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Protect campaign ‘Let’s Fix UK Whistleblowing Law’ – webinar highlights

Protect’s campaign launched Let’s Fix UK Whistleblowing Law’ with a panel debate chaired by Barrister Mukhtair Singh, and NHS whistleblower Dr Chris Day, Dame Margaret Hodge MP, Kevin Hollinrake MP, and attended by more than 100 delegates.

Let’s Fix UK Whistleblowing Law’, calls on the Government to urgently amend whistleblowing legislation, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, (PIDA) as below:

  • Better protection of more people: many groups of people in workplaces are excluded from whistleblowing legal protection such as volunteers, job applicants and trustees
  • Legal duty for employers: all employers should be required to meet standards for whistleblowing and follow recognised procedures such as investigating whistleblowing concerns. Tougher enforcement against employers is needed for those who fail to listen or who treat whistleblowers badly
  • Better Access to Justice for whistleblowers: changes are needed to reduce the burden whistleblowers face at the employment tribunal to ensure whistleblowers can enforce their legal rights.

Protect Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner, said, “The Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) is now almost 25 years old but what was world leading legislation then is in urgent need of change today. The law is full of loopholes – and we need to change this. We cannot just place the burden on brave individuals to update the law by bringing legal challenges.

“So, we want to see legislation – and our research with YouGov suggests the public do as well. You Gov have found that three quarters of workers surveyed think that it should be a legal requirement that employers investigate whistleblowing concerns.”

Whistleblower Dr Chris Day, familiar to many through his highly publicised battle with the NHS, spoke about how he felt PIDA, though well intentioned, was not enough and he was in favour and most excited about Protect’s proposal of a Whistleblowing Commission to ‘enforce the rules we already have.’

Dame Margaret Hodge, who agreed law reform is needed, said, “The threat to our democracy for corruption goes beyond financial services. Gradually all those pillars of democracy are crumbling (civil service, press, justice..). We’re on the cusp on losing our moral integrity.”

She told the panel as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee she saw the value of whistleblowing and had come across many, many whistleblowers . She explained she is working closely with Protect on the ‘abysmal’ treatment by the UK Government of whistleblower Jonathan Taylor – but added ‘in reality it is very hard for whistleblowers to act in the public interest. The Public Accounts Select Committee ran a session on whistleblowers but no whistleblowers, bar one brave NHS whistleblower wanted to attend.’

Kevin Hollinrake MP, a member of the Whistleblowing APPG, said he welcomed Protect’s campaign, Let’s Fix UK Whistleblowing Law’ and said he thought that there was momentum behind the changes needed.  He was concerned that “We are paying lip service to whistleblowers in this country, not just employers, also regulators.

He said he questioned whether changes were also needed beyond employment law. He also wanted whistleblowers to be fully compensated, and to have discussions around financial incentives.

The panel were asked by delegates whether ‘Government will support these amendments?’ and Kevin Hollinrake MP said he would be keen to have discussions with all those seeking to change the law and that the Business Secretary was committed to reform in this area. Dame Margaret Hodge MP said she felt Protect’s scope and standards is likely to have support; the Commission is an issue to be discussed, but that legal aid change was unlikely to happen.

Both MPs promised to work together on the reform of whistleblowing law.

Click here to see highlights of the webinar.

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