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David Lewis professor of employment law has, during a public debate at Middlesex University, argued that employees had to know that they would be rewarded rather than penalised if they spoke out against unlawful activities such as bribery, fraud and other forms of malpractice. He said that a change in work culture and whistle blowing if rewarded can stop damaging public disclosures of information.
Professor Lewis is one of the UKs most well-known employment law professors.
The professor has gone as far as saying that he all for criminal charges against companies that victimised whistleblowers to send message to others that bullying and retribution would not be tolerated.
Lewis spoke alongside Wendy Addison, an accountant who revealed the fraudulent operations at South African company LeisureNet, and told of her 11 year battle to see justice despite threats against her life both in South Africa and even after she moved to the UK. Lewis said that employees need to understand that reporting wrongdoing in their company will not result in the loss of their job and intimidation from colleagues. If companies are prepared to protect, compensate or even reward whistleblowers, then other employees are more likely to confidentially report wrongdoing through the proper channels, ultimately avoiding embarrassing and financially damaging public disclosures for their company, normally made through the media or internet.
Lewis further argued governments should reward whistleblowers to encourage more companies to do the same. This would help break down the atmosphere of isolation and fear whistleblowers often experience when they report wrongdoing, he said.
Lewis' research has shown many businesses were not doing enough to promote confidential reporting of wrongdoing. He visited the websites of all FTSE Top 100 companies (listed in December 2011) to search for information which would allow people to confidentially report issues like bribery or fraud and found that 69 of the 100 companies did not display any information regarding whistleblowing. Which results in their contractors, suppliers, customers, members of the public, or staff who don't want to search for such information on company intranets, may not know how to report concerns.