In April 2022, MP Mary Robinson introduced a new Whistleblowing Bill to parliament. This new Bill proposes to repeal the UK’s existing Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) and instead, establish an independent Office of the Whistleblower to protect whistleblowers and ensure their safety. This independent body would set, monitor and enforce standards for the management of whistleblowing cases. It would also provide support and advisory services to potential whistleblowers, as well as create offences relating to the treatment of whistleblowers.
Whilst the PIDA has been protecting individuals who make certain disclosures of information in the public interest for many years now, many agree that the Government needs to review and update the existing UK whistleblowing law. In fact, UK whistleblowing charity; Protect, has launched a new campaign this year. This campaign calls on civil society to help reform the PIDA and fix the current UK whistleblowing law.
If you are considering blowing the whistle and you are interested in learning more about whistleblowing legislation, below we have touched upon what protection the current law provides and what changes charities like Protect are keen to implement.
Existing whistleblowing legislation
The PIDA protects whistleblowers from negative and unfair treatment or dismissal for voicing their concerns and reporting certain types of wrongdoing. Under this piece of legislation, employees and ‘workers’ are protected. This legislation made substantial amendments to the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) to better ensure the protection of workers following several high profile whistleblowing cases. The PIDA provides legal remedy to whistleblowers and most notably, it makes it automatically unfair for employers to dismiss an employee because they have disclosed information in the public interest.
In some circumstances, whistleblowers can bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal and they can be awarded compensation for the detrimental treatment they experienced after blowing the whistle. Similarly, they can also receive compensation if they were unfairly dismissed for being a whistleblower. The amount of compensation a whistleblowing claim generates will be dependent on a number of factors, including the level of sufferance experienced. However, it is important to note that there is no fixed amount to any whistleblowing claim and there is not a financial cap restricting the amount an Employment Tribunal can award.
You can find a definition of the term ‘worker’ under Section 43K of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) and this is a much wider category than ‘employee’. Unlike other employment law claims, there is no service period required to make a whistleblowing claim either and you will be protected from the moment you begin working for an employer. There are time limits for whistleblowing claims though and all claims need to be submitted to an Employment Tribunal within three months of the date that the subject of the complaint occurred.
What changes do people want to make to whistleblowing legislation?
One of the main reasons why whistleblowing charities, Members of Parliament and employment law specialists alike want to update the UK whistleblowing law is because it does not cover everyone. For example, the legislation does not protect the interest of self-employed workers. So, if they found themselves in a situation where they felt morally obligated to blow the whistle and they experienced detrimental treatment for doing so, they would not be protected. Unfortunately, volunteers and misidentified whistleblowers are not protected either, and there is a lot of legal grey area involved in some circumstances. For this reason, speaking to an employment law specialist is key if you do not fall under the definition of ‘worker’ within the ERA.
Another concern that employment lawyers have about the current whistleblowing legislation is that many employers often attempt to quash a claim by stating that it was not made in ‘good faith’. In order for disclosure to be considered protected disclosure in the eyes of the law and benefit from whistleblowing protection, the disclosure must be made in good faith. This means, there was not an ulterior motive, such as a grudge against the employer. Whilst the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 ensures that a claim will no longer fail if an Employment Tribunal finds that the disclosure has not been made in good faith, the compensation awarded can be reduced by up to 25%. This means that all whistleblowers have to consider how their claim will be viewed before they begin blowing the whistle and this can sometimes prevent them from disclosing information that is actually in the public interest.
The future of whistleblowing
Whilst there is no guarantee that changes will be made to the current whistleblowing law, it is likely that people will continue to campaign for the legislation to be reformed. Many are in agreement that anyone who blows the whistle needs protection and it is crucial that people do not hesitate to disclose information about wrongdoing in the workplace. Should people be apprehensive about the consequences of blowing the whistle there is a risk that things such as; criminal offences, miscarriages of justice, covering up wrongdoing and health and safety dangers will be overlooked. Employees need to feel confident in the fact that they will be protected if they make the decision to be a whistleblower.
Speaking to a whistleblowing solicitor in London
Should you have any questions about whistleblowing legislation and you would like to speak to an experienced whistleblowing solicitor in London, please do not hesitate to contact Damian McCarthy. Whether you just need specialist legal advice or you are looking for representation, you can guarantee that you will be in very capable hands with Damian. Not only does Damian have over two decades of experience working as an employment law advocate on complex cases, but he has even acted as a whistleblower himself and exposed corruption at the highest levels of the legal profession.
Over the years, Damian has worked on high profile employment law cases and his clients include companies, local authorities, trade unions and individual claimants. Damian has a great rapport with his clients and his main concern is always his client’s best interests. To discuss your whistleblowing employment law issue with someone who has the same knowledge and experience as a whistleblowing solicitor in London, feel free to get in touch with Damian for a free, confidential and no-obligation discussion today.