publishing in their annual report.
- Since 2017, regulators and professional bodies that are prescribed under the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014 (auditors appointed to audit accounts of small authorities, MPs, and Ministers of the Crown are exempt), are required to publish an annual report in relation to the number of whistleblowing disclosures they have received, the action they have taken as a result of these disclosures, and how these disclosures have impacted their regulatory work. See here for a list of Prescribed Persons.
- The reporting period runs from 1 April to 31 March. Protect have reviewed the reports of prescribed bodies from 2017 to the latest reporting period 2021-22, taking inspiration from the various ways prescribed persons have approached this duty to determine what makes a good report.
- For more details contact: Rhiannon Plimmer-Craig, Policy and Parliamentary Officer (Rhiannon@protect-advice.org.uk) and Andrew Pepper-Parsons, Head of Policy (firstname.lastname@example.org)