Whistleblowing: Time for Change

21st November 2016

Over the past five years the landscape for whistleblowers has changed immensely. In our review Whistleblowing: Time for Change,we look back on some of PCaW’s major achievements and highlight areas that are in need of reform.

On one hand, there has never been a time when whistleblowers have been held in such high regard by the public – with widespread support of the view that whistleblowers are performing a public service. There has been legal reform, promising greater protection for whistleblowers and generating greater requirements on regulators. Further we have produced clear guidance for organisations on how to effectively build a culture where staff can speak up safely.

But this is a tale of two sides. While ostensibly the situation for whistleblowers has improved, we are still seeing so much harm, in all parts of our society, where whistleblowers are still suffering whether that is because of their employers’ poor practice, blacklisting, weak legal protection, or the threat of prosecution under some legislation. Over the past five years we have also been victim to many scandals where effective whistleblowing could have resulted in early detection and prevention of wrongdoing.

In the review, we hear form whistleblowers in their own words. We hope that by sharing these experiences we may offer an insight into whistleblowing that here at PCaW we take for granted; stories of ordinary people doing the extraordinary. While we know that in some organisations staff are listened to and issues are addressed, there are still far too many cases where it takes courage and conviction to blow the whistle. In the review we found:
• Four out of five whistleblowers experience negative final outcomes.
• Seeking advice at an early stage is the most effective action a whistleblower can take (positive outcomes doubled), however 70% of workers seek advice after they have blown the whistle.
• A small continuous drop in the number of individuals who say they would raise a concern about serious malpractice.

These statistics, and more, highlight the urgent need for action to change the outcomes for whistleblowers. For too long we have relied on brave individuals who fear serious consequences for doing the right thing. We must ensure workers are confident they will be encouraged and protected when they speak up. The power and responsibility to do this first rests with employers. However the wider legal framework must be robust. We cannot afford another public disaster because an organisation failed to ensure their staff could speak up and be heard.

To this end we will continue to operate our free, confidential advice line for all UK workers with whistleblowing dilemmas, support organisations in establishing effective arrangements for staff to speak up; and inform public policy, and undertake research and campaign for legislative reform. The past five have been incredibly busy and while we have had a number of successes there is still much work to do. In this respect we are grateful to all who support us. We need this support as the demand for our services continues to increase and significant effort is required now to really make whistleblowing work to the benefit of all.