A UK charity, Protect, has called on the government to adopt new EU whistleblowing legislation or risk UK whistleblowers being left behind with out-of-date legislation.

Under new European legislation, ratified earlier this month in the EU parliament, potential whistleblowers can disclose information either internally to the legal entity concerned or directly to competent national authorities, as well as to relevant EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies.

The law explicitly prohibits reprisals and introduces safeguards to prevent the whistleblower from being suspended, demoted and intimidated. Those assisting whistleblowers, such as facilitators, colleagues, relatives are also protected.

Member states must ensure whistleblowers have access to comprehensive and independent information and advice on available procedures and remedies free-of-charge, as well as legal aid during proceedings. During legal proceedings, those reporting may also receive financial and psychological support.

The charity, Protect, is now urging the government to adopt elements of this new legislation. In particular, it wants the government to:

  • Broaden the whistleblowing protection in the UK to include more people such as volunteers and non-executive directors, self-employed contractors and job applicants
  • Impose a requirement on all organisations with more than 50 employees to introduce internal channels and procedures for whistleblowing, including protecting their confidentiality and providing feedback.  
  • Adopt new provisions to protect whistleblowers from liability allowing people to blow the whistle without fear that their employer will come after them for breach of confidence, defamation, data protection and copyright breaches among others
  • Introduce legal aid for whistleblowers
  • Introduce new standards for regulators

The new law still needs to be approved by EU ministers, after which member states will then have two years to comply with the rules. It becomes law across all EU member states in May 2021.

Jo Seery, of Thompsons Solicitors, commented: “Whistle-blowers play an important role in uncovering unlawful activities which are damaging to the public interest. It is therefore only right that the Government should adopt the EU whistleblowing legislation to ensure that workers and others in the UK have access to the same protection as those in the EU.

"As the Directive itself points out, insufficient protection in one Member State can have a negative effect on others. That will apply whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.”