Policy paper (Unedited grom gov.UK)
Review of the whistleblowing framework: terms of reference
Published 27 March 2023
Applies to England, Scotland and Wales
In Great Britain, whistleblowing refers to when a worker makes a disclosure of information which they reasonably believe shows wrongdoing or someone covering up wrongdoing. Types of wrongdoing include criminal offences, the endangerment of health and safety, causing damage to the environment, a miscarriage of justice, or a breach of any legal obligation.
Workers who blow the whistle are entitled to protections, which were introduced through the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) (amending the Employment Rights Act 1996). These include protection from detriment or dismissal as a result of blowing the whistle, and a route of redress through the Employment Tribunals if these protections are infringed. To qualify for protection the worker usually has to have made the disclosure to their employer, legal adviser or a prescribed person.
Since the introduction of PIDA, successive governments have taken steps to strengthen whistleblowing policy and practice. For example, in 2017, the government introduced a new requirement on prescribed persons to report on the whistleblowing disclosures received. Taken together this combination of laws and protections, and associated non-legislative guidance makes up the GB Whistleblowing framework.
More recently, there have been calls for reform to the whistleblowing framework, and several ideas have been put forward to expand the framework and reorganise responsibilities for whistleblowing.
This review will examine the effectiveness of the whistleblowing framework in meeting its original objectives. The review will provide an up-to-date evidence base to inform government about policy choices to develop and improve the whistleblowing framework.
PIDA’s original objectives were to:
- provide a route for workers to make whistleblowing disclosures
- protect workers who have made disclosures from detriment and dismissal, and provide a route of redress where this happens
- support wider cultural change, in which the benefits of whistleblowing are recognised and lead to action among employers and others
The review will consider how the whistleblowing framework currently operates, including PIDA and subsequent legislative and non-legislative interventions.
Core research questions:
Core research questions are:
- how has the whistleblowing framework facilitated disclosures?
- how has the whistleblowing framework protected workers?
- is whistleblowing information available and accessible for workers, employers, prescribed persons and others?
- what have been the wider benefits and impacts of the whistleblowing framework, on employers, prescribed persons and others?
- what does best practice look like in responding to disclosures?
The review will not gather evidence on reporting channels and protections where there is no workplace relationship, for example, in business transactions, journalists, witnesses or third parties. However, the review will examine evidence related to the definition of worker for whistleblowing protections.
The research will synthesise the existing evidence on whistleblowing, and investigate the role and perspectives of the actors involved such as workers, employers, regulators and tribunals. It will focus on common themes, issues and best practice in relation to the whistleblowing framework.
The review will be led by the Department for Business and Trade (DBT).
It is expected that the research will be concluded by Autumn 2023.