A report by the International Bar Association and the Government Accountability Project, examines the successes and shortcomings of whistleblower laws in 38 countries.
The report, Are Whistleblowing Laws Working? A Global Study of Whistleblower Protection Litigation,which began in 2018, examines the strength of national laws on paper, compared with consensus international best practice. It found although almost a quarter of the world’s countries – 48 – have a standalone, national whistleblowing law compared to none in 1978, the report found whistleblowers too often found that rights which look impressive on paper, offer minimal protection in practice.
By December 2021, the number of countries with standalone national laws will rise to more than 62, when EU Member States implement the EU Whistleblowing Directive, which guarantees an EU wide standard protection for whistleblowers.
Tom Devine, Government Accountability Project Legal Director, said, “As countries around the world seek to enact new whistleblower laws or update existing ones, it is important to act on lessons learned for turning these rights into reality.”
The report’s core recommendation is to draft laws that reflect global best practices for legislators and regulators, including greater transparency and ongoing review of these laws. It recommends governments prioritise public education to address underlying cultural stigma and ensure those who speak up know their rights.’
The report’s five key recommendations are:
- Countries should publish case decisions online within searchable databases
- Governments should publish reports with consolidated information about the impact of whistleblower laws to benefit society
- Laws should remove economic barriers for whistleblowers challenging retaliation
- All national whistleblower laws should include a periodic review of the laws’ effectiveness
- Bias and discrimination should be addressed through intensive public education and training
Protect Head of Policy, Andrew Pepper-Parsons said,
“This is an important report, and a useful reminder that statute law needs periodic review – in the UK, our law – the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) – is now 23 years old and needs to be updated to reflect the modern workplace. While we agree with many of the report’s recommendations, we urge caution in measuring the success of PIDA in terms of numbers who succeed in tribunals. We want to see reform of the law, to ensure more whistleblowers can assert their legal rights, but the 14% success rate in employment tribunals does not reflect the vast numbers of those who settle their claim before it gets to tribunal.
A far better measure of success is a higher number of employers putting arrangements in place and recognising that treating whistleblowers badly is unlawful.”