Firms in the banking sector must now comply with rules (published last October) from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) on whistleblowing. The rules go considerably further than the existing statutory whistleblowing employment protection, so pre-existing workplace policies on whistleblowing and victimisation of whistleblowers will need to be updated.
One rule – the requirement to appoint a senior manager or director as a "whistleblowers’ champion" – took effect on 7 March. From 7 September, the rest of the rules apply, requiring firms to:
- have internal whistleblowing channels to handle all types of disclosure from employees and others, including not only anything that would be the subject of a protected disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act protections, but also any breach of the firm's policies and procedures or behaviour that is likely to harm the firm's reputation or financial well-being. There is no requirement for the disclosure to be in the public interest or for the whistleblower to have a reasonable belief in its accuracy. Employers will have to assess whether a concern raised by a worker is also a protected disclosure, in which case the employment protection legislation applies as well;
- provide training for UK-based employees, their managers and those employees responsible for operating the internal whistleblowing arrangements.
- include text in settlement agreements making it clear that nothing in the agreement prevents employees from making a protected disclosure;
- tell UK-based employees about the FCA and PRA whistleblowing services;
- present a report on whistleblowing to the board at least annually;
- inform the FCA of cases where an employment tribunal finds that a whistleblower was victimised or dismissed for blowing the whistle.
Although the rules only apply to a limited category of banks, investment firms and insurers, they are also non-binding guidance for other regulated firms. UK branches of overseas banks may be covered in the future.