The Government is forging ahead with plans to update the laws that protect whistleblowers in order to better protect those who follow their conscience and report cases of serious wrongdoing. First proposed last year, the recommendations for improvements to the laws around whistleblowing are only now being considered, with a raft of changes being passed through the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
What are the proposed changes to the laws around whistleblowing?
One of the primary changes that has been mooted is the outlawing of NDAs in whistleblowing cases. NDAs (or Non-Disclosure Agreements) effectively gag those who have raised concerns, a practice which the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) and others find restrictive and counter-productive, not least because they prevent any real change by allowing organisations to avoid public scrutiny.
There are a number of reasons an organisation may want to use an NDA, but mostly they act as a quid pro quo, settling with the whistleblower on the condition that they withdraw their complaint, or otherwise bring an end to the matter without it becoming public knowledge. The result of course can be extremely dangerous to the public if action is not taken due to silence.
The other main proposal is the establishing of an independent 'Office for the Whistleblower'. Amongst other things, the key responsibilities of the Office for the Whistleblower will be:
- Providing training around best practice to the public and employers
- Drafting and publishing national guidelines
- Promote public awareness around the positive action that whistleblowing represents
- Commission and release annual research into whistleblowing and its impact.
- Provide better provisions for employers to enable, empower and support whistleblowers
While the Office of the Whistleblower is a proposed entity, Safecall offers a non-biased whistleblowing investigation service that is trusted by employers and employees alike.
Why are these changes being put forward now?
Whistleblowing is an area that has needed attention for a long time, but the road to parliamentary approval can be a long and drawn out one.
Thanks to the general election of December 2019, the UK now has a government with a large majority, making it easier for them to pass laws. The resolution of Brexit is also a likely factor, with more time available to focus on other issues that need resolving before the UK is no longer subject to EU employment laws.
Why is it important to update the laws around whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing is still a contentious subject in some quarters, and, the fact is, many are afraid to come forward because of the detrimental impact that they feel it can have on their life and work. In the past, those employers who have been brave enough to speak out against their employers have reported suffering mental from mental health issues as a result, as well as large legal fees and damage to their careers and professional reputation. In fact, 75per cent of whistleblowers say that they have been the victim of bullying and discrimination in the form of suspensions, wage cuts, and even unfair dismissal. All of which goes to show exactly why these changes to the law are so important. Blowing the whistle is vital when it comes to keeping companies and institutions operating to the highest standard possible and keeping the public safe, and better protection for those with the bravery to stand up is overdue.
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