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See, hear and speak up

Monday, 20 April 2015 00:00

The UK's Public Information Disclosure Act 1998 was introduced in order to ensure there was comprehensive protection in place for employees so that they could come forward and report serious wrongdoing in their workplace, by making a 'protected disclosure', without fear of being victimised or even dismissed.

Protected disclosures included disclosures such as reporting that a criminal offence had been committed, a failure to comply with statutory legislation or that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.

In theory this legislation should have resulted in a greater number of employees feeling confident enough to come forward and blow the whistle concerning wrongdoing. In reality the legislation was ambiguous and failed to provide sufficient guidance both for employees and employers.

Further legislation was introduced in the UK under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 which surprisingly added a further test for workers to prove that they had a reasonable belief that their
disclosure was in the 'public interest'. This compounded the already confusing legislation by adding an additional layer of complexity that some would argue actually discouraged persons from coming forward.

What is in the public interest in any particular case can be difficult to determine and is often only resolved in the Courts - Hardly an incentive for employees to risks their jobs and reputations?

As a result, despite the changes in legislation, whistleblowing has continued to have its fair share of negative media attention, as typified in the recent Cyril Smith cover-up claims and a recent report from the College of Policing which has warned of a 'bullying, arrogant and macho' culture in the British police where whistleblowing is frowned upon. Is it any wonder, therefore, that employees still feel that there are genuine fears of reprisal when raising concerns internally, a fact reported by the UK Government in their 'call for evidence' in 2013.

This cultural issue is one which is difficult to overcome. However, there is a solution.

In the UK, employers are increasingly seeking the services of specialised external whistleblowing providers to encourage employees to raise their concern about wrongdoing externally.

One such provider, SeeHearSpeakup, already deal with a variety of employee disclosures ranging from health and safety issues to alleged multi-million pound fraudulent offences reported by employees through external whistleblowing hotlines.

Whistle-blower service providers, such as SeeHearSpeakUp, provide a secure and robust confidential service which provides employees with the confidence to come forward without fear of retaliation, and in the knowledge that their information will be passed onto senior management in their organisation.

An open and transparent culture is one where employees are encouraged to come forward. Whilst the legislation fails to answer the cultural question, a support mechanism for employees as provided by external whistleblowing service providers can provide an alternative solution.