Whilst most organisations will have a set of core policies for staff, or at the very minimum will have a staff handbook, many organisations are yet to release more specific policies for topics such as whistleblowing and what employees should do if they suspect there is wrongdoing within their organisation.
What is Whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing is the act of reporting certain types of wrongdoing within an organisation. The wrongdoing that a whistleblower discloses must be in the public interest, meaning it must affect others, eg the general public.
Whistleblowers can raise their concerns at any time and are protected by law, but many are afraid to come forward in fear that they will lose their job or be treated unfairly shortly after they have disclosed an issue.
You’re protected by law if you report any of the following:
- a criminal offence, eg fraud
- someone’s health and safety is in danger
- risk or actual damage to the environment
- a miscarriage of justice
- the company is breaking the law, eg doesn’t have the right insurance
- you believe someone is covering up wrongdoing
Legal background - do I need a whistleblowing policy?
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and The Employment Rights Act 1996 both provide protection for employees from any detrimental treatment occurring from disclosing irregular activity or malpractice.
A whistleblowing policy is not currently required by law but it is considered best practice for employers to implement one and agree on a code of conduct with their employees.
What are the benefits of having a whistleblowing policy?
There are many benefits of having a whistleblowing policy in place, including:
- Creating a culture of reporting workplace wrongdoing as and when it happens
- A clear whistleblowing policy can protect a firm in the event a false or malicious accusation is made by a current or former employee
- A good whistleblowing policy will also reinforce a sense of importance and duty of confidentiality amongst staff
What should I include?
A good whistleblowing policy should:
- Be clear, simple and easily understood.
- Outlines its aims and objectives.
- Positively encourages anyone who has serious concerns about any aspect of work to come forward and voice those concerns.
- Includes a commitment to training employees in relation to whistleblowing.
- Includes what action will be taken if whistleblowers are victimised or if any malicious allegations are made or for those who knowingly provide false information.
- Defines what constitutes wrongdoing and explains the conduct required of its employees.
- Tells you who to report whistleblowing to. This is usually your line manager but may be a specific person or a designated range or team of people in your organisation. And if your organisation works with a recognised union, this may include a representative from that union.
- Explains how to report and that you don’t need to provide evidence for a disclosure to be taken seriously. It may also explain where you can get independent, confidential advice.
- Explains the procedure after a disclosure is made and any support which will be given.
- Explains what feedback you might get.
- Reassures employees that the disclosure will not affect their position at work.
- Stresses that disclosures remain in confidence, as far as possible, but can’t be guaranteed.
- Emphasises that no disciplinary action will be taken against anyone who makes a disclosure in good faith.
Whistleblowing policies will usually explain that you should not contact the newspapers and that doing so could result in disciplinary action against you.
You can download a sample whistleblowing policy at the end of this blog.
How can I be completely open about whistleblowing as an employer?
Having a whistleblowing policy in place communicates to staff that the employer takes any wrongdoing very seriously and is committed to identifying and remedying it but without effective training, employees still may not come forward. Our effective Whistleblowing Training is split into three easy-to-follow sections and includes common workplace scenarios, useful information on whistleblowing policies, how to raise concerns and statutory duty.