The annual event is an opportunity to engage positively with workers.
World whistleblowers day, originally created by a group of non-governmental organisations in 2019, takes place annually on 23 June. Its purpose is to raise global awareness in combatting corruption and to acknowledge the important role whistle blowers play in that. Unfortunately, post-pandemic and #MeToo, the need for effective whistleblowing regimes in the workplace is currently clear to all.
In the UK, it has been 25 years since the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 introduced protections for workers who blow the whistle. In broad terms, the current regime provides protection from dismissal or detriment for workers who blow the whistle, and a right to seek redress via an employment tribunal if needed. The information being provided by the worker must relate to certain types of wrongdoing such as a criminal offence, danger to health and safety or damage to the environment. The information must be disclosed to specified parties such as the employer or a prescribed person or body and must be in the public interest.
At a macro level, this year sees a long-awaited review by the UK Government of the effectiveness of the current regime. Although the review will seek views and evidence from whistleblowers, key charities, employers and regulators, it is a review and not a consultation. It will focus on how the framework has facilitated disclosures and protected workers; whether whistleblowing information is available and accessible; what the wider benefits and impacts of the framework has been; and what best practice looks like in responding to disclosures. It will also examine the definition of worker for the purposes of whistleblowing protections. The research is expected to be concluded by autumn of this year, so it is likely to be into 2024 before we know whether this will trigger any changes to how whistleblowing will be dealt with going forward.
At a micro level, a quarter of a century on from the introduction of whistleblowing protections, world whistleblowing day can also be used as a trigger to engage with employees about whistleblowing and to consider whether relevant policies are fit for purpose. It goes without saying that fraud in the workplace brings with it direct financial damage but also broader reputational damage (research showing the more senior the employee involved the greater the damage). Research has found whistleblowers to be particularly effective when it comes to identifying this type of crime, so the benefits of an effective whistleblowing policy set within an environment where speaking up is encouraged is clear.
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