A charity has urged the government to commence an urgent review of the protection of whistleblowers as it warns of a 'loophole' in the law.
The Whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work's (PCaW) call comes as a Court of Appeal ruled employers are not bound to protect nurse whistleblowers from the "retaliatory acts" of colleagues.
It is claimed this ruling will mean there is no longer adequate protection for whistleblowers under the 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act.
The case involved three nurses at NHS Manchester who raised concerns that a colleague had falsely claimed to have certain qualifications with senior management.
While the colleague was 'admonished' for having exaggerated, the nurses questioned why no further action was taken and claimed to have suffered reprisals as a result.
Court papers show the nurses fell victim to daily personal insults and one received a threat from an anonymous caller that they were going to "burning down of her house".
The Court of Appeal justified its decision by determining the acts of the nurses' co-workers was not the result of their whistleblowing.
"We believe there is now a strong case for a thorough review of this legislation by the Government," said Cathy James, Chief Executive of PCaW.
"This ruling means that an employer who does not do enough to protect staff from retaliation can hide behind their own inaction and escape liability. This is not good enough and may mean that workers (and particularly healthcare workers) stay silent when faced with the risks of blowing the whistle.
"The law should reflect the very sensible position that individuals should be protected if they are victimised by their colleagues, if we want to encourage workers to speak up. Unions, regulators and the business community need to ask the Government to revisit this vital issue and we would strongly urge the Government to close this loophole as a matter of urgency".
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Yes at all times" - Karen, Coventry
"Of course whistleblowers should be protected- as long as the concerns affect patient care, bad practice, corruption, law breaking etc, otherwise no one will want to report concerns over an organisation or colleague. But there should also be a mechanism in place to protect against bullying and vexacious complaints. I know of nurses who have been victimised by over zealous, cruel individuals; who on later being exonerated, have been left decimated by the annonymous actions of others and felt compelled to leave a job they had previously loved. There is a fine line between mischief making and bullying, and genuine concerns over an organisation or individual that is not performing as it should" - Name and Address supplied
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