While whistleblowing is not a new phenomenon, it appears to have taken on added significance in recent years. Fundamentally, it remains the case thatwhistleblowers can reveal information that would otherwise go undetected, and are therefore a vital source of intelligence. Such information can often be critical to an organisation, ensuring it, among others, operates according to the law and to an appropriate standard, and protects the health and safety of its employees.
In recent years, numerous jurisdictions have recognised the increasing importance of protecting whistleblowers and have introduced legislation to do so. However, there remain many jurisdictions that afford little or no protection to whistleblowers which lead to a culture of distrust and retaliation. Moreover, even in countries that do afford legal protections to whistleblowers, there remain large gaps in the scope and application of the law that adversely limit their effective operation.
Against this backdrop, the International Bar Association’s (IBA) Legal Practice Division and Legal Policy and Research Unit commissioned a Working Group sometime in late 2016 to come up with guidance for regulators and organisations on the development and implementation of whistleblower protections. The writers of this article were both part of the Working Group, which also comprised practitioners based in United Kingdom, United States, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Netherlands and Bolivia.
The Working Group concluded its work recently, and produced a guide (“Guide”) which addresses these limitations, identifies the fundamental principles underpinning effective whistleblower regulations, and highlights the important role played by governments and organisations in protecting whistleblowers. The Guide provides commentary and offers guidance to: (a) jurisdictions on the elements necessary to develop and improve legislative frameworks on whistleblower protection to make them more comprehensive, effective and robust; and (b) organisations on the elements relevant to developing and implementing whistleblower protection policies and procedures.
A copy of this guide can be located here. This article sets out a summary of the commentaries and findings in the Guide.