‘Whistleblowing is crucial’ says Hodge Watch

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‘Whistle-blowing is crucial’ says Hodge Watch

The treatment of employees in public services who have raised concerns about wrongdoing has often been “shocking”, a group of MPs has said.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said whistleblowers had often been subjected to bullying and harassment. Its report called for whistleblowers to be offered legal and counselling help and for “swift sanctions” to be imposed on staff who victimised them.

The government said it was acting to ensure people felt free to speak out.

The report highlighted the “important” role whistleblowers had played in uncovering details about the Hillsborough disaster and the Mid Staffordshire NHS trust scandal. The committee said whistleblowing was a “crucial source of intelligence to help government identify wrongdoing”. However, it found there had been a “startling disconnect” between policies encouraging whistleblowers in theory and what happened in practice.

The report highlighted the role of whistleblowing in the Mid Staffordshire NHS scandal

The report said it had “heard of too many cases of appalling treatment of whistleblowers by their colleagues”. Officials who tried to raise concerns often had to show “remarkable courage” in coming forward.

Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the public accounts committee, said whistleblowing was “crucial” and must be taken seriously by all chief executives of major companies and public sector organisations.

Legal protections for whistleblowers

The 1998 Public Disclosure Act protects workers who disclose information about potential criminal behaviour and other malpractice at their workplace, or former workplace, provided certain conditions are met.

Depending on the nature of information disclosed and who it is confided to, a whistleblower is legally protected from suffering from any detriment as a result. If these conditions are not met, a disclosure may constitute a breach of the worker’s duty of confidence to his employer.

The laws apply to direct employees and agency workers but not those working for the security services, and campaign group Public Concern at Work says other individuals – such as volunteers and interns – are also excluded.

The law was amended last year to include a specific public interest test, whereby whistleblowers have to “reasonably believe” that their actions are in the public interest to be protected.

Workers who raise concerns about bullying and harassment by work colleagues are also protected. Colleagues who victimise them are personally liable for their actions while their employers are “vicariously liable”.

Julie Crossley a Medical Injury Lawyer from Ashtons Legal comments “this is important and people should feel safe and not threatened by discussing and raising their concerns in what ever environment.” 


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