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Eversheds comment: UK whistleblowing report a significant step forward in informing the debate

  • United Kingdom

    26-11-2013

    A report highlighting perceived UK deficiencies in whistleblowing protection for employees is due to be published tomorrow, following a Whistleblowing Commission by Public Concern at Work this summer. Commenting, Simon Rice-Birchall, partner at global law firm Eversheds, says:

    "Despite recent changes to UK law, aimed at strengthening legal protection for whistleblowers in the workplace, not one but two reviews in to this area have been undertaken this year. The first to reveal its findings is the Whistleblowing Commission by Public Concern at Work, due out tomorrow, whilst the second, a Call for Evidence by the Government, is not expected to report until next year.

    "So why the continual enquiries and debates on this issue? The simple answer seems to be that, despite specific employment protection for those disclosing perceived wrong-doing on the part of their employer, the law is yet to be as effective as it could be. A fundamental and widely shared concern is that, despite the legal protections introduced in 1999, employees are still too scared to speak up or are dissuaded from doing so due to a sense that nothing will be done. It is too early to tell whether changes to the legislation introduced this June will make significant difference. However, the fact that the Government has issued its own enquiry before those changes are bedded-in suggests an acknowledgement on its part that there is more work to be done.

    "Tomorrow’s Whistleblowing Commission report by PCAW will provide a significant step forwards in informing the debate, providing much-needed feedback from the public at large, as well as employers and others, as to how the current legal protections are perceived to be working. More broadly, the Commission has also canvassed views on a raft of potential options and alternatives, from incentivising disclosures to extending the categories of those currently receiving protection. Responses to the effectiveness (or otherwise ) of the recent changes are also sought.

    "The report, when published, will usefully clarify collective views on these topics from various quarters. For the right balance to be struck between supporting genuine whistleblowing, whilst protecting employers from ill-founded or misguided allegations (which many claim to have experienced under the former law), it is vital that as many as possible engage in the debate. Major break through will even then only occur when the law drives a more holistic approach and whistleblowing is widely viewed as vital component of employment relations."

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