The Law of Unauthorised Disclosures
Chapter 4: Legal protections for raising concerns
Whistleblowers in the United Kingdom enjoy the protection of the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) 1998. Despite being heralded as ‘model in this field of legislation as far as Europe is concerned’, the Act has since faced mounting criticism from groups such as Whistleblowers UK, a non-profit organisation offering support to whistleblowers. Part of the difficulty is that the Act only provides protection ‘post-detriment’ or ‘post-dismissal’, thus requiring workers to bring a claim after mistreatment. PIDA 1998 does not require workers to exhaust internal procedures before choosing to go outside of their organisation. Organisations are under no obligation to follow a baseline standard of procedures in handling whistleblowing concerns, in fact they need not provide any whistleblowing procedures at all. The absence of procedural hurdles for workers has allowed UK whistleblowers greater flexibility in how they may raise concerns and to whom. However, this flexibility, combined with the absence of agreed base-line standards, has inevitably led to a myriad of different approaches between organisations. If things go wrong, claimants, at times unaided, must make a claim before an employment tribunal. PIDA 1998 can require claimants to mount often complex legal arguments without having the requisite expertise to do so. The whistleblowing charity, Public Concern at Work, established a Commission which suggested a number of reforms to PIDA 1998. The National Audit Office have published reports on the handling of concerns by regulators and the whistleblowing policies and arrangements available to civil servants.
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