With increasing emphasis on the importance of ethical business practices for staff, customers and the wider public, firms are looking for ways to engender trust in their business.
One of the most successful ways to do this is to implement an effective and impartial whistleblowing policy.
That's because demonstrating a commitment to developing a culture of transparency; accountability and integrity empowers your employees to speak up against wrong-doing in the workplace.
But what considerations should be made when creating a whistle blowing policy for your workplace?
This article will outline what a whistleblower policy is and how to make your whistleblowing service as trusted as possible.
Your whistle blower policy should include:
What is a whistleblower?
A whistleblower is someone who speaks up against suspected wrongdoing in the workplace, making a protected disclosure which they reasonably believe to be in the public interest. This could be through an internal whistle blower system or an external anonymous employee hotline provider.
Various legislative acts dictate that your policy will need to protect employees and former employees. Interns, the self-employed and employees of suppliers/business partners are often also protected as whistleblowers. This should be clear in your whistle blowing policy.
What wrongdoing conduct should be reported?
The below provides examples of the types of misconduct or behaviour that could give rise to a report. However, it is not an exhaustive list, and your whistle blower policy should encourage individuals to report any behaviour or incidents which they have concerns about.
- Criminal activity or offences, including fraud, theft, and embezzlement.
- Corruption, bribery or blackmail.
- Financial malpractice, impropriety or mismanagement.
- Facilitating tax evasion.
- Failure to comply with any legal or professional obligation or regulatory requirements
What makes a good whistle blower policy?
In order to instil the most confidence into your employees, your whistle blower policy should carry with it the assurance of impartiality. Whistleblowers should know that throughout the whistleblowing process, their disclosure will be treated fairly and with security.
The most cited reason for not coming forward with a disclosure is fear of repercussions. When the only avenues for making a protected disclosure are internal, employees may begin to question whether the whistleblowing policy their employer has in place is truly impartial.
This concern can be mitigated by outsourcing your firm's whistle blowing process to a dedicated, specialist, external whistleblowing service provider. Being able to state within your whistle blower policy that there is an external whistleblowing hotline demonstrates your company's dedication to the impartiality of the whistleblowing process.
Once your whistleblowing processes are established, it is important that your employees are aware of the whistleblowing policy you have in place. Firms must make a dedicated effort to ensure their employees understand: who they should contact; when they can speak up; and what sorts of issues are appropriate for the whistleblowing process.
The best way to raise awareness of your whistleblowing policy and procedures is by offering training to your employees. Using a dedicated whistleblowing training provider ensures this training is as comprehensive and effective as possible. Training is also available for those within your team responsible for internal whistleblowing matters and processes.
Your whistleblowing policy should ensure that reporting avenues are suitable and accessible for all those who may need to use it. An individual that suspects wrongdoing should be able to make a disclosure with as few barriers as possible.
Offering both written and verbal means of reporting is integral to this. This is also mandated by various regulatory legislation.
Language should also not be a barrier. If you have employees who speak a range of languages, utilising a whistleblowing service provider that is able to operate fluidly in multiple languages is a huge boost to your accessibility. At Safecall, we are able to take calls in over 68 languages. Having the ability to ensure your employees they will be able to make disclosures in a manner which is comfortable for them, and secure, helps build trust in your whistleblower policy.
Make sure your whistleblower policy is compliant with any relevant regulatory legislation within the territories you operate.
Whistleblowing regulatory compliance may mandate:
- Anonymous hotline provision
- Protection of whistleblowers from professional retaliation
- Competence/experience of whistleblowing process handling personnel
Legislation such as the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 (USA); the EU Whistleblowing Directive; and the Public Information Disclosure Act (UK) carry with them their own individual stipulations that employees must comply with.
At Safecall, our whistleblowing products are designed with best practice in mind – as such we help your organisation to comply with all major whistleblowing regulations. This allows even large, complex, international businesses to share a single dedicated whistleblowing hotline system.
Our data resides in the UK and our system is designed to be fully GDPR compliant.
If your company's avenues for making a disclosure are internal, there may be limitations to their availability to your employees. An effective whistleblowing policy should assure workers that they will be able to make a protected disclosure at a time that is convenient for them.
Using an external whistleblowing hotline provider means your employees can raise a concern at any point. Our anonymous employee hotlines are accessible 24/7, meaning individuals can make a report securely at their own discretion.
To maximise the trust your employees have in your whistleblowing policy, it is best to assure them of the reliability and impartiality of your investigation processes.
Outlining how investigations are handled, and how this may vary depending on the scope of the allegations made, improves the transparency of your whistleblowing policy.
Assuring your employees that investigations have the capacity to be outsourced, depending on their scope and severity, to an external whistleblowing investigations provider can improve the trust your employees have in your whistleblowing policy.
Knowing that a report will be investigated thoroughly and with expertise could encourage reports being made. If an employee feels that investigations may be conducted with a vested interest by an internal party, their confidence in the whistleblowing policy could be diminished.
At Safecall, our investigators are all ex police officers (often senior investigating officer level) with significant operational experience. Depending on the requirements, we allocate individuals with the appropriate skill set to match the specific nature of the work. Using an external provider demonstrates unparalleled commitment to impartiality and competence and helps your whistleblowing policy be even more robust.
Coinsidering the sensitive and confidential nature of making a protected disclosure, and the risks considered by a whistleblower when making a report, security must be assured by your whistleblowing policy.
It is imperative that organisations put measures in place to protect the identity of whistleblowers and those whom the report concerns. This can be achieved by:
- Restricting access to report data
- Ensuring secure transmission of data (complying relevant data protection requirements)
- Enabling anonymous reporting
EU whistleblowing law mandates that public and private organisations with 50 employees or more must offer reporting channels that ensure confidentiality. Offering assurances of security and impartiality will help create a culture of transparency; integrity; and accountability in your workplace – improving the confidence of your team, and helping to safeguard your business against reputational or financial damage.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.