Public Concern at Work was delighted at the decision. 'This ensures that all workers - including the highly paid - will be fully protected when they blow the whistle,' says Guy Dehn, the charity's director. 'Employers should now be reviewing their arrangements for whistleblowing and checking that their contracts comply with the new Act.'
The Public Interest Disclosure Act - which was supported by government, opposition and business - is a response to recent disasters and scandals, such as Bristol Royal Infirmary heart operations, Matrix Churchill & Arms to Iraq, the Maxwell pension theft, Barings and the Zeebrugge Ferry Disaster. Time and again the official enquiries revealed that workers had been aware of the real dangers but had been too scared to sound the alarm.
The decision ensures that the UK has in place one of the strongest
Buitenen, whose disclosures led to the resignation of the European
Commission earlier this month, has stated that he would not have been
suspended by the Commission if such a law had applied to him.
Lord Nolan described the Act in the house of lords as 'skillfully achieving the essential but delicate balance between the public interest and the interests of employers'.
The Act, which will come into force this spring applies to every employer in the public, private and voluntary sectors in
* covers workers who raise genuine concerns about financial malpractice
* breach of contract
* abuse in care; dangers to health and safety
* risks to the environment
* protects public interest whistleblowing to regulators, the media and MPs
* guarantees unlimited compensation if the whistleblower is victimised or sacked
The Act protects workers who blow the whistle in good faith in three key ways:
1. Internal disclosures - where the worker genuinely suspects there is malpractice
2. Regulatory disclosures (such as the HSE, FSA, Revenue) - where the worker has good reason to believe there is malpractice
3. Public disclosures [including the media) - where the worker has good reason to believe there is malpractice and (a) they fear a cover-up or victimisation if they raise it internally or (b) the employer or regulator has not dealt with it properly. These disclosures are protected if they are reasonable.
Public Concern at Work is an independent charity launched in 1993. It has been at the forefront of developments on whistleblowing. It advised both Richard Shepherd MP and the government on the scope and detail of the new Act.
The charity provides free confidential advice to employees concerned about serious malpractice, and a whistleblowing policy pack for employers.