A recent report by Blueprint for Free Speech and the Thomson Reuters Foundation recommends that the UK's whistleblowing laws be substantially overhauled, including a reversal of the burden of proof in certain cases, civil and criminal penalties for those who retaliate against whistleblowers and a fast-track administrative procedure to provide preventative protection for whistleblowers. The report also recommends greater clarity (and more restrictions) on the use of confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements settling whistleblowing claims.
The recommendations in the report would undoubtedly do much to strengthen the legal protection available to whistleblowers in the workplace: they would shift the emphasis from compensation to preventative action. But would this tip the balance too far in favour of workers who raise concerns out of self-interest? Our experience is that, while there are many genuine whistleblowers, some workers raise concerns out of decidedly mixed motives. Recent efforts by the Government to try to ensure that only disclosures which were genuinely made in the public interest are protected seem to have come to nothing, as the new legal test has been interpreted very broadly by the courts (see here for examples: http://newsroom.howardkennedy.com/employment-e-alert-not-whistling-in-the-wind-workers-own-contract-disputes-can-attract-whistleblower-protection ). Businesses could be forgiven for worrying that the reforms proposed in this report would encourage vexatious claims.
The report consequently outlines 20 reforms, 10 of them urgent, which would help to improve protection for whistleblowers in the UK. Importantly, it provides a blueprint for countries looking to draft best practice legislation.