Whistleblowing Laws 'Being Undermined'

The Evening Standard (London, England), October 14, 2003 | Go to article overview

Whistleblowing Laws 'Being Undermined'


Byline: NEIL THAPAR

THE Government does not do enough to encourage whistleblowers, a leading charity that helps employees to raise the alarm over business misconduct said today.

The row erupted as Public Concern at Work revealed that about 30% of all cases reported to its helpline related to possible financial malpractice. It explained that legal changes made two years ago prevented full public disclosure of whistleblowing cases where companies reach an out-of-court settlement with workers who reported wrongdoings.

"The rules mean that key details are now kept secret. With two in three whistleblowing cases settling before they reach a decision, these rules undermine the whistleblowing laws," it said.

Whistleblowers have helped to uncover some of the biggest corporate scandals, and abuse in the healthcare industry. These include the disclosure by Sherron Watkins of massive accounting fraud at US energy giant Enron. Five years ago British Biotech was at the centre of a whistleblowing case involving Andrew Millar, its head of clinical trials, who publicly questioned the efficacy of its cancer drug, marimastat.

Guy Dehn, director of Public Concern at Work, said the gagging rules should be abolished. "They thwart the public interest and the public can't find out what the problem was that led to someone being dismissed."

From next month whistleblowers will receive further protection from new corporate governance codes applying to publicly listed companies. These will require quoted businesses to install procedures so that company staff can complain about possible wrongdoing in confidence. …

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