Research perspectives

MPs call for an “Office of the Whistleblower”

MPs on the All Party Parliamentary Group for Whistleblowing have called for the urgent establishment of an ‘Office of the Whistleblower’ to ensure the rights of those who make public interest disclosures are upheld and that they are protected from discrimination. Mary Robinson, chair of the APPG for Whistleblowing, said it was time for “a root and branch reform of the legislation”, including the establishment of a body capable of tackling and challenging wrongdoing

The APPG Report ‘Making whistleblowing work for society’ was based on research undertaken by the University of Greenwich, that looked at 600 whistleblowing cases heard at tribunals between 2015 and 2018. The report found that:

  • Whistleblowing cases continue to have a low success rate. Just 12% of whistleblowers whose cases go to preliminary hearing at employment tribunals in England and Wales are successful, and almost half of whistleblowing cases in 2018 took longer than two years to be heard.
  • Whistleblowers suffer more and longer than before. There was also a high sickness absence rate among whistleblowers with almost two in five reporting going on sick leave after making a public interest disclosure in 2018, an increase of 15% since 2015.
  • There is an important gender dimension for whistleblowers with female whistleblowers more likely to report health issues, less likely to have legal representation, and less likely to win their claim for unfair dismissal even when an employment tribunal judge upheld their protected disclosures.
  • Whistleblowing cases commonly include a discrimination claim, yet those are the least successful whistleblowing cases.

The report concludes that the employment tribunals system is “dominated by David v Goliath cases in which the employer has large skilled teams of legal advisors and the whistleblower is alone”.