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Government reforms (3): Whistle-blowing update


What do we already know?

At the same time as making changes to the whistle-blowing legislation in July 2013 (see our May 2013 Newsletter Government reforms finalised) the Government issued a Call for Evidence to find out the public’s views in a number of areas.

What’s new?

The Government has responded to the comments made following its Call for Evidence. The response is available here and in summary:

In addition, the Government will look at ways to promote positive examples of effective whistle-blowing policy and procedure, highlighting tangible benefits for organisations.

What are the implications?

There is little suggestion of legal reform in the Response, which will be a relief to many employers. The expectations were that the Government would introduce more extensive reform and the proposals have certainly fallen short of the expectations set by the Whistle-blowing Commission.

The Government instead believes that what is needed now is a shift in culture, away from negative perceptions (particularly of whistle-blowers themselves) and towards better understanding of the law, as well as the benefits of compliance. In particular, the Government recognises that the whistle-blowing framework is about addressing the workplace dispute that can sometimes follow a disclosure, rather than the malpractice that is the subject of the disclosure. Its focus is therefore on improved guidance and steering employers towards positive behaviours, rather than further prescriptive measures.

However, it is yet to be seen whether this shift in culture is achievable without more extensive legislative reform and it will be interesting to see whether the scope of the amendments to the regime is broadened as the legislation makes its way through Parliament.

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