Protect conducted the research through their Advice Line for whistleblowers: the phone line got 37% more calls from March 23, 2020 to the end of September compared to 2019. Many of the callers wanted “advice on new Covid-specific concerns and new issues that we have never come across previously, such as social distancing in shops, PPE safety equipment and hand sanitisers in bus depots,” according to the report. The cases mentioned in the report and used for the study were anonymized.
Protect found that 62% of the cases that whistleblowers brought to the advice line were about furlough fraud, and 34% were about “increasing risk to public safety,” which included “issues of PPE and the lack of social distancing in the workplace.” The charity also found that overall, 41% of employees “who raised Covid-19 related concerns to their employer…were ignored,” according to the report. “We are seeing the same failings during this global crisis when compared to 2019 where the figure stood at 39% across the whole year. Yet many of the concerns raised during the pandemic include risks to public safety – with 43% saying they were ignored,” the report reads.
Additionally, Protect’s research found that “Almost half of concerns raised regarding ‘increasing risk to public safety’ were from health and care key workers, with just 10% saying their employers investigated their concerns.” The report also states that “20% of whistleblowers were dismissed after raising concerns about Covid-19 issues.”
“There is no excuse for employers to ignore whistleblowers, but during a global pandemic, it is a danger for us all when concerns are not acted on and the consequences could be a matter of life and death,” said Protect’s Chief Executive Liz Gardiner.