Changes to the UK’s whistleblowing laws came into effect yesterday.

Essentially, the modifications to the whistleblowing law will encourage disclosures in the name of public interest and prevent abuse of whistle-blower protection.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 introduced the UK whistleblowing legislation after various rail and financial disasters in the 1980s and 1990s. However, despite the name, the law never actually referenced any type of protection for whistle-blowers.

Starting this week, the law will only protect so-called whistle-blowers as long as they reasonably believe that their disclosures are done in the best interest of the public, otherwise protection from dismissal or any detriment may not be afforded. At this time, no guidance on what is “in the public interest” means it will be left to the determination of individual employment tribunals.

Adding protection for whistle-blowers isn’t the only change to the law. The requirement for any disclosure to be made in good faith has been removed.

It is this particular change that may affect employers throughout the UK – many of which have whistleblowing policies that state that disclosures made in bad faith may result in disciplinary action.

Under additional changes to take effect later this summer, the law will also indicate that fellow workers that bully a whistle-blower will become liable in their own right for the harassment and could even have legal proceedings brought against them. Employers could also be liable for their staff’s conduct and must be able to show that they took reasonable steps to prevent it.

Now that the law has been updated, many HR departments throughout the UK may be modifying their handbook to accommodate the changes as well as updating their training in such matters.