Professor David Lewis

In the past 'whistle-blowing' has been advocated by some as an important way of improving businesses and ensuring compliance with regulation.

As such, some have argued that there should be more protection for those who are battling with the decision of whether or not to blow the whistle. Often, employees have information that if out in the open might lead to improvements of services and ensure that failings are brought to the attention of those in charge and hopefully improved. Unfortunately, there has long been a fear over sharing this information for the potential victimisation they fear they might face as a result.

An employment law professor, David Lewis has written an open letter to Business Secretary, Vince Cable arguing that he has allowed for changes in the law without the proper consultation. He has accused him therefore, of bringing changes to the law through the 'back door'. The change he refers to was announced in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which was presented to Parliament last week. The effect of that change he argued would mean that disclosures made by whistleblowers will have to be "in the public interest" if the individual is to be protected from redundancy or suffer some other detriment as a result of making the disclosure. Given that many are already scared about making disclosures for the reasons mentioned above, this change will likely lead to a reduction in disclosures made. Now those considering making a disclosure will have more reason to think about. They will be unsure as to whether making their disclosure would be for the good of the public.

Lewis argues that the Bill will completely sabotage the whole point of the legislation. In reply to his comments concerning the lack of consultation over the Bill, the Department for Business and Skills (BIS) has answered that the Bill will receive scrutiny later on in the process when it passes through Parliamentary process. A BIS spokesman commented that the Bill aims to return the act to its original purpose. That is to avid claims being brought for beaches to the whistle blowers own contract; rather disclosures will be brought inly if they are in the wider public's interest.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) agrees with Lewis with respect to the lack of consultation. Given that such a change would affect so many potential disclosures it makes sense to have a consultation and to find out what kind of disclosure would be discouraged as a result. Once in possession of this information a better and fairer decision can be made. "To make it more difficult for whistleblowers is unhelpful to them and, in the end, also unhelpful to organisations," said Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at CIPD.

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