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Suppliers, partners and business associates

Employer suppliers, partners and business associates

The issue:

Imagine you were a driver working for a delivery company. You deliver goods to a business that operates a number of warehouses on the local estate and one day you witness some major healthand safety concerns. You tell your company about this and a few days  later your employment is terminated. What legal rights do you have?

Under the law as it stands, you have a claim under whistleblowing law against your company. But you don’t have a whistleblowing claim against the warehouse business. This is unfair because the warehouse business may have been the one to decide to end your contract or put pressure on your company to dismiss you.

Protect’s bill would give you a clear legal right against the warehouse company for whistleblower victimisation.

Suppliers, partners and employer business associates are currently excluded from PIDA but can be vulnerable to detrimental treatment and/or loss of contract if they blow the whistle. This is particularly the case if the supplier is a sole trader or a small business reliant on a few key contracts with dominant larger companies. Yet these individuals may be aware of patterns and behaviours in a particular employer’s procurement and tendering processes (possibly more so than the employer’s own employees) that demonstrate procurement fraud or price fixing by the employer.

A 2020 study by PwC found procurement fraud accounted for 19% of frauds globally. The lack of rights for suppliers, partners and business associates of the employer impacts on the public interest by limiting the ability for wrongdoing to be raised. The Competition and Markets Authority have recognised the importance of whistleblowers in identifying competition concerns, and in 2019 introduced a reward scheme for information about cartels.

Research and case studies:

Protect says

Suppliers, partners and business associates of an employer can be privy to inside information about an employer’s business practices. Protect’s whistleblowing bill would extend legal protections to suppliers, partners and employer business associates, which would particularly benefit small businesses and sole traders, and encourage the disclosure of large-scale wrongdoing in national and multinational employers.

Some sectors, such as finance and aviation, have properly recognised the role of suppliers, partners and business associates in the whistleblowing process but more needs to be done across all sectors to overcome a reluctance amongst these groups to raise wrongdoing.

Whistleblowing affects us all. Protect’s campaign Let’s Fix UK Whistleblowing Law needs your support. Click the banner below to write to your local MP.