The Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998 was brought into law to help protect employees who witness illegal malpractice being committed by their employers which may endanger public safety or interests. The need for the Act arose after a series of accidents and financial scandals during the 80s and 90s whereby employees repeatedly witnessed malpractice at the workplace but either did not raise these concerns with their employers for fear of retribution or did raise these concerns and were either ignored or victimized as a result. We will look at some of the provisions of the Act, how it has helped protect UK workers, and what some its weaknesses are.
Protection for Whistleblowers
Prior to 1998, UK whistleblowers had little protection from retribution by their employers if they chose to raise a concern regarding safety or malpractice in the workplace. These whistleblowers were regularly reprimanded, dismissed, or denied promotions as revenge for speaking out. With the 1998 Act, whistleblowers gained protection from such retribution. The Act made dismissal or other forms of retribution unlawful if pursued as a result of that employee raising concerns witnessed at the workplace. Furthermore, if an employee suffers from such retribution as a result of legitimate whistleblowing activities, that employee can bring his or her grievances to an employment tribunal which can then award compensation to the employee.
The PIDA has been largely successful in protecting workers’ rights. As a result of the Act, many more whistleblowers have come forward with their concerns, and whistleblowing activities have increased many times over since 1998. Also, many companies and organizations have since introduced internal whistleblowing procedures to make it easier for workers to raise concerns about malpractice occurring in the workplace.
At the same time, however, the PIDA does suffer from a number of weaknesses. For one, less than half of all UK companies currently have whistleblowing policies in effect, and the Act provides no compulsion for them to institute such policies. Furthermore, only a fraction of all employees are aware that protections are in place for whistleblowers. The Act is also perceived as being weak in preventing employees for being blacklisted within an industry. While the Act will protect an employee within an individual company, it offers little protection to the employee from being denied employment by another company within the same industry. Lastly, the Act does not cover volunteers or genuinely self-employed people, even if these people raise concerns about practices at their respective organizations that could endanger public safety. While the Act has had great success in protecting many whistleblowers, many organizations are currently pushing for amendments to the Act to address these shortcomings.
The PIDA is an important piece of legislation in the history of protecting workers’ rights. Since its introduction, whistleblowers have been noticeably more confident in coming forward both to their employers and the public with what they perceive as malpractice occurring in the workplace. As a result, the public has been kept safer since the Act’s introduction. Nonetheless, weaknesses exist in the PIDA and much still needs to be done to ensure it protects all employees and volunteers from suffering retribution when they raise concerns about practices at the workplace.
Luke Braxton is a former couples counselor. Now retired, he spends his time writing on various blog sites. You can get divorce help from the Co-Operative, click on the link for more information.
“Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.” Legislation.gov.uk. legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/23/introduction/enacted