Whistleblowing has been at the centre of a number of news stories in 2012-2013, inquiries (both parliamentary and judicial) and scandals such as the child abuse allegations surrounding the Jimmy Savile affair, the re-opening of the Waterhouse Inquiry, and the LIBOR scandal. Additionally, reports of the Leveson and Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Inquiries considered organisational culture and whistleblowing. A picture emerged within the UK that workers who are often the eyes and ears of an organisation are too scared to speak up or dissuaded from raising concerns because of a sense that nothing will be done.
Internationally the UK is viewed as a best practice example for providing legislative protection to workers in the form of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (inserted into the Employment Rights Act) which provides comprehensive protection for employees and workers of all sectors who raise concerns about wrongdoing or malpractice internally, externally to regulators, police, MPs and even to the media. Public Concern at Work has been instrumental in the drafting of the law and is the only organisation in the UK that monitors the law. We identified a number of loopholes in the law (i.e. scope of workers and gagging clauses) which put the case forward for a review of the law.
Moreover, through the Public Concern at Work advice line and the experience of callers, there was a growing recognition that whistleblowing is vital in the regulatory framework for identifying serious risks in many areas such as public safety, patient safety, the abuse of the vulnerable and in uncovering financial wrongdoing. Yet the way in which regulatory bodies or authorities deal with whistleblowing concerns had not been explored or examined. From our experience working with individuals and organisations, we considered that it was not enough to solely consider the individual’s situation and for whistleblowing to be embedded in our culture and for a sense that it is safe to speak up early and loudly, we needed to understand what more can be done by Government, employers and regulators.
As a result, Public Concern at Work set up the Whistleblowing Commission in February 2013 to examine the existing arrangements for workplace whistleblowing and make recommendations for change.
The Commission sought evidence through a public consultation process for which PCaW provided the secretariat. The Commission gathered evidence about the following areas:
Attitudes to Whistleblowing From individuals, organisations and wider society
Law And Policy Is it adequate and effective?
Regulators Should they be doing more?
Rewards How can whistleblowing be incentivised
Tribunals Are they protecting whistleblowers and society at large?
PCaW collated all responses and worked with the Whistleblowing Commission members to draft a report. There was also an evidence gathering stage that took place, which will include a survey of UK business with EY, research with the University of Greenwich into 1,000 cases from Public Concern at Work's advice line, research into financial services and a YouGov survey.
The final report and the sources of evidence relied upon can be found here.
|24 January||First meeting of members|
|January/January||Finalising public consultation questions and explanatory notes|
|End February 2013||Second meeting of members|
|27 March 2013||Launch of the consultation|
|21 June 2013||Consultation ends|
|June/July 2013||PCaW collates all results|
|July 2013||Commissioners meet to discuss results|
|Autumn 2013||Commissioners consider report and finalise|
|End 2013||Report published|