New Whistleblowing Legislation - Time to get ready
In late July the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 was signed into law. This updates legislation from 2014 and currently applies to organisations with 250 or more employees or those who operate within certain regulated financial services. However, employers with 50 or more employees also need to prepare as this Act applies to them from 17 December 2023.
Firstly, a protected disclosure is a disclosure of relevant information that came to a personís attention in a work related context, and which they reasonably believe tends to show one or more relevant wrongdoing such as, but not limited to, an offence has been or is likely to have been committed; that the health and safety of an individual/s has been or is likely to be endangered; or that there is a breach of EU law in the context of for example product safety, environmental protection or data privacy and protection.
While the 2022 Act has broadened the definition of a protected disclosure it has also introduced a number of other significant changes. In summary, these are covered below.
1. The list of those who can make a protected disclosure has broadened to include additional categories of person. Previously it was a worker, now it also covers such groups as shareholders, volunteers, prospective and ex- employees as well as employees, consultants etc.
2. Whistleblowers are protected from being penalised and in this 2022 Act the definition of penalisation has been extended to cover not only dismissal, demotion, intimidation, harassment etc but it now also covers the withholding of training; a negative performance assessment; early termination or cancelation of goods/ services, among other matters.
3. Employers with 250 or more employees immediately need to have policies and procedures in place to highlight what a person needs to do in the event that they have a protected disclosure to make. Companies must also have an internal mechanism of dealing with such disclosures covering who/ what department to raise the disclosure with. The disclosure needs to be acknowledged within 7 days and the company must provide feedback to the person who made the disclosure within a reasonable period, which should be no later than 3 months of when it was acknowledged. Throughout there should be diligent follow up of the matter.
4. This legislation will apply to organisation of more than 50 employees from December 2023.
It is important that relevant employers now review this legislation and if there are no set mechanisms currently in place, they must make arrangements to consider how best to implement these requirements into their organisation. For companies who already have policies and procedures in place they must review these to ensure that they are appropriate and relevant to the legislation.
Public sector organisations were covered, regardless of size, in the 2014 Act. However, they should also review the legislation and determine whether their policies need to be updated.
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Please note that this article does not form legal advice. It was written for informational purposes only.
Written by: Rosanne Edger MCIPD, HR Consultant August 2022