We began testing the benefits and risks of different reform choices in early 2018 with stakeholders across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, which informed our decision not to include the following changes in the five options for change. We set out why below and invite your feedback. 

Extending the protections of the Act to people who report directly to the media

Extending the protections of the Act to people who report concerns to the media could help expose serious threats to the public interest and incentivise organisations to take action.

But it’s complicated.

People could simply get it wrong, or worse deliberately make a false claim, which could cause unfair reputational damage to the people involved in the public domain. We think this would undermine the aim of promoting fairness for everyone.

Extending the protections of the Act to people who report concerns anonymously

Extending the protections of the Act to people who make an anonymous tip-off would provide a safer route for people to come forward to expose serious threats to the public interest.

But it’s complicated.

It could reinforce the perception that speaking up is something to be feared and kept behind closed doors. We think this would undermine the aim of creating open organisational cultures.

It could make investigations more difficult to carry out. We think this would undermine the aim of taking firm action against the biggest threats to the public interest. 

It could lead to a rise in false or vindictive allegations. We think this would undermine the aim of clearly focusing on conduct that poses the biggest threat to the public interest and promoting fairness for everyone.

Therefore, we do not propose going any further than the current provisions around anonymous reporting in the Act. People will still be able to report concerns anonymously, but would not receive the same protections.

Introducing penalties for employers who breach their obligations

Penalising employers for not having good procedures in place or retaliating against a person who speaks up would send a strong signal of the importance of protecting people who help to expose the biggest threats to the public interest.

But it’s complicated.

It could encourage employers to follow the “letter of the law”, but undermine their willingness to develop good procedures that actually work. We think this would undermine the aim of creating open and fair organisational cultures.

In our view, it’s better to direct resources towards enabling employers to develop good procedures and train staff in them. If this approach doesn’t work, we would consider introducing stronger interventions at a later stage.