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Understanding whistleblower rights and protections in 2024

Whistleblowing involves the disclosure of perceived wrongdoing within an organisation. Most countries have laws in place to protect whistleblowers, to ensure that those who have concerns about the way an organisation is being run, will not face retaliation for making a disclosure.

Whistleblowing support for employees - intelligence & risk solutions

What rights and legal protections do whistleblowers have?

Whistleblowers are protected by law, as long as they are a worker and are acting within the public interest when making a disclosure. This means that personal grievances, such as bullying, harassment, and discrimination, are not usually covered by whistleblowing law, unless a specific case is within the public interest. In the UK, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) protects any worker who makes disclosures of information in the public interest. Worldwide, 140 countries are signed up to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, a treaty that binds its signatories to consider implementing protections for whistleblowers in their country’s legal system.

When are whistleblowers not protected by law?

People who make whistleblowing disclosures should do so with the belief that their concerns are in the public interest – issues which aren’t regarded as being in the public interest aren’t protected by whistleblowing legislation. To be classed as public interest, an issue must affect others, not just the whistleblower themselves. In a recent case, Jonathan Zarembok, a former BP oil trader, lost an employment tribunal after it was ruled that he made a whistleblowing disclosure due to a personal grievance.

Why are whistleblowing policies needed?

All organisations should have whistleblowing support in place for employees. Whistleblowing policies ensure workers can confidently report wrongdoing occurring within their workplace, with assurances it won’t have negative personal implications.

Whistleblowing support for employees

Asda whistleblowing policy - intelligence & risk solutions

Most organisations offer support for employees wishing to make whistleblowing disclosures. Asda encourage their employees to speak up about misconduct, and the Asda whistleblowing policy allows concerns to be raised by colleagues, ex-colleagues, contractors, suppliers and customers.
In line with the UK’s whistleblowing legislation, which states that employees shouldn’t lose their jobs or be treated unfairly for whistleblowing, Asda say that colleagues should not face retaliation for reporting concerns.

Digital whistleblowing channels

Digital whistleblowing channels - intelligence & risk solutions

Some organisations offer digital whistleblowing channels so that employees can report potential wrongdoing with ease, and without fear of retaliation. Asda’s whistleblowing policy allows employees to report wrongdoing via an anonymous and confidential ethics helpline, available 24 hours a day. Although Asda ask colleagues to attempt to resolve issues with line managers before escalating things further, they encourage workers to report concerns about issues such as bribery, corruption, and human rights violations, straight to the Asda ethics channel.

Digital whistleblowing support - intelligence & risk solutions

Digital whistleblowing channels allow those wanting to make disclosures to upload supporting documents alongside their concerns. This streamlines the whistleblowing process, enabling whistleblowers to have their disclosures heard quickly, and organisations to resolve issues in a timely manner.

Digital whistleblowing channels also offer whistleblowers the opportunity to remain anonymous to their organisation, creating an extra layer of protection against potential retaliation.

New whistleblowing legislation

Recently, there have been calls for reform to the UK’s whistleblowing legislation. The UK government has been undertaking a review of the UK’s whistleblowing laws, exploring who is covered by whistleblowing protections, what information and guidance is available for whistleblowers, and how employers respond to whistleblowing disclosures. Organisations should stay up to date with all whistleblowing legislation, whilst ensuring that support and
information on whistleblowing is available for all employees.