Whistleblowing is a phrase used to describe the acts of an employee passing information regarding wrongdoing (e.g illegal, illicit, unsafe, fraudulent acts) to their employer or relevant third parties. We have more information about whistleblowing here. Whistleblowing must be for the interest of the general public, meaning that the reported activity has to be one that will affect other people and does not include personal grievances.
What is meant by ‘whistleblowing policy’ and why is it important to have one?
Most employers seek to create a comfortable environment for their employees, and a part of this should be encouraging employees to come forwards with any concerns which they may have without them fearing a consequence. This ultimately makes them feel valued and heard. Ensuring that there is a clear whistleblowing policy in place that specifically targets the reporting of wrongdoing within the workplace will make this an accessible and easy procedure for employees to follow.
A policy also enables a company to reinforce its condemnation of wrongdoing and their dedication to identify and resolve any issues when given the opportunity.
The benefit of having a policy in place is that it encourages employees to come forwards internally in the first instance. This also means that the disclosures are more likely to remain internal and avoid a third party (such as the press or a regulator) being brought in, potentially causing damage to a company’s reputation.
Whistleblowing policies can also explain the consequences of false or malicious accusations, to protect a company if this were to occur either by a current or former employee.
Is whistleblowing confidential?
The law does not give a company an obligation to protect the whistleblower’s identity. However, where they do wish to remain anonymous, it is generally accepted as good practice for a company to honour this request and reassure them that they will take all measures to protect their identity. That has to be tempered with the employer needing opportunities to follow up with any further questions they may have. It is also worth noting that colleagues within the company may speculate on the identity of the whistleblower and there is very little a company can do to stop this conversation.
A whistleblower is also protected, and whether an employee can claim such protection if they are also seeking anonymity, may be questionable, but it is subject to who is causing a detriment as a result of that whistleblowing. Simply, if they don’t know that the employee made a protected disclosure, then they can’t be subjecting them to a detriment because of that.
How do you make a whistleblowing policy?
Every companies policy will be different depending on the size, values, nature of work etc. Some may even have the policy integrated into their code of ethics rather than having a separate document. However, some key areas to consider including are:
- A clear explanation of what whistleblowing means to a particular company.
- The company’s procedures for tackling wrongdoing; this could be an element added to the training.
- An indication of the company’s commitment to resolving any issues fairly.
- An indication of the company’s commitment to retaining the confidentiality of the whistleblower if they choose anonymity, where appropriate.
- How the company will attempt to address victimisation of the whistleblower; ensure employees feel they will be fully protected if they do come forwards.
- An indication of time periods for handling any disclosure.
- Ensure employees are aware that they do not need to provide evidence in order for their concern to be heard.
- Perhaps highlight important websites such as gov.uk or Acas that they could look towards as authority for guidance.
It is essential that the policy, no matter what form it takes, is easily accessible and understandable to those wanting to raise a concern; to avoid deterring them from coming forwards and providing that safe space for all employees.
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Why should you outsource your HR services to solicitors? Getting your HR services from a solicitor means, should a case ever proceed to tribunal everything we have ever discussed is protected by Legal privilege meaning all conversations are protected. Whereas if you were to use an HR consultant, all conversations and documentation regarding that employee would be disclosable in the tribunal.
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Please note this blog is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action. Please contact us if you have any questions on firstname.lastname@example.org