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Reform 2 – Legal standards on employers

A Legal duty on all employers

The issue

The UK whistleblowing law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, is silent on the standards expected from employers on what they should have in place to deal with whistleblowing.

There is no obligation (outside of certain regulated sectors such as health and financial services) for employers to even have a whistleblowing policy, let alone a whistleblowing support system to investigate concerns, train staff in handing and managing concerns, or preventing whistleblower victimisation. There are no sanctions or fines for employers who ignore a concern, poorly investigate a concern, or victimise a whistleblower.

Too many whistleblowers are being ignored or victimised – Protect research shows 41% of whistleblowers raising concerns related to Covid-19 were ignored by their employer.

There is no shortage of public scandals and disasters that illustrate the dangers of ignoring whistleblowers who tried to raise genuine, public interest concerns: Wuhan and Covid-19, Grenfell Tower, and sexual exploitation in the international aid sector.

What Protect say:

A legal standard, or duty, on employers to introduce legally compliant processes will make employers pay close and serious attention to whistleblowing. It will also create cultural change for the better within the workplace that can affect us all.

Our draft bill would impose legal duties on employers with 50 or more employees to introduce internal whistleblowing arrangements. This includes not only having a whistleblowing policy, but proactively taking steps to prevent victimisation of those who raise concerns, and providing training to staff and managers.

Employers who fail to comply with these standards or legal duty could be fined or sanctioned by the Whistleblowing Commission (a new statutory body created by Protect’s draft bill).

Employer must have internal reporting channels

Employers must have a senior responsible person

Employer must protect confidentiality

Employer must prevent victimisation

Employer must feedback

Employer must provide training