What is Whistleblowing in Business?

Whistleblowing is the practice of workers reporting wrongdoing. Although it can seem intimidating for businesses, cultivating a whistleblowing culture could massively benefit your business. To find out about these benefits and how you can encourage whistleblowing, read more here.

Whistleblowing is the reporting of wrongdoing by workers. Whistleblowing can either be internal or external. Internal whistleblowing is where workers report concerns to your business directly. This can benefit the subsequent investigation and management of misconduct. External whistleblowing, on the other hand, involves workers reporting their concerns to an external body. Promoting whistleblowing within your business can help encourage staff members to speak to you directly and avoid the possibility of being contacted by external bodies regarding wrongdoing within your business.

What is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is where workers report misconduct, most often seen at work, in order to protect the public. Whistleblowers can be employees, former employees, trainees, agency workers or members of Limited Liability Partnerships. The misconduct must affect, or have the potential to affect, the public, rather than being a personal grievance. Whistleblowing complaints typically fall into one of the following categories:

  • Criminal offence
  • Threat to an individual’s health and safety
  • Real or potential damage to the environment
  • Miscarriage of justice
  • Breaking the law, which includes contractual obligations and health and safety regulations

When deciding to blow the whistle, you must consider who you feel comfortable disclosing your concerns to. Some people decide to report them to their manager directly, whilst others prefer the detached nature of an external body (such as a lawyer, trade union or whistleblowing hotline). Other internal options include legal and compliance teams, human resources departments and other managers within the business.

How Can Whistleblowing Benefit Your Business?

Many employers are intimidated by the prospect of their workers approaching them with complaints, assuming it will involve hassle as well as costing unnecessary time and attention. However, contrary to this belief, nurturing a whistleblowing culture can benefit your business. Workers are typically the first people to identify fraud and misconduct within businesses. Therefore, encouraging them to whistleblow facilitates early detection of fraud within your business. Utilising the eyes and ears of your business allows you to swiftly put a stop to the wrongdoing and mitigate any risks and repercussions.

Additionally, creating an open and honest workplace means that whistleblowers are likely to come to you directly instead of approaching external whistleblowing services. Internal whistleblowing facilitates self-reporting, which can see significant financial benefits. Also, when legal action is not required the misconduct can be handled entirely within your business, without being plastered across headlines in a public scandal. Crucially, if you are required to disclose the incident to the authorities, anticipating the public attention allows you to prepare for it.

How to Implement a Whistleblowing Culture

In order to develop a whistleblowing culture, it is essential that an acceptance and promotion of whistleblowing is observed at every level of the organisation, including management. Creating a whistleblowing policy is a good place to start. A whistleblowing policy is a document compiled by an organisation which outlines their stance on whistleblowing and offers information to workers on the whistleblowing procedure. The policy should contain an explanation of whistleblowing with its application to your organisation, a description of the drawbacks of remaining anonymous, and a rough timescale for investigating complaints, for example. Though whistleblowing policies are not a legal obligation, they can be incredibly valuable in encouraging and directing whistleblowing. It is important to promote your whistleblowing policy, as a lack of awareness renders your policy redundant. Whistleblowing awareness can be generated through meetings, posters, promotion of policy, staff training and anything else that gets people talking. Whistleblowing training is a vital resource that both raises awareness of and educates your staff on whistleblowing. Regular training allows staff to keep their knowledge up to date and familiarise themselves with the whistleblowing process, thus promoting whistleblowing in your business.

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