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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

Government launches review of the whistleblowing laws

Government launches review of the whistleblowing laws


The review aims to assess the effectiveness of the whistleblowing regime

The Department for Business and Trade announced the launch of a review of the UK’s whistleblowing laws on 27 March, which will gather evidence on the effectiveness of the current regime in enabling people to report wrongdoing in the workplace and protecting those that do so.

Whistleblowing refers to the act of disclosing information by a worker, which they reasonably believe shows wrongdoing or someone involved in covering up wrongdoing. Those who ‘blow the whistle’ are entitled to protections provided by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Whistleblowing is a crucial source of evidence and information for regulators and authorities, because nefarious activities and the possible perpetrators in some instances can only be exposed by individuals within an organisation. Whistleblowing also provides employees with an anonymous channel of communication to report unsafe working conditions, as well as suspected wrongdoing.  

The government’s new review will cover key elements of the whistleblowing framework, including: who is covered by whistleblower protections; the availability of information and guidance for whistleblowing purposes, provided by both the government’s online resources and employers; and how employers and prescribed persons respond to whistleblowing disclosures, including best practice. The government will gather evidence and seek views from interested stakeholders, including whistleblowers, charities, employers and regulators.

Commenting on the launch of the review, Business Minister, Kevin Hollinrake, said: “Whistleblowing is a vital tool in tackling economic crime and unsafe working conditions, and the UK was one of the first countries in the world to develop a whistleblowing framework. This review has been a priority for me since joining government, and it will take stock of whether the whistleblowing framework is operating effectively and protects those who call out wrongdoing in the workplace.”

According to the government’s press release, during the height of the covid-19 pandemic the Care Quality Commission and the Health and Safety Executive recorded sharp increases in the number of whistleblowing disclosures they received.

Richard Burger, partner in WilmerHale’s UK white collar defence and investigations practice, said: “Whistleblowers provide important intelligence for corporates to detect and disrupt frauds and acts of corruption perpetrated upon the corporate by both the internal rogue employee and the external fraudster.  A review of the effectiveness of and legal protections provided by the current regime should enhance the value of the intelligence provided.”