A recent report published by Blueprint for Free Speech and the Thomson Reuters Foundation has found that UK law “does not–and cannot–adequately protect whistleblowers.” The report, entitled “Protecting Whistleblowers in the UK: A New Blueprint,” closely examines the UK’s existing whistleblower protection legislation, specifically PIDA (the Public Interest Disclosure Act), concluding that the law is outdated, “broken”, and in need of several major updates. In addition to outlining PIDA’s shortcomings in terms of protecting whistleblowers in the UK, the report’s authors offer specific solutions to ameliorate the law.
The authors cite twenty key problems with the UK’s whistleblower protection law–and in turn propose solutions for each of those problems. Broken areas of the law include:
- Minimal protection for whistleblowers from workplace retaliation. According to the report, PIDA “does not–and cannot–adequately protect workers from reprisals before they occur, if they report misconduct to managers, regulators, or the public.”
- A lack of government agency dedicated to whistleblower issues. Without a specific agency in place, the government’s accountability to provide support and protection to whistleblowers is limited.
- No financial rewards for whistleblowers. A financial reward system would encourage individuals to come forward, and help compensate those whose disclosures greatly serve the public interest through the “recovery or saving of funds or resources or the fining of guilty parties.”
Proposed reforms include, respectively:
- Establishing a “rapid-response system to protect whistleblowers.” The authors describe a system that would effectively prevent retaliation from the whistleblower’s employer, as well as “restore the worker back to their position if he or she had been fired, demoted, transferred or had their position or status changed against their will.”
- Forming a specialized government agency dedicated to protecting whistleblowers. According to the report, benefits of such an agency or department would include “protect[ing[ workers from retaliation and adverse consequences” and “ensur[ing] that a full range of disclosure channels are safe and reliable.”
- Setting up financial rewards for whistleblowers. Specifically, the report recommends a rewards system that would divide “all fines levied and funds recovered due to whistleblowers’ disclosures” as follows: 50% to the government; 30% to established “Whistleblower Fund”; 20% to whistleblower.
Several of the proposed reforms outlined in the report are based on successful existing policy from around the world; especially worth noting is the tremendous effect that rewards systems for whistleblowers have had on the success of whistleblower protection laws in the United States. The 1986 False Claims Act profoundly improved the state of whistleblower protection in the U.S.—in fact, since its implementation, the Federal Government has recovered over $42 billion thanks to whistleblowers coming forward to expose fraud and corruption.
According to Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center, “these whistleblower reward laws have proven to be an absolutely critical tool in detecting and prosecuting corruption and fraud—thereby saving the U.S. government billions of dollars, in some cases even saving lives.”
You may also view the entire report here.