Whistleblowing - the Public Concern at Work Report

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01 Sep 2016

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By Amanda Beattie, Regional Litigation Manager, Croner

Public Concern at Work (“PCaW”) is a charity, whose fundamental purpose is to assist and protect workplace whistleblowing. Recently, PCaW have published a report which outlines their five-year review of whistleblowing in the workplace. Since 2011, PCaW has seen a 25% increase in whistleblowing across sectors and levels all over the UK, with the health, care, education, local government and financial services receiving the most claims. Also of note, the review showed that for the first time, in 2015 retail was one of the top sectors in relation to whistleblowing and in this sector, the number of cases doubled. PCaW reported worrying statistics regarding the outcomes for whistleblowers in the workplace: four out of five whistleblowers report a negative outcome, of those, 29% state they felt victimised, 28% were dismissed, 24% resigned and 2% report they were bullied. These outcomes no doubt feed into the statistics which PCaW report for employment tribunal claims related to workers’ treatment by their employers’ after whistleblowing. The top claim being that workers had been discriminated and/or harassed by their employer after whistleblowing. The number of employment tribunal claims which were successful slightly increased for these heads of claim, although so did the number of claims which were lost or struck out by the employment tribunal. Also of note in this review, was the increase in whistleblowing in the health sector, which reported an increase of a third in 2015 and amounted to 17% of PCaW’s overall cases. In this sector, the roles generally likely to whistle blow were nurses (18%) and doctors, who (13%) of the total PCaW cases. Their top concerns related to unsafe staffing levels and poor clinical practice. Other common concerns centred on policy decisions which impacted on patient safety and competence and conduct of other staff members. There were also notably differences in the outcome for individuals who whistle blew in the health sector, for example, the number of individuals who reported they were bullied after whistleblowing was higher that the cross sector average (it was 39% compared to 26%). However, the number of individuals who reported they were dismissed or suspended was lower than the cross sector average (38% compared to 50%) and one in three individuals reported a positive outcome to their whistle blow in this sector. PCaW advice lines report continued success in their support of positive outcomes for whistleblowing in the workplace, for both the way in which whistle blow was handled and the subsequent treatment of the individual. As PCaW has reported that if the individual contacted them before any concerns were raised, the positive outcome of the concern being investigated admitted/resolved increased to 26%. Similarly, the likelihood of having no personal negative consequence, or being thanked or the workplace being improved as a result of raising the concern, doubled if early contact with PCaW was made. PCaW five-year review highlights the key sectors and areas of concern which need to be addressed in the workplace, particularly the negative outcomes for individuals who do raise their concerns with their employers. However, the review show that if appropriate advice is sought at an early stage this can increase the likelihood of a resulting positive outcome.  

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