By Marcus Leach

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 (FAST).

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.

”You are protected as a whistleblower if you are a 'worker'," Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel, FAST, stated.

"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.

“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’.“

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

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