Whistleblower rights in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom is one of those countries where the provisions regarding the protection of persons reporting irregularities in companies were defined in the Act on disclosure of information in the public interest as early as 1998. Has the new Whistleblower Protection Directive introduced new, significant changes?

The history of protection of Whistleblower rights in Great Britain.

The issue of protecting the rights of Whistleblowers is treated very seriously in the UK. This country boasts one of the best-defined and most consistent regulations related to the security of persons reporting violations. The problem of their protection was first publicized by the Social Adult charity in the late 1980s. From that moment, more attention was paid to supporting Whistleblowers and it was postulated to introduce internal regulations to larger enterprises and public institutions. Another step to increase the safety of Whistleblowers was the establishment of an independent help center, Public Concern at Work, in 1993. For many years, the organization not only fought for the introduction of specific sanctions and laws that would protect Whistleblowers but also provided them with a toll-free telephone line that guaranteed support and legal advice. In 1998, after many modifications, the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair signed the Whistleblower Act and thus brought it into force.

What are the differences between the Whistleblower Directive and UK law?

The Whistleblower Protection Directive provides for the need to create internal channels for reporting irregularities. All European Union countries, regardless of the degree of implementation of national regulations, should comply with the requirements of the directive. Even though the UK is no longer a member of the European Union and does not intend to fully implement the Directive at this time, it is still committed under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement to a "level playing field" when it comes to the level of protection of labor standards. There are several important differences between the Whistleblower Directive and UK law:


  • First of all, the Directive applies to more sectors and protects a wider range of individuals, including volunteers, potential employees and collaborators.
  • UK law applies to the disclosure of legal obligations, regardless of source, while the Directive provides protection against breaches of EU law.
  • The UK only protects Whistleblowers from unfair treatment in a work-related context. In turn, the directive allows individuals to report irregularities in accordance with the regulations, which is treated as their protection against illegal activities.
  • Importantly, unlike the European Union directive, the British Act does not guarantee Whistleblower protection of identity confidentiality, except in certain specific cases.


Due to the differences between the Whistleblower Directive and national law, in early 2021, the UK government committed to reviewing existing rules on reporting violations in the workplace. Moreover, in order to preserve the country's status as one that provides comprehensive protection for Whistleblowers, the Protect organization launched a campaign calling for an update of existing regulations. Nevertheless, the provisions of the Directive remain relevant, in particular for financial services companies and organizations that operate across Europe.