International Whistle-blower Reward Programmes: Is there a place for them in the UK?

Published on

A pile of US dollar bank notes.

Due to the scale and size of the public sector in the UK, losses due to fraud alone now amount to over £193 billion, and affect one in eleven adults. Most of this fraud originates in the private sector.

A new 2023 report, published by Whistleblowers UK, titled ‘International Whistleblower Reward Programmes: Is There a Place for Them in the UK?’, highlights the effectiveness of international whistle-blower reward programmes in the US and Canada as a means of raising awareness and incentivising whistle-blowers to bring forward evidence that can assist law enforcement and regulators in combating crime, corruption, and cover ups.

The effectiveness of these programmes has facilitated discussion across the political spectrum about whether the UK should or could adopt similar approach as part of the global war on economic crime and the levelling up agenda. This report provides an introduction to, and the arguments for and against, whistle-blower reward schemes based on the US and Canadian experience.

Research from Dr Folashade Adeyemo, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool Law School, was used to support the argument against - based on current UK regulations - citing her 2020 paper ‘Rebutting the presumption: are whistle-blowers really protected under PIDA [the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998] and in the case of the UK banking industry’, published in the Journal of Business Law.

Whistle-blowers in the UK have challenged the protections in PIDA, criticising that the legislation does not provide adequate protections to those who speak out against fraud and other crimes and compliance failings, and fail to include legal assistance.

Dr Adeyemo’s research contributes to the ongoing discourse on whistle-blower protection, specially examining the important question of whether the protection provided for in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1988 (PIDA) adequately protects the interests of whistle-blowers in the UK. Her paper places a substantial emphasis on the current whistle-blower architecture by focussing on (a) the challenges and paradoxes of the statutory provisions; (b) addressing why these are problematic; (c) and the interpretation of the court through case law.

In the 2020 paper, Dr Folashade Adeyemo concluded, “The only way that reform can be effective within the regulatory regime for whistleblowing in the UK is an understanding and acceptance that in its current form, the whistle-blower framework/law fails to fulfil its main aims and objectives.”

This statement is supported more recently (7 December 2022) by The Rt. Hon. Baroness Susan Kramer, making the case for reform of UK whistleblowing legislation, “We know that whistle blowers are the single most effective means of detecting wrongdoing, but that whistle blowers are often reluctant to come forward because of the poor outcome for those who seek legal redress under the UK’s Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.”

Dr Folashade Adeyemo will join Baroness Kramer, Lord Tyrie, Lord Agnew, Richard Pike, Georgina Halford- Hall, Constantine Cannon, and Iain Mitchell KC for a panel discussion in The Houses of Parliament later this year to discuss the need for a new Whistle-blower Act and the issue of restitution in the UK.


Find out more