Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will become an Act of Parliament later today and buried amidst its’ darkest reaches is revision to the current whistle-blowing protection.
Firstly, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (which amended employment law to provide protection for those who report wrong-doing on the part of their employer) did not expressly require whistle-blowing to be in the public interest. As a result, many cases have involved individuals seeking to rely on the legislation to challenge alleged breaches of their own employment contracts.
The Act includes an amendment which requires disclosures to be in the public interest if they are to be protected. These changes will apply where a qualifying disclosure is made on or after 25 June 2013. So far so good.
Now the bad news….. the new Act imposes upon employers a duty to take steps regarding any bullying or harassment of whistle-blowers by colleagues. Failure to do so will result in liability for any detrimental treatment the whistle-blower receives from colleagues. Further, addressing any such issues after the event will be too late. It is vitally important, therefore, that employers have a policy in place to protect genuine whistle-blowers and communicate this to the workforce. The commencement date of this new vicarious liability has not been announced but it will be implemented.
For further information, can be found by contacting Simon Rice-Birchall
Partner at law firm Eversheds, Direct: 0845 498 4978
or email him: firstname.lastname@example.org