Skip to main content

Our Managing Partner Francesca West was interviewed on Sky News, Friday 22th March 2024, about the state of current whistleblower protections and what they should look in the future.

The transcript of the interview is here:

Interviewer: Joining me now is Francesca West, her law firm specialises in whistleblowing claims. Very good morning to you, what do you make of these warnings today that more needs to be done to protect whistleblowing or we could face another scandal, do you agree?

Francesca West: I agree entirely, I think at the moment you almost have playing out in public what is happening in the workplace, which is a small group of civil society trying to warn the wider system that the system isn’t working and it’s actually dangerous. And until there’s improved protections for individuals, until there’s a central place where this is managed and taken care of in central government, we will continue to see the scandals that have plagued society in recent days.

I: well yes because there is some protection under UK law isn’t there, under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, what is wrong then with that law that means that you want changes?

FW: So, it’s an important piece of legislation because it enables an individual that has been harmed to go and take a claim in order to get financial compensation for that but that’s quite a blunt tool, all you’re getting is financial compensation, and many employment tribunal claims settle of course. But what happens to the public interest in the middle of that? Who’s actually plucking out these issues and making sure they’ve been addressed and not closed down in settlements, or in wider legislation?

Essentially at the moment the law doesn’t require anyone to do anything, it just protects an individual if they come to harm, and whilst I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater on that it’s actually really important that there’s more central thought given to it, and that’s why this bill is really important because it’s going to encourage a conversation that really needs to be had, about what are we actually doing to ensure that individuals are protected before they have to make a claim, because no-one wants to make an employment tribunal claim, but also that the issue isn’t lost in the process. That there is a proper investigation and it isn’t hidden behind potential muddying of the water in relation to victimisation of whistleblowers, by any organisation.

I: Well yes, you say nobody wants to make a claim, how hard is it, in your experience for people to come forward and call out an employer if they feel like they are doing something wrong? You must work with these people all the time, how difficult is that experience for most people?

FW: Well, this is the absolute problem, you’re quite right. It’s so challenging for an individual to face up to their employer and say “you’re doing something that’s not right here”. However, many individuals they question something they see that’s wrong, they don’t realise they’re a whistleblower. It’s only when they start to be victimised or even dismissed that suddenly they realise that they are being victimised for having said something really important in the workplace. And then they’re into claim territory, which is long, protracted, and costly, so if you don’t earn very much money you’re not going to be able to afford legal representation so you face the tribunals as a litigant in person.

As the law stands, it’s quite complex. Over time, because the law is now 25 years old, it is now almost a patch-work quilt of dangerously stitched together protection, and I think that’s the issue, it’s in rightful need of review and the whole system in the same time should be looked at. It shouldn’t just be reliant on a small piece of protective legislation to make this work; we wouldn’t expect that in other areas of equality law or discrimination law. There needs to be a broader piece that looks into how organisations are handling this in order to support any protections for whistleblowers.

I: and what do you think the risks are of not acting, do you think that another scandal is inevitable if these changes aren’t made?

FW: It is absolutely inevitable. There will be another scandal once again, because I can even think of the clients I have on my books, in those there is the next big scandal, and that’s the reality of it because it is so difficult for the individual once they have challenged their employer and they’ve been shut down, to then go on even further to expose themselves as an individual, to be in the wider public eye, because that will impact their career for the rest of their lives. We shouldn’t be reliant on single individuals to carry the can, and to protect the public interest.

There has to be more within the system to make sure that the issues are heard and addressed without the individual having to put that on their shoulders.

I: Well, Francesca West, really interesting to get your take on this story today, thanks very much indeed for your time we appreciate it.

Image of interview of Francesca West about whistleblowing law

Francesca West interview about whistleblower protections

| News Feed | No Comments
Our Managing Partner Francesca West was interviewed on Sky News, Friday 22th March 2024, about the state of current whistleblower protections and what they should look in the future. The…
Aerial photograph of Kabul International Airport

Qualified success in ensuring Fall of Kabul whistleblower’s case can be heard

| News Feed | No Comments
The Government has failed in restricting Fall of Kabul whistleblower’s case from being heard   The civil servant who gave an anonymous interview to the BBC about the UK Government’s…