Following a call for evidence last year on the effectiveness of the whistleblowing legislation, the government published its response last week.
It has decided to make a number of recommendations, as follows:
- to introduce improved guidance for individuals giving information on how to blow the whistle, examples on method and categories of disclosure and clarifying issues such as the invalidity of gagging clauses
- to introduce a new best practice guide on whistleblowing policies, including a model whistleblowing policy which businesses can adopt
- to assess the effectiveness of the current whistleblowing ET1 referral system in order to establish whether any improvements need to be made
to introduce a duty on prescribed persons to report annually on cases referred to them, including a duty to report on the number of disclosures received, the number investigated and the number with whistleblowing policies in place
- to update the prescribed persons list to make sure it is current and stays current by reviewing and updating it annually. This list (to which MPs were added on 6 April 2014) includes organisations or people outside the whistleblower’s company to whom they can report wrongdoing, such as MPs, regulators, and ombudspeople.
- to include relevant groups currently excluded from protection such as student nurses and keep this area under review and consult if further changes are considered necessary
The government decided against introducing financial incentives to encourage whistleblowers to come forward in general, although it has said that it may consider them to improve the support available to people who report wrongdoing in specific organisations or in very specific types of cases.
Iain Birrell at Thompsons Solicitors said: “A reputable study showed recently that the most likely responses to a whistleblower were to formally discipline them (19%) or sack them (15%). The government quite rightly says it wants a culture change but presumably that is why this response is otherwise so muted and does nothing practical to improve the protection given to vulnerable whistleblowers.
“The government doesn't even intend to bring the statute into line with the Supreme Court, even to make it look busy ahead of the election. Since it is unlikely that the 78 consultation respondees suggested a response this half-hearted, it seems that perhaps this was just another wearisome fig leaf consultation after all.”
To read the government’s response in full, go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/323399/bis-14-914-whistleblowing-framework-call-for-evidence-government-response.pdf
To read Thompsons’ response to the government’s call for evidence, click here.