Letter: Brave whistleblowers

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IT IS encouraging that through the Public Interest Disclosure Bill employees who alert the authorities to dangerous or criminal practice at their work will be afforded some protection ("Thinking of shopping the boss but don't want to lose your job?", 23 February).

However, it is not clear that those dismissed could be reinstated under the legislation. The law would be unlikely to enforce what would be a very strained employer-employee relationship, especially in small or medium- sized companies.

The scale of the problem is considerable. Each year about 300 people are killed at work, and over 25,000 suffer serious injury, and Health and Safety Executive reports have suggested that management failures are responsible for about 70 per cent of accidents. My own national research suggests that about 20 per cent of workplace fatalities are, prima facie, cases of corporate manslaughter.

Nevertheless, even under the new progressive law, an employee would have to be particularly courageous and self-sacrificing to report dangerous practices and risk exchanging employment for a compensation cheque.

Dr GARY SLAPPER

Law programme

The Open University

Walton Hall

Milton Keynes

Buckinghamshire

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