A leading employment lawyer has urged the government to strengthen legislation aimed at protecting whistleblowers.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is currently consulting on potential changes to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. This is in response to recent scandals such as the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, where a culture of fear deterred whistleblowers from exposing unacceptable levels of patient care and above average rates of mortality. BIS is expected to publish its findings later this month, however Arpita Dutt – a partner at niche City employment law specialist BDBF a – believes the government must unveil major reform of current legislation to ensure better protection.
“Significant strides forward have been made over the past decade to encourage whistleblowing, particularly in the public sector and City institutions,” said Ms Dutt. “However, it’s clear that the current legislation simply isn’t fit for purpose because it continues to provide inadequate protection for people brave enough to blow the whistle. At present, whistleblowers are still treated as pariahs and can have their own reputations unjustly smeared because of their actions. This is clearly unacceptable. Whistleblowers often complain to me of the lack of leadership and accountability for wrongdoing or any impetus for change, even when they win their claims. They are fed up with losing their livelihoods whilst wrongdoers are promoted and lessons fail to be learned”
“What I am calling for is a harmonisation and improvement of whistle blowing legislation that gives it an equal footing with other protections such as the protection from unlawful discrimination on grounds of race, sex or age. Workers in all walks of life need to be protected from stigma and having their future job prospects destroyed due to whistle blowing. At present they are not.It’s encouraging that BIS has undertaken this consultation, but what I fear is a missed opportunity and that we will end up with a soft code of practice and some guidance notes that clearly fail to offer the protection that is necessary to embed a positive culture of whistleblowing.”