Whistle while you work: not likely if you work in Britain

We don’t care! Workforce unaware of whistle-blowing legislation designed to protect them and probably wouldn’t report malpractice anyway

Over three-quarters of UK office workers would turn a blind eye to malpractice in the office and fail to report it, according to the latest research from the Federation Against Software Theft.

The research also found that two-thirds of British workers are unaware of the law when it comes to protecting whistleblowers in the workplace. A staggering 69 per cent of those questioned stated that they had no idea that legislation exists to protect them should they do the right thing.

Despite the fact that some 71 per cent of the sample knew that their employer had a policy on illegally used software, 76 per cent of the same group stated that they would not report misuse!

Key findings include:

  • 69 per cent of workers are unaware of the law that protects whistleblowers.
  • A staggering 76 per cent would not report their employer if they were using illegal software.
  • Of this sample 13 per cent stated that they would not report illicit use to protect their jobs; 22 per cent because they did not wish to be seen as a whistleblower and amazingly, 46 per cent simply did not care.
  • Of the 24 per cent who would report misuse half of them cited their belief in ‘good practice’ as the reason they made a report, while a further 31 per cent felt it was correct to stay within the law.

Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel, FAST, stated: ”You are protected as a whistleblower if you are a ‘worker’. If you believe that malpractice in the workplace is happening, has happened in the past or will happen in the future; are revealing information of the right type (a ‘qualifying disclosure’); revealing it to the right person, and in the right way (making it a ‘protected disclosure’).  Furthermore, ‘Worker’ has a flexible meaning in the case of whistle-blowing. As well as employees it includes agency workers and people who aren’t employed but are in training with employers. Some self-employed people may be considered to be workers for the purpose of whistle-blowing if they are supervised or work off-site.” http://www.gov.uk/en/Employment/ResolvingWorkplaceDisputes/Whistleblowingintheworkplace/DG_10026552

“What is revealed by this research is a pretty depressing picture not only for the software industry contributing to our economic success and providing employment in but across many other content-driven sectors such as music, film and games.  Not only are workers seemingly completely unaware of their rights in the workplace when it comes to doing the right thing, the worrying message that is coming out of this research is that ‘we do not care’,“ added Julian.

Victor DeMarines, Vice President of products for V.i. Labs, a FAST member that provides software intelligence solutions commented: “One reason why people don’t care is that unlicensed software has become easier to obtain so more individuals and businesses are adopting it without considering the repercussions. Software can therefore spread quickly within large organisations without users knowing whether or not it is legitimate. For this reason, it is imperative that end users, as well as software vendors, employ strategies to help educate workers to identify and report on software misuse, and limit the viral adoption of pirated software.”

Julian continued: “Serious compensation can be payable if your employer acts illegally when a protected disclosure is made. So if you think that software piracy is taking place in your office, then get in touch, but be sure of the facts. Reports can be made anonymously. Notwithstanding the law is there to protect you, the bigger picture is, respect for someone else’s creativity. The value of digital product must not be eroded, or it is negative for wealth creation and thus growth.” 

To be protected as a whistleblower you need to make a ‘qualifying disclosure’ about malpractice. This could be a disclosure about:

  • criminal offences
  • failure to comply with a legal obligation
  • miscarriages of justice
  • threats to an individual’s health and safety
  • damage to the environment
  • a deliberate attempt to cover up any of the above

If you would like to make a report to FAST about an organization using unlicensed software please use the online report form. Please complete as much as you can. Your contact details are important to allow FAST investigators to contact you should further information be required. Should you have any queries, please e-mail fast@fastiis.org.

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