Workers who complain 'put careers in jeopardy': Advice service to aid whistleblowers

FRAUD, corruption and financial malpractice are the main sources of complaints made to a new legal advice service for whistleblowers, Public Concern at Work.

A report of its first six months, published today, shows the largest sources of concerns raised by staff are the National Health Service, local authorities and education.

The centre had requests for help from 260 people, 186 of them with concerns that were in the public interest. Almost half of them worked in the public sector, 12 per cent in the voluntary sector and 44 per cent in the private sector. In the public sector, 34 complaints concerned the NHS, 30 local authorities and 23 education.

One surprising finding is that charities and care organisations such as residential homes for the elderly and children, provoked many anxious employees to seek legal advice. There were about 18 representations about charities and 12 about care-providers.

The biggest causes of concern were fraud, corruption, public safety and work safety. The remaining complaints were about racial and sexual discrimination at work and the abuse of children and patients in care.

The most worrying trend which emerged across all sectors was that employees were not encouraged to raise their concerns. Some staff have been put on leave or threatened with disciplinary action when they sounded the alarm.

'Our caseload shows many managers still instinctively go for the messenger rather than deal with the message,' said Guy Dehn, director of Public Concern at Work, a London-based charity staffed by solicitors and advisers who give free legal advice.

The report said that where employers came across a public danger - a threat to the environment or a dangerous working practice - their first concern was often that it would cost money to rectify.

Employees were equally afraid to sound the alarm on financial malpractice despite the fact that in these cases they would be saving their organisation money. Mr Dehn, a barrister, said: 'Our impression is that the pervading culture in many organisations in the UK is that staff should mind their own business, come what may. This is in stark contrast to developments in the United States where leading companies have begun to reward their staff for minding the company's business.'

The report gave an example of a New York stockbroker, Bear Sterns, whose employees receive 5 per cent of any losses they prevent when they report financial malpractice. The company treats all reports in strict confidence and does not criticise those who raise false alarms. In the past year, two of its employees received awards of more than dollars 60,000 ( pounds 40,000). British workers who raise concerns, as a matter of conscience or loyalty, run the risk of damaging their careers - even losing their jobs.

One employee at a hotel discovered that his manager was on the take and that several thousand pounds had not been processed through the accounting system. Shortly after the concern was raised with the regional manager, the employee was the only person to be made redundant in the reorganisation of the hotel. The employee found another job but contacted Public Concern at Work who raised the issue with the hotel's chief executive. As the company instigated an audit investigation, the manager resigned.

In another case, a nurse at a private residential home was told by one of her staff that another nurse was abusing patients. She passed on the concern to the management who investigated but did not find it proven. The nurse was then disciplined for misrepresenting the facts. She contacted Public Concern at Work which is advising her on how best to fight her case.

Advice Service Second Report; Public Concern at Work, 42 Kingsway, London WC2; pounds 6.

Leading article, page 13

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine