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The High Court has today handed down judgment and awarded whistleblower Amjad Rihan $10.8 m in damages against his former employer, Ernst and Young.

Protect Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner said: “We’re pleased to see this award to Amjad Rihan, who courageously blew the whistle on serious financial irregularities and who suffered career-long losses as a result. A whistleblower who had exhausted internal processes, he acted reasonably in bringing this global scandal to public attention via the media and the judge said he would have had a strong whistleblowing claim. His employer owed him a duty of care, and failed in that duty.

While this was not a claim under the whistleblowing law (The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 “PIDA”), nevertheless the judge took into account the principles of PIDA when assessing whether Amjad acted reasonably. We’re also pleased to see the judgment accepts that the public interest should not be constrained by what may be an offence in other jurisdictions. PIDA states that a disclosure is not protected if the whistleblower commits an offence in making it – but today’s judgment clarifies that should only apply to offences under the laws of Great Britain.


Protect is reassuring NHS workers it is just a phone call away.

Protect Chief Executive Liz Gardiner said, “Whistleblowing is the best early-warning system in the NHS and now more than ever staff need to feel safe and supported when they speak up and that issues are properly investigated and resolved.

“We want NHS workers who are working under extremely difficult circumstances to feel reassured that they can get independent and confidential advice about whistleblowing by calling Protect.”

Protect handles around 3,000 cases each year through its free, confidential Advice Line. In addition, it trains businesses and organisations on best practice speak up arrangements.

If an NHS worker has a whistleblowing concern, NHS staff can raise the matter internally at the Trust, speak to their Freedom to Speak Up Guardian (England only), or call the NHS Whistleblowing Advice Line SpeakUp for signposting information. For NHS workers in Scotland, they can call the Alert and Advice Line. For strategic advice on how and where they can raise their concerns further, in addition to legal advice as to what their rights are in doing so, they can call the Protect Advice Line.

However, charity Protect says it has been approached by some NHS staff with concerns.

“Some NHS staff have told us they do not feel safe speaking up within their Trust and are not aware of what support channels exist. Our service at Protect is unique – we offer advice on how to raise concerns effectively, as well as explaining whistleblowers’ legal rights” said Protect’s Chief Executive Liz Gardiner.

Dr Jenny Vaughan, Learn Not Blame Lead, at Doctors Association UK, said, “Sadly the Doctors’ Association UK has been approached by many doctors who have been disciplined for raising concerns about lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and been told not to speak to the press. Patient safety is never best served by driving staff concerns underground. Bullying of staff when they speak out about safety is completely unacceptable.”

She added, “Doctors and nurses on the frontline have a right to speak out if they or their families or patients could be at risk. Our health service, both private and public, will only benefit if we learn from each other’s experience and we have a Learn Not Blame culture.”

Protect has the support of a number of lawyers who have agreed to give further support to health and social care workers during the crisis.

Protect Chief Executive Liz Gardiner added, “We hope that employers will listen-up when concerns are raised – but we’re grateful to the many lawyers in our legal support network who have kindly agreed to help, including barristers Daniel Stilitz QC, Mukhtiar Singh, and Joseph England and solicitors Paul Daniels at Keystone Law, Leigh Day Solicitors and Slater & Gordon lawyers – but please call Protect in the first instance”.

If further law firms or Chambers wished to lend their support and advice during the Covid 19 crisis, Protect are co-ordinating whistleblowing support to key workers should it be needed.

Doctor Katie Sanderson, who works in acute medicine, said “Healthcare workers are practising in very challenging conditions. It is crucial that everybody working in the NHS feels able to voice concerns openly, and that they are aware of the appropriate channels to do so. It is important that doctors and others are aware that free, high quality legal advice is available if they need it.”

 

Protect
Protect Advice Line – Tel: 020 3117 2520
Email whistle@protect-advice.org.uk

SpeakUp
NHS Whistleblowing Advice Line SpeakUp: 08000 724 725. 

Alert & Advice Line – NHS Scotland
Tel: 0800 0086112
Email: alertline@protect-advice.org.uk

 


Protect has put its name to an international civil society letter:

The signatories to this letter call on all public authorities and institutions to protect those who report or expose the harms, abuses and serious wrongdoing that arise during this period of crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also encourage all citizens and workers to participate in ensuring our governments, corporate institutions and markets remain accountable, and in defending the human rights and freedoms of all people.

The COVID-19 pandemic brings into stark relief the importance of accountability and the need for regular and reliable information from our public institutions and our leaders. The people of every affected country need to know the truth about the spread of the disease both locally and internationally in order to respond effectively and help protect their communities. Fairness, transparency and cooperation are vital and never more so than during a pandemic.

We have already seen examples of wrongdoing and mismanagement in our public institutions, commercial markets and business as a result of COVID-19. Emerging areas of concern include health system capacity and delivery, public procurement, violations of health and safety and labour law, inequitable and ill-prepared global supply chains, unfair competition practices and market abuses, and significant violations of personal privacy rights at scale through the digital tracking of individuals.

Proper notification of risk to the public and to workers, fair and responsible conduct by all institutions, and transparent data collection are all critical to public confidence in our ability to overcome this crisis. This is even more important when the protections normally provided by the fundamental democratic pillars of our societies are curtailed or side-stepped. Parliaments and democratic assemblies are being suspended in many countries. The use of extraordinary powers by governments without proper public oversight and transparency creates a tangible risk of overreach and potential misuse.

When decisions are taken in emergency conditions, often away from democratic scrutiny, whistleblowers can play a vital early warning role. They are the corrective fail-safe mechanism in any society, especially in an international health crisis when the public’s right to know can have life-or-death implications. In this time of crisis and beyond, we encourage citizens and workers to participate in ensuring that proper accountability is maintained in our governments, corporate institutions and markets, and in defending the human rights and freedoms of all people.

During this pandemic we have already witnessed abuses. At various times, the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and access to information have been restricted. The cost of these actions is most severely borne by the most vulnerable members of our communities: the elderly, the poor, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ communities, prisoners, the multitudes of precarious workers as well as frontline workers in the crisis.

Whistleblowing has proven to be a powerful tool to fight and prevent actions that undermine the public interest. Our organisations call on all public authorities and corporate institutions to protect those who expose harms, abuses and serious wrongdoing during the COVID-19 crisis, and beyond. Workers are taking risks daily to maintain the many essential services which we rely upon, especially in these times, our health services, care for elderly care and other social and public services, as well as food supply and logistics, just to name a few. The importance of these workers, their right to a safe working environment and to speak up about threats to public health and safety, corruption, and other abuses must be recognised and protected. Their disclosures, as well as those from all citizens, are vital to preventing major disasters and reducing the impacts of the crisis on us all, especially on the most vulnerable members of society and our democratic systems.

 

Access Info / ACREC / African Centre for Media & Information Literacy / APW-Fíltrala / Archiveros Españoles en la Función Pública / Article 19 / Atlatszo / Blueprint for Free Speech / Centre for Free Expression, Ryerson University / Center for Independent Journalism Romania / CFDT Cadres / Cibervoluntarios / CREW – Greenwich University / Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation / Prof. David Lewis, Whistleblowing Research Unit, Middlesex University / ePanstwo Foundation / EPSU – European Public Service Union / Eurocadres – Council of European Professional and Managerial Staff / ETUC – European Trade Union Confederation / European Centre for Press and Media Freedom / European Federation of Journalists / European Organisation of Military Associations and Trade Unions   Fundación Ciudadanía Inteligente / Fundación Internacional Baltasar Garzón (FIBGAR) / Funky Citizens / Government Accountability Project / Prof. AJ Brown, Griffith University / Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights / International Bar Association / Legal Legion Loyalty / Maison des Lanceurs D’Alerte / Media Development Center / Oživení / Pistaljka / Protect / Proyecto sobre Organización, Desarrollo, Educación e Investigación (PODER) / Reporters United / Stefan Batory Foundation / The Disruption Lab / The Ethicos Group / The good lobby / The Signals Network / Tom Mueller / Transparency International / Transparency International Australia / Transparency international Estonia / Transparency International Greece / Transparency International Ireland / Transparency International Italy / Transparency International Slovensko / Dr Vigjilenca Abazi, Maastricht University / Vouliwatch / WIN Whistleblowing International Network / Whistleblower-Network Germany / X-net

 

 


Protect Chief Executive Liz Gardiner said, “COVID-19 has drastically changed the way in which we work but whistleblowing and speak up remains vital if we are to keep patients, customers and colleagues safe. Our Advice Line has been receiving Covid 19 calls and we know some NHS staff are feeling unsupported by management over public interest concerns they have. The report,  in The Independent today that NHS staff are being “gagged” and warned not to speak about their concerns is a troubling state of affairs. While we understand the need to control media communications as part of national emergency incident planning, gagging or restraining staff from raising their concerns on public interest matters is short sighted.

Whistleblowing is the best early-warning system in the NHS and now more than ever organisations should ensure that staff feel safe and supported when they speak up and that issues are properly investigated and resolved. NHS staff are putting themselves in difficult and dangerous situations to save lives, and the long term future and resilience of the NHS depends on ongoing trust between staff and managers. We urge all NHS Chief Executives, Boards and senior management to listen to concerns raised by staff.”


Protect, has today (March 19)  announced the appointment of Liz Gardiner as its new Chief Executive.

Liz, who joined Protect as Legal Officer in July 2018, has been Acting Chief Executive at the charity since December last year when Francesca West stood down.

Liz said, “I am delighted and honoured to be working for such a great charity with such talented and committed staff. I am looking forward to acting as an ambassador for Protect and building on our work, to change whistleblowing culture for good across workplaces. I am passionate about Protect’s work and the impact we can have in encouraging speaking up to stop harm.”

Before joining Protect, Liz, who is a qualified employment solicitor, worked at charity Working Families on their legal helpline, advising parents and carers about discrimination and flexible working issues. Liz also has strong public affairs and communication skills; she has worked in both Houses of Parliament and as Parliamentary Officer for Working Families and the Royal College of Nursing.

Protect Chair, Paul Boyle said, “Firstly on behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Francesca for all her hard work and we all wish her well. The Board is delighted to appoint Liz who stood out head and shoulders amongst many applicants. She has impressed the Board and staff with her positivity, enthusiasm and ambition for the charity. I’d like to congratulate Liz on behalf of the Board on her appointment and offer any support if needed over the next few months, which will undoubtedly be challenging for CE’s up and down the country. The work of Protect is as vital as ever, if not more so.”


As part of a series of sector specific round tables, Protect, together with hosts Mayer Brown, brought together whistleblowing specialists from insurance firms large and small earlier this month.

The seminar, introduced by Pete Chapman of Baker Mackenzie and Chris Chapman of Mayer Brown, set out why whistleblowing matters to insurance firms.  Firms need to consider the extension of the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority rules to the insurance sector, as well as the increase in regulators’ emphasis on non-financial misconduct in the post #Metoo era, and how they focus on diversity – and how effective whistleblowing can play a part in each area. Chris reminded the audience that the best way to avoid the FCA finding out first about a problem, is to make sure your internal whistleblowing arrangements are effective.

The panel posed questions to the room – how would you know if your arrangements were working well?

Mike Carpenter’s (former Legal and General Group Financial Crime Risk Director, and now a consultant) outlined the “Ps” that those responsible for whistleblowing should consider:  philosophy, principles, policies, procedures, people, and  performance.  He encouraged attendees to measure the success of their whistleblowing arrangements with diagnostic tools – is a viewpoint supported by Jon Cunningham of Protect who offered the solution of the charity’s 360⁰ Benchmark in measuring operations, governance and staff engagement.

Protect Chair and ex-Aviva Chief Internal Auditor Paul Boyle OBE asked if the insurance sector has a greater level of responsibility to ensure that individuals with concerns of public interest are encouraged to speak up?   Crucially, is it in insurers’ best interests to actively promote whistleblowing to their customers to reduce risks?  The majority of delegates agreed.  Both underwriters and brokers should be looking at the effectiveness of whistleblowing arrangements when assessing the risks of their customers –  not just to reduce the need for large payouts to firms and individuals when malpractice has taken place, but  – in the public interest – to avoid harm.

Finally delegates discussed the importance of trust in whistleblowing arrangements, and the need for senior buy-in if cultures are going to change.  More could be done by associations and markets to issue best practice guidance:  everyone should be involved in getting the message across.

 

By Business Support Manager Stella Sutcliffe


Academics, journalists, whistleblowers, advocates and members of the public gathered at The Shard for an event hosted by Warwick Business School recently to discuss the hurdles they faced in their own journeys and recent trends in whistleblowing.

Protect’s Policy Officer, Laura Fatah, attended the event arranged by academics Marianna Fotaki and Iain Munro (www.whistleblowingimpact.com) with special guest Katharine Gun. Katharine was a translator based at British intelligence agency, GCHQ, who raised concerns in 2003 over a US plot to spy on the United Nations diplomats to ‘give the Americans an edge’ in their attempts to persuade the Council to go to war with Iraq.

Katharine Gun & Official Secrets

Gun knew this wasn’t right on three counts: GCHQ was being used for political means; the aim was to achieve war, and the diplomatic processes of the UN were being corrupted. She had also privately conducted her own research; and found “no reasonable reason” for the planned invasion. However – she was bound by the Official Secrets Act.

A lack of internal options lead Gun to conclude she had no option but to go against all her training and contact the media. Her whistleblowing has been made into the recent film ‘Official Secrets’.

Although the two states of the UK and the US eventually did go to war – they did so without approval of the UN, and amid international disapproval. Katharine Gun will be remembered for revealing to the world the underhand tactics of the US and UK.

Public Interest

The ‘public interest’ and who decides what this is was a key discussion point throughout the event at the Shard. Gun noted that the public interest defence, as used by the jury to successfully dismiss the case against Clive Ponting (who blew the whistle on the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands War), is no longer part of the Official Secrets Act. The public jury in that case clearly wanted to respect the societal value of the information that Ponting revealed, despite its confidential nature.

Modern Warfare

Mark Curtis, Editor of Declassified UK, spoke about the continued use of covert and potentially unlawful tactics the UK state still employs. He referred to cases when the UK is seen supporting the military operations of countries who have been found to be in breach of international law, such as the continued Saudi Arabian military assault of Yemen, the Israeli government’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and the US drone programme in Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Curtis highlights the particular difficulty whistleblowers face when raising concerns about the actions of their own government, as opposed to the vast majority of whistleblowers who raise concerns about malpractice or wrong doing in non-governmental institutions.

Trends in Whistleblowing 

Academic Iain Munro gave a brilliant summary of his recent work exploring trends in whistleblowing, and how the modern whistleblower is often supported by a network – without which they could not be effective. Members of the network include lawyers, journalists, confidants, advocates and translators. The use of technology was also discussed, and how best this can be used to securely share source material; technology has enabled the open source sharing of data with journalists and members of the global public. There is room for a genuine debate over the role of redaction in various forms of networked whistleblowing, but there is little doubt that it has played a huge role in stimulating public debate over issues including the legitimacy of recent wars, the 2008 financial crisis, offshore tax evasion and global mass surveillance.

Dave Lewis, of Middlesex University, explored the idea of pro-active protection for whistleblowers, including a protected status parallel to that of pregnant women in employment. However, this would naturally require the sacrifice of confidentiality. Ian Foxley spoke of his own ordeal, which is still on going, and how whistleblowers might learn ‘survival techniques’ from other human rights defenders. There was agreement that whistleblowers are faced with an overwhelming psychological toll and often need support.

It was a fascinating event with many interesting points put across by both whistleblowers and academics. Protect look forward to discussing the issues raised and our campaign for a new law for whistleblowing with all the delegates.

Resources:

 

By Laura Fatah


Financial service workers who have blown the whistle on workplace wrongdoing will be the focus of  new research by Protect and law firm Slater and Gordon. The research is to find out whether the FCA’s rules on whistleblowing have made a difference to whistleblowers’ experiences.

Head of Policy at Protect, Andrew Pepper-Parsons will work with Slater and Gordon to anonymously analyse 438 whistleblowing cases from financial service sector employees who called Protect’s advice line between 2017-19”.

The research, Silence in the City 2, updates the previous report, Silence in the City published with Slater and Gordon in 2013, which looked into records of over 300 workers from the financial services sector who called our Advice Line between 2007 -2012. A key finding of this study found workers’ lack of trust in their superiors may be well-founded: with 42% reported being dismissed after raising a concern once. This compared to 24% from across all industries.

Protect Head of Policy, Andrew Pepper-Parsons said, “With new FCA rules introduced in September 2016, we  want to see whether the efforts from the regulators has had a positive effect for whistleblowers. Do they trust internal mechanisms more?  Are their concerns now taken more seriously?  Has there been a robust response from firms around reports of victimisation?

He added, “Silence in the City 2 will allow us to compare – before and after – the implementation of FCA’s rules.  While employers tell us the culture has changed, we want to get the viewpoint from the whistleblowers in the sector.”

The landscape has changed considerably since 2012, with the regulators for the financial services, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA), issuing whistleblowing rules for banks and, more recently to insurance companies on creating and then running whistleblowing arrangements.  These measures include the following aspects:

  • Written whistleblowing procedures, with an ability for staff to report directly to the FCA or PRA
  • Emended approach to preventing victimisation in the whistleblowing arrangements
  • The appointment of a whistleblowing champion

In 2018 the FCA carried out research looking at the implementation of their rules, where they found many firms had embedded training and whistleblowing policies but many struggled to demonstrate that in practice they were taking proactive action.

Clive Howard, senior principal employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, who will be overseeing the project, said: “The original ‘Silence in the City’ report made for very bleak reading, with little support for the majority of whistleblowers in financial services who were at best ignored and at worst, victimised, disciplined or dismissed.

“There has been much positive change in the last seven years, but we know from our clients that problems do still exist. This updated report will be an important insight into what has changed for the better, what still needs to be done and hopefully a valuable learning tool to ensure those who are brave enough to raise concerns in such a sensitive and important sector as financial services are better protected in the future”.

Silence in the City 2 will be published in March.


Protect welcomes the launch of Dr Whitford MP’s private members bill – Public Interest Disclosure (Protection) Bill as an important step towards reforming the legal protection for whistleblowers.  Protect Acting Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner, said, “We’ve been calling for legislative reform as today’s whistleblowing law is out of date, so we are delighted that Dr Whitford has proposed her bill.  Her actions and the efforts of Baroness Kramer with her Office of the Whistleblower Bill, will put more pressure on the Government to reform whistleblowing laws in the UK”.

Dr Whitford’s bill proposes stronger enforcement of whistleblowing rights and a new independent body to set, monitor and enforce standards and to carry out its own investigations.

Protect have drafted their own proposals to replace the current whistleblowing legislation, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA).

Liz Gardiner said, “We look forward to seeing the detailed content of Dr Whitford’s Bill and then to working with all those who are committed to reforming the whistleblowing legislation.”


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.”