The Whistleblowing Commission is calling for a simplification of the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) should force firms to adopt a code to protect whistleblowers, a retired senior judge has said.

Former Court of Appeal judge Anthony Hooper told the Gazette that the SRA should ensure that firms adopt the code recommended in the commission’s report, published this week. Among other recommendations the report commission calls for changes to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 to extend whistleblowing protection to partners.

Speaking to the Gazette at the commission event, Hooper said it was incumbent on the regulator to support individuals exposing wrongdoing, and that the code would help tackle issues of fraud and bribery.

‘It’s essential as you will be able to see things like churning, where firms bill for work that isn’t done,’ he said. ‘The SRA could require law firms of a certain size to have such procedures in place,’ he said. 

The code calls for the simplification of the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which was introduced 15 years ago to provide a remedy for workers dismissed for whistleblowing. 

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Regulators to be more transparent about their own whistleblowing arrangements;
  • Specific provisions against the blacklisting of whistleblowers;
  • Strengthening anti-gagging provisions in the law;
  • Specialist training for tribunal members to handle whistleblowing claims effectively.
  • All workers to be protected by a statutory whistleblowing code.

Cathy James, chief executive of whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work, said: ‘Up until now whistleblowing has not been handled well by regulators. The lessons have still not been learnt and the government needs to act to ensure that we do not repeat the scandals and tragedies, which have plagued us over the last few years.’

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) will respond to a call for evidence on whistleblowing protection early next year.