whistle-blowingThe Government has announced that the protections available to whistleblowers are to be strengthened further.

Its proposed amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will mean that individuals who choose to blow the whistle against their employer will have protection from instances of bullying or harassment that may occur from their colleagues.

Currently, the law only offers workers with protection from harassment or bullying by their employer.

This protection, known as vicarious liability, mirrors existing provisions in equality legislation that treat detrimental acts of one co-worker towards another as the employer’s responsibility.

Employment Relations Minister, Jo Swinson, said:

“The protection offered by whistleblowing legislation is strong but there are always ways to improve it.

“This amendment takes into account recent events and will place whistleblowers, who are making a difficult decision, in a better position. They will now have a specific employment protection in place and be able to have the full force of a tribunal behind them if they suffer any detriment, bullying or harassment from a co-worker.

“The change will not impact on good employers who see it as their responsibility to make sure their staff have a good working environment.”

The move however, has been criticised as insufficient by some campaigners who want the Public Interest Disclosure Act (Pida) to be scrapped and rewritten.

Eileen Chubb, who brought the first case under Pida, said that “amending and patching up” Pida was not enough.

She added:

“Whistleblowers will have to go to court to uphold this new clause, which means people who have absolutely nothing have to pay a deposit of up to £5,000 before being able to access this new law,”

Chubb, who lost her job as a carer in Bromley after whistleblowing about the treatment of elderly residents, said:

“It also doesn’t address one of the central problems of Pida, which is that whistleblowing cases don’t belong in front of an employment tribunal.

“Employment tribunals are not qualified to hear these cases, which are often very complex and highly specialised.

“The tribunals come to wrong decisions against whistleblowers time and time again, leaving them devastated, unemployable and financially destroyed. Just as importantly, tribunals come to decisions that gag whistleblowers and mean the disclosures are never made known to the public.”