Whistleblowing is where a worker reports wrongdoing, most frequently discovered at work, in order to protect the public. Whistleblowing complaints include, but are not limited to, criminal offences, environmental damage and health and safety threats. Whistleblowing is incredibly important as it stops companies from operating as they please, without regard for others. The practice promotes transparency, compliance and fair treatment. Disclosures should be made in good faith, based on your honest perceptions and without malice. Historically, whistleblowers have been subjected to mistreatment following their complaints. In order to combat this injustice, whistleblowers have now been given legal protection. Therefore, in theory, a worker should never suffer from blowing the whistle.
The Benefits of Whistleblowing
Whistleblowing is an ethical thing to do. It addresses wrongdoing and allows justice to reach the depths of companies that otherwise may remain unexposed. Honesty amongst employees helps to cultivate dedication towards the company's mission. Similarly, transparency facilitates clear and effective business communication. Whistleblowing is vitally important in protecting a company's customers and in directly protecting your organisation through combatting fraud and misconduct. The dire alternative is risking legal prosecution, major fines and a public scandal, accompanied by a substantial loss of reputation. Removing these risks means that employees can focus on more important matters, such as core business needs and the organisation's success. On a larger scale, fraud costs taxpayers an inordinate amount of money every year. By promoting a whistleblowing culture we can crack down on fraud and prevent this unnecessary loss of capital.
The Risks of Whistleblowing
Sadly, despite efforts to combat mistreatment of whistleblowers, risk still exists. The potential mistreatment largely surrounds team attitudes. Whilst whistleblowers are considered by some to be courageous, others see them as "snitches". This can result in whistleblowers being victimised by their teammates and suffering unfair treatment. A large proportion of whistleblowers leave their job in the year following their complaint, be this voluntarily or forced. In order to mitigate this risk, the UK government passed the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, preventing detrimental treatment of whistleblowers by their employers.
Whistleblowing in Action
The recent failings of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust have been plastered across headlines in recent years. Though a large proportion of healthcare workers were scared to speak out, the bravery of a few sought to address a multitude of local failings. It is estimated that poor care tragically led to the deaths of between 400 and 1100 patients across 50 consecutive months, spanning from 2005 to 2009. Therefore, a delay in whistleblowing of a single year could have risked hundreds of lives. This highlights the importance of prompt reporting and individual responsibility.
The Importance of Whistleblowing
When debating whether to whistleblow, it is important to consider the bigger picture. Whilst it can be a daunting process to enter into, the greater good of the general public must receive priority. In essence, the benefits outweigh the risks and it is the duty of all workers to remain vigilant for wrongdoing and act on it accordingly. It is important to familiarise yourself, and any employees, with both whistleblower rights and responsibilities. You can promote a whistleblowing culture in your organisation by creating and advertising a whistleblowing policy. Additionally, raising awareness of whistleblowing is fundamental to adopting an open culture. Thorough and regular whistleblower training can help arm you with the skills necessary to combat fraud and misconduct in your place of work.