Cases of whistleblowers who fall into employment disputes are numerous, and most end badly. When researchers at the University of Greenwich analysed employment tribunal decisions, they found that just 12 per cent of whistleblowers who brought a detriment claim were successful, and those who represented themselves — a rising trend — did worst. The pandemic in 2020 means there is a growing backlog in tribunals which, coupled with mass job losses, is a further blow to whistleblowers’ chances of getting recognition or compensation for their ordeal.
Covid-19 is having “a chilling effect”, says Samantha Feinstein, a staff attorney at the Government Accountability Project, a Washington-based organisation that supports whistleblowers. “In the US, we’ve seen a huge increase in the use of gag orders and we’re also seeing it in other countries . . . people are afraid to blow the whistle, because they’re afraid they’ll lose their job.”
One way to make workplaces safer is to provide secure channels for reporting wrongdoing. In the UK, organisations including the whistleblowing charity Protect, WhistleblowersUK, and the Doctors’ Association UK are campaigning for change. Reform is also the goal of a private members’ bill sponsored by the MP Philippa Whitford and of a House of Lords’ bill sponsored by Baroness Kramer.
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