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Can a Whistleblower Remain Anonymous?

Compliance Knowledge Base | Whistleblowing

Posted by: Lauren Hockley Published: Wed, 19 Sep 2018 Last Reviewed: Wed, 19 Sep 2018
Can a Whistleblower Remain Anonymous?

As long as they fall into a prescribed category then yes, whistleblowers can remain anonymous. Whistleblowing is where workers report misconduct within an organisation which they believe has the potential to endanger the public. This may be criminal activities, environmental damage or health and safety threats, for instance. Concerns can be reported to a variety of people, including managers, human resources departments, trade unions and external whistleblowing hotlines. Remaining anonymous means that you do not reveal your identity throughout the whistleblowing process, not even to the person you are reporting your concerns to. Some whistleblowers fear victimisation within their organisation after blowing the whistle and remain anonymous in order to minimise this possibility.

What are my Anonymity Options?

As previously mentioned, being an anonymous whistleblower means that no one will know your identity, even the person you are documenting your complaint with. It is important to stress that remaining anonymous does not mean that people won't suspect you as the source of the information. You still risk raising the suspicions of your work colleagues. An alternative to remaining anonymous is upholding a confidential report. This means that the person you are talking to will know your identity, but it does not mean that it will be publicised unnecessarily. In fact, your identity will be concealed for as long as possible, emerging only late in the investigation or as required in court. Some confidential whistleblowers will not have their identity revealed at all. Some whistleblowers decide to explore the organisation's confidentiality policy before deciding whether to remain anonymous or not.

Can a Whistleblower Remain Anonymous?

Why Might I Want to Remain Anonymous?

Some workers are afraid of suffering negative repercussions after being named as a whistleblower. Concerns are often based on the fear of victimisation from their team or unfair dismissal by their employer. This is largely fuelled by the mindset of a minority that whistleblowers are "snitches". However, since the introduction of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, workers have received heightened rights over mistreatment following whistleblowing. You can now take issues to an employment tribunal in order to restore justice.

What are the Drawbacks of Remaining Anonymous?

The primary disadvantage of being anonymous through the whistleblowing process is that you cannot be contacted for further information. Throughout the investigative process it may be necessary to contact you, often by organising another meeting or phone call, to harvest crucial information. Remaining anonymous makes this option impossible and may impede or even halt the investigation. Maintaining confidentiality, on the other hand, allows investigators to contact you for more detailed information as the investigation proceeds, since they possess your contact details. Additionally, you will not be contacted with updates on the investigation's progress if you make your report anonymously. This means that you will be completely removed from the complaint process.

Why is it Important to Report my Concerns?

A large amount of fraud and misconduct can occur within an organisation if workers are prepared to turn a blind eye. Whistleblowing exposes organisations to justice and protects individuals by doing so. Not only does whistleblowing protect an organisation's customers and its employees, but it also protects the organisation itself. Nurturing a whistleblowing culture allows honesty and transparency to precede and enables employees to focus on the important matters. Avoiding fraud and misconduct in the workplace is essential in avoiding reputational damage, fines and legal prosecution. Whistleblowing allows early detection and rectification of any wrongdoing. Whether we remain anonymous, or simply ask for our confidentiality to be upheld, it is vitally important that we are prepared to blow the whistle on any wrongdoing that we encounter.

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