Whistle blowing Framework – Government Response

04 Jul

On 25 June the Government response to the Whistleblowing Framework Call for Evidence was finally published.  Although in the Ministerial Foreword it is acknowledged that there “were weaknesses in the framework, so that the legislation has not always achieved its intended outcome”, the report concludes with 9 recommendations as a package of measures that the Government will implement which will not involve change to shift the legislative focus from the detriment a whistleblower may suffer, to addressing the matter on which the whistle has been blown.  

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whistle blowing

 

On 25 June the Government response to the Whistleblowing Framework Call for Evidence was finally published.  Although in the Ministerial Foreword it is acknowledged that there “were weaknesses in the framework, so that the legislation has not always achieved its intended outcome”, the report concludes with 9 recommendations as a package of measures that the Government will implement which will not involve change to shift the legislative focus from the detriment a whistleblower may suffer, to addressing the matter on which the whistle has been blown.  


The recommendations, in short, include:

• Improved guidance for individuals - The Government would like to work with those who are required to navigate the framework more regularly, to contribute to and drive the content of the guidance, to ensure that the information is of benefit to those who need to use it.

• Best practice guidance/non-statutory code of conduct – At present the protections do not stipulate that a business should have a process or guidance in place for dealing with whistleblowing.   The Government doesn’t intend to mandate this but notes that central guidance would assist and that they intend to create a  model whistleblowing policy which can be adopted by business.

• Making the position in relation to costs awards clear – The unsuccessful challenge via judicial review to the introduction of fees is noted as is the Government guidance which states that  ‘the general position is that, if you are successful, the
respondent will be ordered to reimburse you’.  The Government intends to take steps to ensure that people are aware.

• Assessment of the current ET1 referral system – The Government intends to carry out analysis of the effectiveness or otherwise of the current system to see if improvements are required.

•  Introduction of duty to report – It is considered that the system is undermined by the fact that currently protections do not stipulate that prescribed persons need to do anything with or about any disclosures they receive.  It also lacks certainty for the whistleblower.  The Government will introduce a duty on prescribed persons to report annually following consultation as to what should be included in the report and how they should be published.  This will be introduced through the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill.
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• Update the prescribed persons list – It is noted that the information is currently out of date and inaccurate therefore BIS commit to ensuring this information is updated online promptly following any changes made by Statutory Instrument and implement a system to ensure this is updated each time the list is amended.  Commitment is also made to an annual review going forward with Other Government Departments.

• Include relevant groups currently excluded from protection – It is noted that there is a case for student nurses, and other similar student arrangements, to be brought into the scope of the whistleblowing framework. The Government will bring this group into scope through secondary legislation.  No other changes are proposed however the area will continue to be looked at.

• No introduction of financial incentives – The Government remains unconvinced that this would be positive however in due course may consider whether the use of financial or other incentives would be beneficial as a way to encourage openness and to enhance the support provided to those who report wrongdoing in specific organisations or in very specific types of cases.

• Explore options to celebrate those employers who embrace whistleblowing - The Government plan to identify opportunities to celebrate those organisations that embrace whistleblowing and effectively use it as a tool to prevent malpractice.
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The full response can be accessed at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/323399/bis-14-914-whistleblowing-framework-call-for-evidence-government-response.pdf and is worth a considered read.

Leanne Buckley-Thomson

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