Monday 9 May 2016 12:01 am

Law fails to offer protection for whistleblowers

The current protections available to whistleblowers in the UK are “inadequate and in need of significant reform”, a report released today.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) was introduced to ensure that whistleblowers would be appropriately compensated if they experience workplace hostility, or are fired after they reveal malpractice in their place of work.

Chief among the criticisms made of existing legislation by NGO Blueprint for Free Speech and the Thomson Reuters Foundation are the lack of penalties for managers who target whistleblowers, and the requirement under the law for whistleblowers to already be experiencing victimisation before they can make use of the PIDA provisions.

They say this places UK employment law below global norms. “This contradicts prevailing international standards, which places the full burden of proof on employers to show any action taken against a worker was not motivated by the person’s whistleblowing”.

Cost is also highlighted. The report claims that whistleblower dismissal cases at Employment Tribunals typically take around 20 months to complete, resulting in median compensation of £17,422.

However, estimated legal costs at a final Employment Tribunal hearing are between £8,000 and £25,000. Individual whistleblowers are paying £250 to file a claim under PIDA, £950 to request a hearing.

The study cited whistleblowing as essential in the fight against corruption. They have recommended the establishment of an independent agency to protect whistleblowers, the creation of disclosure channels and frameworks within larger businesses, and significantly lowering the Employment Tribunal fees.

Workers in the UK who blow the whistle on unethical or unsafe practices in their workplace are protected against retaliation by their managers if there is a public interest in exposing the wrongdoing. Cases of workplace bullying and harassment are not typically covered under the law.