Get the culture right
Whistleblowing should be just one aspect of an overall strategy aimed at instilling a culture of transparency and open communication within a company, concluded a recent PwC study
of organisations receive fewer than 100 whistleblowing reports each year
"Action from the top is absolutely critical if you're to encourage people to feel safe and feel secure in using the organisation's designated whistleblowing mechanisms," said the professional services firm.
The study showed that 77% of organisations receive fewer than 100 whistleblowing reports each year. "Is this relatively low volume of reports because they don't have any issues? Or is it because there's a fear of retribution? Or because people don't know about the whistleblowing policy?"
PwC added that in the past few years, there has been a growing recognition that it's not just about the rules and policies in place, but also the culture of an organisation and the whether whistleblowing cases are dealt with transparently. PwC report Keep staff in the know
Heather Jones, a director at HR consultancy Lamont Jones, stressed the need for employers to make staff aware of a company's whistleblowing policy.
Jones said greater awareness among employees of companies' whistleblowing policies would not only help employers learn about inappropriate conduct, but also lower the risk of whistleblowers bringing employment tribunal claims, reduce the likelihood of workers making damaging revelations to regulators or the media, and leave companies less exposed to legal action from staff claiming victimisation.
"Most whistleblowers' intentions are honourable (albeit sometimes misplaced) and if employers demonstrate a willingness to take their concerns seriously, this is likely to be viewed favourably," emphasised Jones. Lamont Jones comment More protection on the way
Commenting on a Committee of Public Accounts report
criticising the treatment of whistleblowers and a perceived failure by government to introduce effective law, Audrey Williams, Partner and Head of Discrimination at Eversheds, noted that it will soon be a legal requirement for companies to report annually on whistleblowing allegations received.
The Committee's report concluded that in many cases, employees do not know the correct procedure for reporting wrongdoing, or are concerned that if they do blow the whistle, they might face bullying and victimisation.
Commenting in The Lawyer
, Williams added that improved guidance from the Government on whistleblowing is expected soon. She said: "The Government has committed to work with appropriate bodies to develop new guidance, principally to dispel misunderstandings.
"In fact, the process of encouraging a change in attitudes and behaviours has already begun through changes last year, which, for many employers, will have sneaked under the radar, such as the introduction of employer liability
for harassment or detrimental treatment by colleagues and personal liability placed on individuals." The Lawyer article
Read about the CISI's stance on whistleblowing, and why the Institute has launched its Speak Up campaign in our latest City view opinion article
Read our whistleblowing feature
from the June 2014 print edition of the Review
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