13 June 2018
The publication in July of a Code of Practice on Whistleblowing under the auspices of the British Standards Institute coincides with the tenth anniversary of employment protection for whistleblowers in the UK and is a measure of the seriousness now accorded to the issue.
The Code aims to set out ‘good practice for the introduction, revision, operation and review of effective whistleblowing arrangements’ and will set a benchmark applicable across the public and private sectors.
But what is the reality for potential whistleblowers? Whilst awareness of the issue has made whistleblowing easier in many workplaces, establishing that any adverse treatment by an employer was actually caused by a disclosure remains a formidable hurdle. The stigma associated with being a whistleblower has also failed to dissipate, with the result that more than half of those aware of misconduct at work still remain silent – an effect amplified in an era of job cuts. Perhaps the only answer to this conundrum is to go further than protection, by providing positive incentives for employees to blow the whistle. However the suggestion that financial incentives should be offered to whistleblowers is highly controversial and likely to be a step too far for most employers.