Listen Up! Change in the air for whistleblower protection in the UK?

In our new infographic we take a deep dive into three draft bills making progress through parliament, each proposing a range of far reaching changes to the way whistleblowers are protected in the UK. 

Proposals for whistleblowing reform in the UK

While the British government will not be required to implement the EU Whistleblowing Directive due to the deadline for implementation falling after the Brexit transition period, there continues to be pressure to improve and widen whistleblowing protection in the UK.  

Currently, employees and workers who make a “protected disclosure” and are subjected to detriment and, in the case of employees to dismissal, because of raising their concern, are afforded protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (“PIDA”). However, campaigners for more effective whistleblowing protection in the UK have long maintained that these current protections under PIDA do not go far enough. 

Now, with three different draft bills making progress through parliament, each proposing a range of far reaching changes to the way whistleblowers are protected in the UK, it appears that some potentially significant changes may be on the horizon. 

Each of the three bills is backed by prominent whistleblowing campaigners in the UK. 

The first bill to be launched, in October 2019, was the whistleblowing charity Protect’s Bill to strengthen whistleblowing protection. This bill was produced by Protect based on feedback from legal practitioners, leading academics and whistleblowers and calls for a number of amendments to PIDA to provide protection for more people and in a wider range of situations. 

Protect’s bill was closely followed in early 2020 by two further bills.  In January 2020 Baroness Kramer’s All Party Parliamentary Group for Whistleblowing (APPG) presented its Office of the Whistleblower Bill and in February 2020 Dr Philippa Whitford MP introduced her Public Interest Disclosure (Protection) Bill. 

All three bills are aligned in key respects such as calling for the creation of a new independent whistleblowing body in the UK with a range of powers – such as a Whistleblowing Commission or an Office of the Whistleblower. However there are significant differences in the proposed role and powers of any such body. There are also a number of key differences in the reforms being proposed by each bill, including the extent to which PIDA should be overhauled or, indeed, repealed.   

In our new infographic we consider the three bills and the reforms envisaged in them, identifying the key proposals in each campaign. 

While it is not yet clear which of the three campaigns will ultimately succeed and in what respects, the combined impact of three groups lobbying in this field strongly suggests change will be in the air soon.