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Whistleblowing rules strengthened to protect against harassment from co-workers

The government has announced a strengthening of whistleblowing rules to protect workers who publicly disclose bad behaviour or harassment from bosses or co-workers.

The amendment to the current whistleblowing rules will see employers become responsible for “detrimental acts” of co-workers against colleagues who blow the whistle, by treating those actions as being done by the employer.

The change follows in line with similar provisions already under equality legislation, where employers can be found “vicariously liable” for the discriminatory acts of their employees.

According to the new rules however, employers that can show they have taken “all reasonable steps” to prevent that behaviour will not be liable, the government has said.

Employment minister Jo Swinson said the new protection will place whistleblowers in a better position, while having no impact on “good employers who see it as their responsibility to make sure their staff have a good working environment.”

The amendments will be introduced in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which is currently before Parliament.

If passed, the Bill will introduce several changes to whistleblowing rules including replacing the current requirement that a disclosure must be made in “good faith” in order to be able to benefit from legal protections. Instead tribunals will be given a discretionary power to reduce compensation awards where a disclosure has not been made in good faith, while the Bill will also strengthen public interest requirements.