A whistleblower who raised concerns about OFGEM and the repercussions he has suffered as a consequence of doing so, has launched a crowdjustice page to raise urgently needed funds to fight his legal battle.

Greg Pytel,  an economist with oversight of the rollout of the £10.9bn smart meter programme, raised concerns about OFGEM, but says, ” I can’t tell you what those concerns were, because if I were to do so I would be committing a criminal act for which I could go to prison for two years.”

Using section 105 Utilities Act 2000, OFGEM has refused to disclose the documents needed for his case to be heard. An Employment Tribunal dismissed this argument, agreeing that it was a breach of Greg’s right to a fair trial, and ordering the documents to be disclosed. But OFGEM appealed that ruling to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Greg is defending that appeal, in order to allow his case to be heard and justice to be reached. He has been fighting to have his concerns heard for two years with legal firm Bindmans LLP and Paul Michell and Rachel Barrett at Cloisters Chambers – specialist whistleblowing lawyers. We at Protect have also been supporting the case.

Protect Francesca West, said: “The whole of the UK energy market – that’s more than 600,000 workers – are currently being held to ransom over Section 105 of the Utilities Act, and threatened with a prison sentence if they speak up over wrongdoing. It is utterly shameful.”

Greg, who needs legal funds in order for his employment tribunal to go ahead later this month, said, “I don’t have the resources that OFGEM has, with the full weight of the government and energy industry behind them”.

Labour MP Peter Kyle, a member of the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee, said in a recent Guardian article on Greg’s case “Ofgem do have many commercial secrets that are vital to the wellbeing of our nations’ infrastructure, but the power they have to gag whistleblowers is an extreme one and should be used in only extreme circumstances.

“I’m now extremely concerned about the potential abuse of these powers. Parliament might need to look at who has oversight and scrutiny of them and see if the law needs updating.”

If you are able to support Greg Pytel please visit Crowdjustice

Protect’s Chief Executive, Francesca West will be presenting at an internal fraud conference aimed at HR professionals this week.

Hosted by Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, in collaboration with expert organisations in HR and recruitment, Internal Fraud for HR and Recruitment Professionals, held at BMA House, on Wednesday, September  26, utilises the latest statistics on internal fraud and real-life case studies to equip you with the essential tools and knowledge to protect your organisation and your employees.

Internal fraud is a threat to every organisation – large or small, public or private. Although HR and recruitment professionals are as much on the frontline as fraud investigators when it comes to spotting and tackling the threat, they are often overlooked when it comes to accessing the advice and guidance necessary to effectively deter, detect and respond to internal fraud.

Would you like to find out more about how we can protect your staff, organisation and reputation? Please contact us on 020 3117 2525 or email us at business@protect-advice.org.uk

Two whistleblowers – Protect has supported – have told how they have been bullied by energy regulator Ofgem, and prevented from speaking out over serious concerns.

The two men, who do not know each other, had concerns over the smart meter roll out and a green energy scheme. They both accuse Ofgem of using an obscure clause in the Utilities Act to try to prevent them revealing details of their concerns at their employment tribunals. The law carries the threat of up to two years in jail.

One of the whistleblowers, who wishes to remain anonymous said he was “continually threatened … for trying to tell the truth. For doing my job and uncovering an issue, Ofgem made my life hell.”

He said the regulator had attempted to “scare me witless with threats of imprisonment” and he felt “utterly ashamed” of Ofgem’s behaviour.

The other whistleblower, Grey Pytel, an economist with oversight of the rollout of the £10.9bn smart meter programme, (due to be completed in 2020), said

Instead of welcoming their input and investigating their concerns, the men allege they were bullied, treated unfairly and sidelined to such an extent they took their cases to an employment tribunal.

Protect along with MPs believe Ofgem is abusing its position and exploiting a law that was intended to protect UK national security – not a regulator from potential embarrassment.

The Labour MP Peter Kyle said: “Whistleblowers save lives and protect our economy from harm; they should be protected by law, not have it used against them.”

Protect Chief Executive, Francesca West, said: “The whole of the UK energy market – that’s more than 600,000 workers – are currently being held to ransom over Section 105 of the Utilities Act, and threatened with a prison sentence if they speak up over wrongdoing. It is utterly shameful. Our society needs whistleblowers to speak up, to stop harm. But we also need organisations to be honest, open and operate legally.”

* Greg Pytel’s employment tribunal continues in October. He has set up a crowdjustice fundraiser page.

Read media coverage The Guardian report, Ofgem exploited national security law to silence us, whistleblowers claim

The Charity People & Culture Conference, which Protect attended was a successful event aimed at instilling a positive working culture and putting in place the right strategies, processes and systems to build motivated and effective teams.

Protect Business Support Executive, Mark Thomas, said, “As a whole the event was a very inspirational experience, an engaging day in a fantastic venue –  the grandeur and elegance of the Institute for Civil Engineering was impressive.”

Most of the delegates knew of ‘Public Concern at Work’ so were just finding out about our re-branding to our name, Protect, and it was good to hear there feedback, which was all very positive, Most delegates agreed our new name “makes more sense”.

Mark added, “Speaking to the HR delegates, I found that whistleblowing in general was on the agenda, with most organisations implementing some sort of policy recently, and nearly all wanting to receive more information on the subject of whistleblowing, and raising concerns in the workplace. As a whole, very informative with some exiting connections made and lots of interest for our newly launched 360 Benchmark tool can help identify organisational weaknesses.”

My name is Chris Day I am a junior doctor with a young family. One night in January 2014 I became a whistleblower. I did this without realising it and since then I have been very nearly swallowed up by an NHS made legal gap or ‘lacuna’ in whistleblowing law.

Prior to my baptism of fire into the world of public interest disclosures, I wrongly thought of a whistleblower as someone who chose for whatever reason, good or bad, to air their concerns publicly rather than pursuing them via the appropriate channels.

As a junior doctor working in an NHS Intensive Care Unit you become used to unexpected challenges and incidents.

The Intensive Care Unit where I worked, operated at night, with a doctor responsible for double the number of patients guidelines say they should be caring for. When one night in January two locum doctors did not attend for work on the hospital wards, and after discussion with colleagues, I phoned and emailed the Duty Senior Manager with my professional opinion on safety and with a request to secure alternative locum cover. I never imagined at the time that such an act would be regarded as whistleblowing. It is truly unbelievable the kind of path I have been forced down as a result of this telephone call – that plainly followed the basic duties of any doctor.

The medical regulator, the General Medical Council (GMC) clearly state that they will “exercise statutory powers” against doctors who don’t “take prompt action if [they] think that patient safety, dignity or comfort is or may be seriously compromised”.

Doctors that work in the NHS can find themselves in a ‘damned if they do damned if they don’t’ scenario where in the heat of the moment they have to choose between risking getting struck off by staying silent or the medical establishment coming down on them like a ton bricks if they say something somebody doesn’t like.

From speaking to other NHS whistleblowers, it has become clear my whistleblowing tribunal claim is far from unique. The combination of ignoring safety concerns, false allegations and very biased investigations with regulators and unions running a mile is what a number of NHS whistleblowers report. I find this both staggering and of some comfort as it seems my treatment at the hands of the medical establishment shouldn’t be taken too personally.

The true scandal of my situation is how the Government agency Health Education England with the full knowledge of the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, used taxpayer money to prevent my whistleblowing case being heard by an Employment Tribunal. The attempts to deny junior doctors full statutory whistleblowing protection were finally defeated this month in the Court of Appeal by my legal team with powerful intervention by Public Concern At Work.

The case has been covered by the BBC, ITV and multiple newspapers and journals. However, the profile of the case has had a very negative effect on the nation’s already demoralised junior doctors. The medical regulator, the GMC acknowledged this: “We recognise that a level of concern now exists among doctors in training in England about whether they are adequately protected in their relationship with Health Education England (HEE), and that, as a result, some may feel less secure about raising concerns for fear of suffering detriment to their career.”

What has also not gone unnoticed by junior doctors, is the lack of support from the Whistleblowing Guardian, Royal Colleges, the GMC or the medical union the British Medical Association, for an appeal that has successfully defended the whistleblowing rights of all junior doctors and vast numbers of agency workers. After seeking to undermine the appeal, the BMA response to our success in the Court of Appeal was to prevent me attending the Junior Doctors Conference and to refuse to welcome the decision. In contrast HEE, despite losing,“welcomed the decision of the Court of Appeal” and have now formally confirmed they will not be appealing to the Supreme Court. They have made no mention of the public money wasted in their unsuccessful attempt to undermine whistleblowing law.

The news from HEE that they are not appealing comes on the same day as the NHS losing another whistleblowing case in the Court of Appeal, the case of consultant cardiologist Dr Beatt.

It seems to me that the medical establishment needs to decide whether it wants a safe and transparent NHS or whether it wants the emphasis to be on protecting the reputation of powerful people and organisations As for me, three years after my phone call to an NHS manager about safety concerns, it’s time to have my whistleblowing case heard by an employment tribunal. I can’t help but think that there must be a better place other than an employment tribunal to deal with NHS staff that want to speak openly about safety and the NHS leaders that seem to want to crush them.

I am very grateful to Tim Johnson/Law, James Laddie QC, Chris Milsom and Protect (formerly known as Public Concern at Work) for all their hard work and support. More details on the case can be found at crowdjustice.com/case/junior-doctors-round-2

UK whistleblowers will be ‘Brexit casualties’ as the EU gets set to shake up whistleblowing bringing in ground-breaking legal measures protecting both public and private sectors.

The EU move on introducing a whistleblowing Directive – set to be made into whistleblowing legislation and policy – follows years of campaigning by NGOs, trade unions and journalists and will see an end to fragmented gaps in whistleblowing protection across EU countries.

Whilst good news for Europe, Protect believes UK whistleblowers are being left behind its European neighbours.

New EU rules, announced today, (Monday 23 April) will require all organisations to have reporting channels for whistleblowers and to respond to whistleblowing issues raised in a timely manner. This is missing from the current UK whistleblowing legislation, PIDA (the Public Interest Disclosure Act) introduced 20 years ago.

Workers, the self-employed, shareholders, volunteers, unpaid trainees and contractors, subcontractors and suppliers will also be protected by new EU rules. It even stretches far enough to cover those going for a job interview. PIDA has too many holes with UK whistleblowers falling through the gaps.

Protect Chief Executive, Francesca West said, “We are calling on the UK government to urgently review and amend our PIDA legislation so that the public interest is protected and workers feel safe to raise concerns about wrongdoing risk or malpractice and harm is prevented. We have intervened in many cases helping whistleblowers such as junior doctor, Chris Day, and District Judge Claire Gilham who found they were not covered by PIDA.

She added, “UK whistleblowers will be facing reduced rights compared to other EU citizens when the UK leaves the EU.”

Protect, (formerly Public Concern at Work), which this year marks its 25th anniversary helping whistleblowers and organisations, will continue to lobby government for an overhaul of the whistleblowing legislation PIDA.

Protect has welcomed a new UK Corporate Governance Code by the FRC which is hoped will strengthen whistleblowing in the workplace.

Protect Chief Executive, Francesca West said, “We are pleased the FRC took on our board our recommendations as whistleblowing is vital for a transparent and accountable organisation.”

Following consultation, the new shorter, sharper Code, calls on companies to build trust by forging strong relationships with key stakeholders and promotes transparency and integrity in business and enhances workers’ concerns in the workplace.

Protect had recommended the following changes to the Code:

The enhanced requirements are set out in new Principle E:

“The board should ensure that workforce policies and practices are consistent with the company’s values and support its long-term sustainable success. The workforce should be able to raise any matters of concern.”

and new Provision 6:

“There should be a means for the workforce to raise concerns in confidence and – if they wish – anonymously. The board should routinely review this and the reports arising from its operation. It should ensure that arrangements are in place for the proportionate and independent investigation of such matters and for follow-up action.”

These requirements are a significant enhancement from the previous version of the Code.

21st March 2018

The government will shortly bring new EU rules on industrial espionage into UK law. But these rules, drawn-up with heavy corporate influence, could create a chill-effect on future corporate whistle-blowers and those who report their stories.

The LuxLeaks scandal was one of a series of leaks that have exposed the tax shenanigans of rich and powerful individuals and corporations around the world – and the official collusion around them. In 2014, journalists exposed the widespread use of corporate tax ‘optimisation’ schemes in deals struck between the Big4 accountancy firms and the Luxembourg government. More than three years on, no company has been prosecuted. But the two whistle-blowers and a journalist were prosecuted and faced years of legal uncertainty. One of the arguments used by the prosecutor to demand their conviction was that the leaked information was a trade secret.

The UK government is currently in the process of bringing the 2016 EU directive on “trade secrets protection” into national law. The UK’s draft regulations give businesses new rights to sue and extract financial damages from people who disclose companies’ internal information. But will journalists, whistle-blowers, and trade unions acting in the public interest also be caught up?

That concern has prompted more than 20 UK civil society groups to to urgently write to the relevant government minister, Sam Gyimah.

The little-known directive was drawn up by officials in the European Commission working hand in hand with powerful business lobbyists. Their agenda focused on industrial espionage and protecting commercial secrets such as recipes for products and client databases. But some of the confidential information held by corporations is also highly relevant to the public interest, like reports about pollution, plans for mass redundancies, or LuxLeaks-style tax avoidance agreements. The EU’s Trade Secrets Directive introduces new rules to protect legitimate commercial secrets but it could also be used to protect the confidentiality of information that should be made public.

And by the time Members of the European Parliament got to see it, the corporate influence on the draft of the Trade Secrets Directive was palpable, and while MEPs managed to introduce some safeguards, significant concerns remain.

The draft regulations do not include any of the important exceptions that were so hard-won by MEPs, include allowing the disclosure of trade secrets on the grounds of freedom of expression; when revealing wrongdoing or illegal activity; and when disclosures are made by workers to their trade union representatives. Instead, there is just a general requirement for judges to consider “the public interest” and “the protection of fundamental rights” when they consider an alleged case of trade secret infringement.

The UK government argues that it does not need to introduce any of the EU safeguards, because they are already present in UK law. But is that sufficient?

Unlike most other EU member states, the UK does offer some protection for whistle-blowers through the 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act, but this is imperfect and needs improvement to offer robust protections for whistle-blowers who are acting in the public interest. There is a real concern that if the Trade Secrets Directive does not actively include clear protections for whistle-blowers, it will create a ‘chilling effect’ which could deter future corporate whistle-blowers from coming forward in the future.

Similarly, trade union representatives who legitimately disclose information about a company’s activities to other employees or the media should be concerned, as their hard-won exception agreed at the EU level is not included in the UK draft regulation, which could create confusion and ambiguity.

It is also vital that the EU safeguard covering freedom of expression is unambiguously included in the UK regulations to ensure that there is clear guidance for journalists and judges when interpreting and applying the directive. In the UK there is no public interest defence for journalists when publishing leaked information, and the Trade Secrets Regulation should explicitly offer protections for journalists who disclose commercial information in the public interest.

There are other concerns too. The directive may inadvertently lead to public authorities being more cautious when answering freedom of information requests and releasing information provided to them by companies, for fear of provoking costly legal action. Additionally, the UK government proposes to give corporations six years (five years in Scotland) to bring a claim against someone accused of disclosing a trade secret. This is the maximum allowed in the EU rules and is totally excessive. Finally, transposition should also include strong language penalising abusive litigation on trade secrets by corporations trying to prevent legitimate scrutiny of their activities. Regrettably the UK government’s consultation does not make any such proposals.

Everyone concerned about corporate transparency and accountability should be concerned by the risks posed by this little-known EU law and the UK government’s corporate-friendly draft regulation. In Brussels, the Trade Secrets Directive was heavily influenced by corporate interests and only strong, last-minute campaigning managed to control the damage. We should make sure that what was preserved in Brussels is not destroyed in London.

Vicky Cann is a campaigner with Corporate Europe Observatory

28th March 2018

Katherine Gun blew the whistle on GCHQ spying on the UN Security Council, revealing an illegal attempt to undermine the democratic process and increase the appetite for war in Iraq. And she did it within 48 hours.

The event ‘War, Journalism and Whistleblowers: 15 years after Katharine Gun’s truth telling on the verge of the Iraq War’ at Birkbeck University, co-ordinated by: Veterans for Peace UK, ExposeFacts, RootsAction, Media Reform Coalition, National Union of Journalists, Centre for Investigative Journalism, Courage Foundation, and Big Brother Watch; which I attended, demonstrated the broad benefit whistleblowing brings to civil society.

Working as a Mandarin translator at GCHQ – the British government’s communications HQ in Cheltenham – Gun leaked a confidential US National Security Agency email to the Observer newspaper. The memo asked her and her colleagues to help the US government spy on UN security council delegations in New York. The belief was this would help the US and UK governments to swing wavering countries in favour of a planned invasion of Iraq. It cost Gun, who now lives in Turkey with her family, her job. She was arrested and charged under the Official Secrets Act. A new film, out later this year, starring Keira Knightley and Matt Smith, will tell her GCHQ whistleblowing story.

Whistleblowers on the panel from the US and the UK had each endured an unimaginable battle, revealing the wrongdoing of their own governments and nations. On the panel was legal counsel Jesselyn Radack, who represented Edward Snowden; and media and press were represented by author and presenter Duncan Campbell.

After introductions had been made, a video greeting from Daniel Ellsberg (known for leaking the Pentagon Papers, and revealing the extent the US mislead the public on Vietnam) was shown, in which he called Katherine Gun his hero.

Thomas Drake, the NSA Senior Executive and Analyst, spoke candidly of his own reservations about coming forward. At a time where Dick Cheney was telling Congress and the world the US had ‘slam dunk’ evidence that Iraq was an imminent threat to the US; Drake knew this was inaccurate – there was no intelligence to support such a stance. And yet, for some time, the entire intelligence community appeared to stay silent. Drake first made attempts to alert his senior colleagues, and then Congress, before resorting to encrypted messaging to raise his concerns with a journalist.

Matthew Hoh, who served in the US Army in Afghanistan, became the highest ranking US government official to publically renounce his countries foreign policy. Hoh won the Ridenhour Prize for truth telling about the injustice he witnessed, and now joins the Veterans for Peace march to the cenotaph each Armistice Day, wearing a white rose. Matthew told how he considers himself to have witnessed and contributed to an act of unjustified aggression, against a target which presented no threat.

But whistleblowing is not just for those who have witnessed war. The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 has been called “the most authoritarian regime of any democratic society” by Silkie Carlo, CEO of Big Brother Watch. Carlo spoke of how whistleblowing protects the values of a free society, delivering truth through free speech and press, and that the public must be a live to any attempt to subvert it. The bulk hacking revealed by whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden, who revealed the GCHQ hacking program ‘Optic Nerve’, which covertly took images of millions of public webcam users; shows how invasive unchecked surveillance powers can be.

Speaking up is hard, and sometimes thankless. But it’s unbelievably valuable, and those who try the hardest to silence you, are often the ones most scared by what you have to say.

By Adviser Laura Fatah.

18th April 2018

Social care in England is undervalued, underfunded and on the brink of collapse. Being old and in care can, for some people, feel precarious. The statistics showing the state of care homes across the UK are sobering. The Care Quality Commission regulator says almost one in four care homes are inadequate or require improvement, while Age UK says 1.2 million people over 65 had some level of unmet care needs in 2016-17.

Protect (formerly known as Public Concern at Work) believes the care sector could benefit if staff feel able to speak out. With so many care homes rated inadequate or in need of improvement, we believe residents and staff face risk, danger and malpractice. The 400 annual calls to our whistleblowing advice line from the care sector are, we suspect, just scratching the surface of the problems facing care homes. PCaW would like to gain a clearer picture of whistleblowing in care homes, which is why we have launched a survey.

Our advice line receives about 2,500 calls a year, and its findings should worry anyone working in senior management in the care home sector:

  • Care staff are often left unsupported by their employer, with one in three saying their whistleblowing concerns – often a safeguarding or patient safety issue – were ignored.
  • More than half of whistleblowers also reported some kind of victimisation, with 23% saying they have been dismissed after raising concerns.

Staff are the eyes and ears of an organisation and can act as an early warning system of potential risk or malpractice. Staff who feel comfortable raising a concern, or whistleblowing, may possibly save lives or complex litigation down the line.

Alerting managers to potential risks, wrongdoing or malpractice long before it becomes a problem is a good thing. Much of our work at PCaW is getting this message across to organisations and encouraging them to not only embrace whistleblowers, but also be grateful for the issues staff raise.

It sounds simple. If it were, Protect would not need to exist.

This summer, the government is due to publish a much-needed green paper on reforming care for older people, which we welcome. However, until then, we’re very concerned about the issues facing the 1.5 million care home staff in England and those they care for. If you work in care homes, please help us at Protect to build a clearer picture of whistleblowing and the issues facing care homes in England.

Whether you are a care home worker, nurse or manager, we would like to hear your views in our very short survey ( which is open until the end of April). The results (email addresses and names will not be captured or featured in this survey) will help Protect campaign for stronger whistleblowing in care homes.

Take the survey

By Head of policy, Andrew Pepper-Parsons

*Read the blog in full which was first published in The Guardian, 17 April 2018