Protect and law firm Howard Kennedy joined forces for a successful secondment, offering a three-month secondment to Protect’s trainee solicitor, Hari Raithatha, and Howard Kennedy’s trainee solicitor, Diarra Brown. So, how did they get on, and what did they both learn?

Qu: What did you do, and what did you learn?

Hari: Being at Howard Kennedy gave me a real insight into how employment law issues impact organisations on a daily basis. While working in the employment team I worked on a real mix of issues including advising on the employment issues in the acquisition of company and also advising on a disability discrimination matter as part of the firms Pro Bono program.

Diarra: To be proactive and to put yourself forward this is very much appreciated especially in an organisation like Protect. Taking the time to listen and show empathy can drastically improve someone’s outlook.

Qu: Was it what you expected, did anything surprise you?

Hari: I was really surprised by the mix of issues that the employment team would be involved with at any one time. Nothing could have prepared me for the challenge of putting case bundle together!!!

Diarra: I didn’t know what to expect from the secondment and went into it with an open mind. What suprised me, was the amount of challenging calls the advice line receives. The variety of concerns raised and the fact that calls can come from senior managers and HR. As an advisor you need to ensure that you are as equipped to deal with this.

Qu:  What were the challenges?

Hari: Having to constantly think on your feet and get up to speed with a number of different areas of law in a short period of time.

Diarra: Learning everyone’s names… I would have to say getting used to a completely different environment in a short space of time, but it was good to try a new way of working.

: Would you recommend the experience and what we’re your takeaways?

Hari: Absolutely! Working at Howard Kennedy has really opened my eyes to how dynamic and constantly changing employment law is.  It has been great to have gained an insight into this. It’s shown me the value of providing clear, practical solutions to clients, which I’m really keen to develop in my work at Protect training businesses and advising whistleblowers. Visiting the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeals Tribunal with Counsel (while daunting!) has really helped me understand some of the issues faced by litigants in person when presenting cases.

Diarra: Yes, I’d recommend the experience, as I got as much as I put in and put my hand up for everything! I think this was appreciated. My takeaway was never underestimate how valuable your input can be. Especially to a whistleblower in the midst of a challenging work situation.

Qu: What will you miss?

Hari: The weekly lunch and learn sessions with the other corporate trainees and the amazing office. And also working round the corner from Borough Market! But I’ll miss some of the great people I met – but hope to stay in touch with them!

Diarra: The people without a doubt.

I joined Protect as a volunteer just after I finished my Legal Practice Course and although I had only a basic grasp of aspects of employment law, Protect’s work really appealed to me.

Summarising Employment Tribunal judgments and highlighting the relevant discussions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act seemed daunting at first, but after an informative induction and feedback on a few initial case summaries, I felt much more confident pulling out and writing up the relevant points for use by Protect’s advisers. I have learnt so much over the last six months, seeing the legal challenges from the perspectives of both the whistleblower and the employer. As well as becoming familiar with the legal tests applying to whistleblower protection, I also attended internal meetings and took part in training sessions on whistleblowing law.

Having spent six months at Protect, I have now come to the end of my time here and am moving to a specialist corporate law firm in the City, Lewis Townsend LLP to continue my legal career.

The people at Protect have been inspiring for their commitment and empathy towards whistleblowers and I am so sad to be leaving. I will continue to recommend Protect as a fantastic and rewarding volunteering opportunity and can only hope the charity and its work receives the support it deserves.


By Protect volunteer Jo Cousins

Following the CQC investigation into West Suffolk NHS Hospital, Protect Acting Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner, said: ‘Those who raised concerns and voiced their alarm about the toxic culture at West Suffolk need to be thanked for doing so. Their whistleblowing triggered a CQC inspection and the regulator has now downgraded an outstanding hospital to one ‘requiring improvement.’

The CQC report found: ‘Not all staff felt respected, supported and valued or felt that they could raise concerns without fear. Communication and collaboration to seek solutions had not always been effectively undertaken.  An open culture was not always demonstrated. Staff that raised concerns were not always appropriately supported or treated with respect. Concerns were not consistently investigated.’

The Guardian reported how the Trust hired a fingerprint and handwriting expert company to track down a whistleblower who had anonymously tipped off a family about a medical blunder.

Protect’s Liz Gardiner added, “Protect has written to the Health Secretary expressing our deep concern about the actions taken by managers, and the appalling message this sends to staff about speaking up.  We are pleased the regulator has investigated, and we urge the Trust’s Board to review their Speak Up arrangements as a priority to ensure staff have the confidence to raise concerns in the future.”

The CQC has set out the areas for improvement and said that the Trust must “take definitive steps to improve the culture, openness and transparency throughout the organisation.”

Protect welcomes Baroness Kramer’s Office for the Whistleblower Bill which has been launched in the House of Lords (Tuesday January 28).

Protect Acting Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner, said, “Now more than ever, we need to create an independent but central body that drives better policy and standards for whistleblowing. We want to see much greater consistency in how employers and regulators deal with concerns, and how they support whistleblowers. Today’s system is complex and confusing and whistleblowers fall through the gaps.

“This Bill provides an opportunity for a new body to hold regulators and employers to account and we hope it will have powers to fine employers and regulators when they don’t address whistleblowers’ concerns, or when they victimise those who speak up to stop harm”.

Georgina Halford Hall, Chief Executive of Whistleblowers UK said, “WhistleblowersUK was delighted to assist with the content of this bill to create a new government office responsible for the protection of the rights of whistleblowers and provide a point of contact for them, which was proposed this week in the House of Lords by The Right Honourable Baroness Susan Kramer. “

Baroness Kramer, who is part of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Whistleblowing, proposes a new body – the Office for the Whistleblower which will – amongst other functions give direction to and monitor the activities of relevant bodies prescribed, serve as a point of contact for whistleblowers who wish to make a disclosure, and maintain a fund to support whistleblowers.

Protect, who have drafted new legislation to replace the current whistleblowing legislation, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), urge support for Baroness Kramer’s bill, and its own detailed re-draft of PIDA.

Liz Gardiner said, “We look forward to discussions on the detail of the bill, and to working with all those campaigning to improve whistleblowing legislation.”

* Protect is lobbying for legal reform of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and has drafted new whistleblowing legislation.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published the findings of an independent review into how it dealt with concerns raised in relation to the regulation of Whorlton Hall.

Bosses at the (CQC) have been criticised in an independent report by David Noble into why it buried a critical report into Whorlton Hall hospital, a privately-run hospital in County Durham, in 2015. The report said the care watchdog missed multiple opportunities to identify abuse of patients and did not act on the concerns of its own members.

Protect Head of Policy, Andrew Pepper-Parsons said, “The CQC has acknowledged it was wrong not to make public this report in 2015. Yet, it’s a positive the CQC have now been transparent in airing failings in this way – it means that both the CQC and other organisations can learn from the experience.

“The findings into how the CQC handled the concerns raised by former CQC inspector Barry Stanley-Wilkinson is a stark reminder of the importance of feedback. What happens in practice needs to match the guarantees written in the whistleblowing or Speak Up policies. Though the CQC had a Speak Up policy that looked effective on paper, in practice it was found wanting, with no mechanisms to review how the policy operated in practice. The recommendations to improve the Speak Up process were made by the investigator, but these changes were not implemented.”

The report also found the whistleblower suffered a lot of stress and strain, in fact they had periods of sickness and eventually resigned stating they felt let down by the CQC.  Better feedback could have helped to elevate the stress.

Andrew added, “Having a written policy that meets best practice is straightforward.  But it is a common failing to not deal with whistleblowing in the correct operational way”

The report again underlines the need to reform the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) to place a legal duty on employers to not just have a whistleblowing policy but to ensure it works effectively in practice. Our draft Whistleblowing Bill calls on employers follows existing best practice for internal whistleblowing arrangements and would require organisations to have the following things in place:

  •   Employer should establish channels where whsitleblowers can raise concerns that also ensures their confidentiality
  •   Designation of a senior individual who has responsibility for the effectiveness of reporting channels
  •   Diligent follow up to the disclosures by the designated person or department in the whistleblowing or Speak Up policy
  •   A reasonable timeframe, not exceeding three months following the disclosure, to provide feedback to the whistleblower

A story in today’s Guardian has highlighted how bosses at West Suffolk NHS Hospital demanded fingerprint samples in a bid to identify a whistleblower.

The report says that the hospital – which happens to be Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s local hospital –  used ‘bullying and intimidatory’ tactics towards doctors to seek out the identity of a whistleblower who revealed details of a botched operation to a patient’s widower.

Doctors were asked for fingerprints and handwriting and told non-compliance suggested guilt.

Protect Acting Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner said, “The scandal at West Suffolk hospital demonstrates significant failings in the Trust’s ability to handle whistleblowing concerns. Rather than focusing on the actual concern the whistleblower raised, the Trust has engaged in a witch-hunt to expose the whistleblower. Such actions will undermine staff trust and confidence in West Suffolk Hospital’s speak up arrangements. It is unlawful to subject a whistleblower to any detriment – and, if the reports are correct, senior managers’ actions may well have breached the employment rights of those who were brave enough to speak up.

She added, “Managers who have been found to have sanctioned such actions should face disciplinary action. We urge the Trust Board to urgently review its speak up arrangements and consider training all senior management in appropriate whistleblowing handling. It is imperative all staff in the NHS can speak up about wrongdoing without the fear of their confidentiality being breached.”

This week, a report by the National Guardians Office into Speaking up in the NHS in England highlighted that more than 1 in 10 whistleblowing cases were reported anonymously.

The National Guardian’s Office has published a report analysis of the data from Freedom to Speak Up Guardians to give a picture of what speaking up looks like in NHS trusts.

The report,  Speaking up in the NHS in England, reveals over the last year cases of speaking up to guardians have risen by 73 per cent, compared to 2017/18. However, the report also reveals that while low, the number of workers who indicated they were suffering detriment as a result of speaking up has remained static at five per cent. The National Guardian has said she’s disappointed in the “general and vague” responses on the action trusts are taken when detriment is reported.

Protect Acting Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner, said, “While there is much to celebrate in this report, the percentage of those reporting that they fear detriment has not changed. The NHS is not alone is speaking the right words but taking little action on detriment. We know from our advice line how prevalent victimisation of whistleblowers is – too many who raise concerns are bullied, sidelined or even forced out of their jobs.

“We’re also aware – from our training of employers across all sectors – that few organisations will discipline those responsible for treating whistleblowers badly. Staff receive a poor message about whistleblowing if they see their colleagues suffering and a reluctance by the employer to stop the bullying or victimisation.”

Of the callers to Protect’s advice line between January – December 2019, a total of 53.8% of health sector workers reported some form of negative treatment as a result of raising their concerns. The data showed of these calls 41.5% of cases were in relation to patient safety, and 20.4% over working practices.

Liz Gardiner said “Protect is campaigning to change the law to improve protections for whistleblowers, with a positive duty on employers to protect those who speak up from harm as well as fines and sanctions for employers who allow detriment to happen.  In the meantime, we’re pleased to see the National Guardian’s plans to work with Freedom to Speak Up Guardians and the Care Quality Commission to tackle the problem.”

We are looking for a new Chief Executive Office to lead Protect in supporting whistleblowers and promote whistleblowing.

Our new CEO will ensure we encourage a culture of ‘Speak Up, Stop Harm’, that we provide the best possible support to innocent people at risk. Building on our solid reputation, the CEO will act as ambassador for Protect, building impactful relationships with senior stakeholders and the media to promote our proactive approach to preventing harm. They will lobby government at national and international levels for improvements in legislation affecting public interest disclosures. They will develop new partnerships across all sectors to support employers to make UK workplaces safe. The CEO will ensure our funding continues to grow and will also inspire and support our staff team to develop their best potential.

We are looking for an inspiring leader with experience at CEO or Director level, demonstrably capable of influencing a variety of stakeholders, including the media, to challenge perceptions and secure cultural change. You will have a proven ability to build strong business development partnerships to allow us to maximise our reach, and a track record of growing and developing an organisation. You will possess strong leadership skills and be adept at guiding, coaching and supporting others at all levels to realise their potential. Crucially you will be passionate about our work and the impact we have on preventing harm. For more info visit our vacancies page