15 April 2016
Whistleblowing: prescribed persons updates
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 – often referred to as the 'Whistleblowing' Act – gives workers legal protection when disclosing information relating to crimes, breaches of a legal obligation, miscarriages of justice, dangers to health and safety or the environment and to the concealing of evidence relating to any of these.
Where someone decides to blow the whistle to a prescribed person rather than their employer, it is important that they choose the correct person or body for that particular issue. For example, someone making a protected disclosure on broadcasting malpractice should contact the Office of Communications. Someone wishing to blow the whistle on the improper administration of a charity should contact the Charity Commission for England and Wales or the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator in Scotland.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has recently updated the list of prescribed persons and bodies to whom a disclosure can be made. Each entry contains a brief description of the matters that can be reported to that prescribed person or body.
In addition, a person may choose to blow the whistle to their legal adviser, in the course of obtaining legal advice, or to a member of the House of Commons about any matter specified in the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014. Contact details for Members of Parliament can be found on the UK Parliament website.
The updated list of prescribed persons and bodies can be found here.
On 1 January 2016, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (Commencement No 3) Regulations 2015 brought into force Section 148 of the Act. This gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations requiring a prescribed person or body to produce an annual report on all public interest disclosures made to them. The regulations must set out what information is to be included in the report, but its contents must not enable the whistleblower or the employer or other subject of the disclosure to be identified.
The measure has been introduced with the aim of ensuring that disclosures to all prescribed bodies are handled to a consistent standard and in order to provide greater reassurance to the whistleblower that action is being taken with regard to their disclosure. It is hoped that the changes will give those wishing to make a protected disclosure greater confidence to do so whilst at the same time driving behavioural change within organisations so that disclosures are viewed as an effective way of identifying and overcoming poor practice.