PCaW attends Integrity at Work conference

12th October 2017

“Since TI-I first started involving itself in whistleblowing issues at the start of this decade, it's been an organisation we’ve been keen to support and champion. The Integrity at Work programme is really the culmination of supersonic progress that they’ve spearheaded on whistleblowing issues within the Republic of Ireland.

In a journey mirroring that of PCaW’s own: TI-I were instrumental in developing the whistleblowing law in their country; they set up a legal advice centre to support whistleblowers in the workplace; and are now moving into training businesses to make their processes and procedures better. Like PCaW before it, TI-I is focused on making whistleblowing better by improving things on both the employee, and employer, side of the divide.

The Integrity at Work programme is really focused with this last aim in mind, and it’s making great strides forward already. As I learnt at the conference, many large organisations are already involved, as well as the programme having the support of two government departments. Ministers from both of these departments spoke impressively at the event on the absolute importance of a healthy whistleblowing culture, and there was an excellent keynote address from the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly. Support from governmental figures such as these was really encouraging to see and indeed the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan TD, commented: ‘The work of bodies such as Transparency International Ireland is vital for all workers in supporting them in speaking up safely.’

For my own part, I was asked to contribute to a workshop on the development of the Irish law, and to take part in the final panel discussion of the day on what steps industry was taking to encourage and support whistleblowers.

It was fascinating to hear from legal professionals in Ireland on the use of whistleblowing law in their country. The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 is generally seen as an updated, expanded, and refined version of the UK legislation (which clearly inspired it), and in many quarters is held up as the premier employment-law protection for whistleblowers worldwide. Although excellent in principle, what was interesting to discuss, though, was how the law in practice wasn’t always delivering on its promise.

In the final panel discussion it was interesting to hear the approaches of various industries on how they were trying to engender a culture of speaking up within their organisation. I contributed a bit of detail on the introduction of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians in the NHS, and the recent inaugural report into how well this system was working. My hope was that the delegates could take these developments, and then expand, refine and implement them into their own organisations; this following, for me, the real take-away from the event, which was the value of iterative progression inspired by each other.”

By Bob Matheson
PCaW Senior Policy Officer