World Whistleblowing Day serves as a reminder to raise public awareness about the important role of whistleblowers in combatting corruption and maintaining security. According to the 2021 Global Business Ethics survey report, the global median for reporting misconduct was 81% in 2020, compared with 63% in 2019, so employees are whistleblowing more often. The survey also revealed that 43% of employees globally reported management lying to employees, 58% of employees globally reported abusive behaviour and 59% of employees globally reported health violations.
So, what is whistleblowing and why is it important in organisations?
Whistleblowing is when an employee passes on information concerning a misconduct. The malpractice will typically (although not necessarily) be something they have witnessed at work, and it must be in the public interest – so that means it must affect others. It includes criminal offences such as fraud, failure to comply with an obligation set out in the law, miscarriages of justice, endangering of someone's health and safety, damage to the environment and covering up any other wrongdoing.
Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, any employee can disclose information about wrongdoing occurring at their organisation for the attention of their employers or a relevant external organisation. This action is commonly referred to as 'blowing the whistle'.
The employee who does the whistleblowing is often referred to as the whistleblower. Whistleblowers are protected by the Employment Rights Act 1996 (as amended by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998). It provides the right for a worker to take a case to an employment tribunal if they have been victimised at work or lost their job because they have 'blown the whistle'.
Importance of whistleblowing
Malpractice at work shouldn't be treated lightly, but it can be difficult to know what to do in the event of suspecting or even witnessing something wrong taking place. A whistleblower could be a director, manager, or employee and can report wrongdoing such as something they've seen at work.
Concerns raised could be about unethical, unsafe, or unlawful practices, e.g. sexual harassment. When an individual wants to make a whistleblowing disclosure to their immediate manager, they will need to be able to decide whether they can take forward the disclosure or whether it will require escalation to HR or another respective party. Organisations must equip managers with the knowledge and confidence to make these judgements and this can be supported with a whistleblowing policy and awareness training.
Whistleblowing training is crucial because it educates employees on how to speak out against malpractice, by understanding what it means and does. It also offers employees with the knowledge on how they are protected by the law and the process of whistleblowing.
If you're interested in finding out how you can offer your staff whistleblowing training and support, then enquire with us today for more information about our ethics suite and whistleblowing courses.