The review follows an announcement in March 2021 that a review of whistle-blower protection would take place following data published by whistleblowing advice service Protect which showed that one in four COVID-19 whistle-blowers who contacted its advice line were dismissed.
Whistleblowing refers to when a worker makes a disclosure of information which they reasonably believe shows wrongdoing or someone concealing wrongdoing. Types of wrongdoing include:
- criminal offences;
- the endangerment of health and safety;
- causing damage to the environment;
- a miscarriage of justice; or
- a breach of any legal obligation.
Workers who whistle blow are entitled to protections, which were introduced through the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) (amending the Employment Rights Act 1996). These include protection from detriment or dismissal as a result of blowing the whistle, and a route of compensation through the Employment Tribunals if these protections are breached. To qualify for protection the worker usually has to have made the disclosure to their employer, legal adviser or a prescribed person.
Since the introduction of PIDA, successive governments have taken steps to strengthen whistleblowing policy and practice. By way of example, in 2017, the government introduced a new requirement on prescribed persons to report on the whistleblowing disclosures received.
More recently, there have been calls for reform to the whistleblowing framework, and several ideas have been put forward to expand the framework and reorganise responsibilities for whistleblowing.
The review will seek evidence from whistle-blowers, key charities, employers and regulators on the effectiveness of the current regime in meeting its original objectives. These were:
- providing a route for workers to make disclosures;
- protecting those who do so; and
- supporting wider cultural change to recognise the benefits of whistleblowing.
The core research questions are:
- How has the whistleblowing framework facilitated disclosures?
- How has the whistleblowing framework protected workers?
- Is whistleblowing information available and accessible for workers, employers, prescribed persons and others?
- What have been the wider benefits and impacts of the whistleblowing framework, on employers, prescribed persons and others?
- What does best practice look like in responding to disclosures?
The review will also examine evidence on the definition of worker for whistleblowing purposes. It will not gather evidence on reporting channels and protections where there is no workplace relationship, for example, in business transactions, journalists, witnesses or third parties.
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