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The Pros and Cons of Anonymous Reporting and Financial Reward in Whistleblowing

By Principal Lawyer, Employment & Partnership

Results from our recent survey revealed that 16% of people have blown the whistle at work. More than half of the whistleblowing incidents exposed health and safety concerns and 29% raised concerns over illegal activity.

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Whistleblower protection is vital to ensure serious concerns are raised. In our study, there were cases of people stealing from work, witnessing harassment and bullying and examples of employers avoiding paying their taxes and forging court documents.

Clearly, it is in the interest of everyone to ensure that employees in the UK feel secure enough to raise the alarm so as to put a stop to these practices. Put simply, if you see something wrong at work you should feel empowered to speak out.

But many of us would not as revealed in the survey we commissioned.

A fifth of people felt it was not any of their business to speak out. Nearly a quarter of the 2,000 working Brits we questioned wouldn’t say anything out of loyalty to their employer. Meanwhile a third would be worried about reporting illegal or dangerous activities by their employer. We all need it to be easier for whistleblowers to come forward.

Two Different Approaches to Change the Future of Whistleblowing in the UK

  1. Anonymous Reporting – If people could complain anonymously more people say they would do so. In fact 67% of people would consider exposing illegal activity at work if they could do so while keeping their identity protected. There isn’t anything to stop people reporting issues anonymously of course. But the difficulty is that anonymous reports cannot easily be investigated, and so while the whistleblower feels they have raised the alarm, it is often entirely ineffective.

  2. Financial Reward – Introducing a financial reward for whistleblowers is often thought to encourage more people to speak out. Results from our survey revealed that 17% of workers in the UK would speak out if there was a financial reward. In the US, this is far more common. After all, why shouldn’t there be some reward for information which is in all our interests? In the UK, some say this would fit better for some workplace cultures than others (e.g. financial services). But there are also concerns about creating a new layer of financial interest which could be problematic in uncovering the truth.

Almost half of the people we surveyed said they would consider whistleblowing if they had legal protection from suffering unfair treatment at work and, if sacked, they would get financial compensation. That legal protection has been around for over a decade, but it is clear that it is not widely enough understood. If you find yourself in this situation, we strongly recommend you get legal advice from one our experienced Whistleblowing Solicitors before blowing the whistle so as to maximise your legal protection.

By raising awareness of the whistleblowing protection that Employment Lawyers can provide workers with in the UK more people could come forward and make protected disclosures. Of the people we questioned, 63% did not know of the laws that exist to protect whistleblowers who reveal wrongdoing that is in the public’s interest.

Samantha Mangwana is a Principal Employment Lawyer with experience in whistleblowing cases.

To contact an Employment Solicitor who can help you with your whistleblowing case from Slater and Gordon Lawyers call freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online.

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