In response to a steady flow of scandals and allegations of ‘gagging’ across the public and private sectors, the Whistleblowing Commission yesterday published its long-awaited report, which carried out an in-depth review of whistleblowing policies and practices. The Commission, set up by the charity Public Concern at Work, has recommended 25 measures to tackle what it describes as a “culture of silence”.
The Commission’s report concluded that the legislation currently in place is not working. The key recommendation is that a new code of practice should be introduced to strengthen the whistleblowing framework in the UK and to ensure that whistleblowers are given the confidence to speak out openly without fear of reprisals. The report suggests that the code should be adopted in all UK workplaces, and include guidance for employers, their workers and representatives on how to deal effectively with any whistleblowing issues that may arise in the workplace. Other recommendations include:
• a requirement for Regulators to encourage adoption of the Code by those they regulate,
• the introduction of specific provisions against the blacklisting of whistleblowers,
• strengthening anti-gagging provisions, and
• specialist training for employment tribunals on handling whistleblowing claims.
The Commission recommended that a failure to follow the code should not, in itself, make a person or organisation liable to proceedings, however courts and tribunals should consider the Code and take into account failure to follow it, when considering allegations of whistleblowing.
The report went on to say that the remedies in the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA), which was introduced 15 years ago to provide a remedy for workers dismissed or victimised for whistleblowing by their employer, should be strengthened, clarified and extended to cover a broader scope of workers, including doctors, social workers, volunteers and interns.