This comes after a fifth of employees who expressed concern over their employer’s lack of compliance with COVID-19 regulations were ultimately dismissed.
The Government have stated they will be reviewing reforms linked to whistleblowing to “ensure that they remain fit for purpose”.
This was announced after Protect, a company which offers confidential whistleblowing advice, reported that a fifth (20 per cent) of employees who did report whistleblowing were dismissed by their employers last year. Over two-thirds (68 per cent) of the issues raised were linked to PPE, a lack of social distancing and failure to observe Government guidelines in the workplace.
The report also highlighted that this is a particularly dangerous trend, especially as the number of whistleblowers being dismissed is growing. Between September 2019-March 2020, a fifth of employees were dismissed for whistleblowing (21 per cent) but this has now grown to 26 per cent during the same period a year later.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy stated that this treatment is “unacceptable” and “no worker should lose their job for whistleblowing”.
As such, the Government announced an upgrade to the whistleblowing regime which includes “providing guidance on how workers can make disclosures while retaining their employment protections”.
This was reiterated by Brindley Twist Tafft & James, a Coventry and Warwickshire solicitors, which outlined that “under the terms of the law, employees can claim unfair dismissal, irrespective of their length of employment, if they are made redundant or victimised following ‘blowing the whistle’ on serious issues within the workplace”.
However, Kerry Hudson, Head of Employment at Brindley Twist Tafft & James, states that employees need to be fully aware of the process of ‘blowing the whistle’ before doing so to ensure they are protected.
Ms. Hudson clarifies that whilst each case will be judged on its individual merits, the general rule applies “that an employee must raise their concerns in writing (preferred) or verbally to their employer or another person of authority”. By complaining to fellow colleagues, customers or the press, it is “extremely unlikely” that the employee in question will be provided with protection under the legislation.
Referring to the statistics outlined by Protect, Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner, said:
The pandemic has exposed how, in reality, it is too easy to ignore whistleblowers, or worse, dismiss them for speaking out. There needs to be legal standards requiring employers to have whistleblowing arrangements. Organisations should face sanctions where they are found to be in breach of the whistleblowing standards, which should include fines and regulatory action.
*Research was obtained from Protect’s research published on the 22nd March 2021. This was in addition to some data which was cited in their ‘The Best Warning System: Whistleblowing during Covid-19’ which examined 638 Covid-19 anonymised cases for the period between 23 March – 30 September 2020 and a full year data set of 2,134 cases for 2019.