The idea of whistleblowing has come to prominence in recent years, thanks in part to a series of high-profile cases that made headline news around the world. You could be forgiven for assuming that whistleblowing only happens in top secret organisations or in Hollywood, but in reality, it is a far more common occurrence than many realise.
While most people will have heard of whistleblowing, few properly understand what it really is. As an employer, it is essential that you familiarise yourself with the concept of whistleblowing before you can take steps to implement a policy to handle it. Let’s find out more.
What is Whistleblowing?
The act of whistleblowing is defined as reporting or exposing some kind of wrongdoing. Generally, whistleblowers tend to report things that they witness at their place of work, although there are exceptions.
One important point to note is that, for something to be deemed as an act of whistleblowing, it must involve something that is in the general interest of the public. For example, reporting instances of health and safety violations, fraud, environmental damage, or some other kind of criminal offence are considered to be in the public interest and are, therefore, acts of whistleblowing. Reporting personal grievances, on the other hand, are not.
Whistleblowers in the workplace often take their complaint to a supervisor or manager. If for some reason they cannot do this, whistleblowers can report the issue to a third party. This can be incredibly damaging to a business and can cause harm to brand image and reputation, as well as potential legal trouble.
What are the laws around Whistleblowing?
If you are an employee who is whistleblowing about an issue within your place of work, there are laws in place to protect you from repercussions. These laws encompass employees, trainees, agency workers, and members of Limited Liability Partnerships.
Whistleblowers are safeguarded under the terms set out by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. This protects employees who whistleblow from repercussions such as punitive action from their employer or being dismissed from their job.
However, to qualify for these protections, whistleblowers must ensure that the complaint they are reporting falls under the definition of whistleblowing. What’s more, they must follow the correct procedure for reporting the complaint, taking it to their employer, someone the complaint directly relates to, or a relevant regulatory or authoritative body.
What can be done about it?
A whistleblowing incident can be incredibly harmful for a company. As a business owner, it is absolutely essential that you have a policy and procedures in place to handle potential whistleblowers and to reduce the chance of it occurring.
All management should be given training on how to handle a whistleblowing incident. This will ensure they know what the correct procedure is as they move forward with the complaint and can prevent the situation from becoming any worse.
Employees should also be made aware of the company’s whistleblower policy. It’s important that you strive to foster an open, welcoming atmosphere where staff feel free to speak their mind. If an employee feels the need to raise an issue, they should be comfortable enough to keep it within the company and not report it to a third party.
Finally, and most importantly, you must ensure that your business is operating in such a way that whistleblower issues never arise. This means you should always be acting within the law and adhering to relevant rules and regulations, particularly regarding health and safety and employee welfare.
Whistleblowing is something that all employers and employees must be familiar with. Use this guide to learn what you need to know about whistleblowing in the workplace.