Why Your Company Needs a Whistleblowing Policy

Why Your Company Needs a Whistleblowing Policy

Whistleblowing is the term used when a worker calls attention to wrongdoing within an organisation. If a worker exposes any information or activity that is illegal, unethical or incorrect, they are a whistle-blower and should be protected by law, as stipulated in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. In this article, we explain your responsibilities as an employer when it comes to whistleblowing, and why you need a comprehensive whistleblowing policy.

What is whistleblowing?

The law translates the term “whistleblowing” to “making a disclosure in the public interest.” If a worker blows the whistle on something that is in the public interest, that concerns something they believe has shown past, present or future wrongdoing, they will be protected and should not be treated unfairly by their employer. Examples of wrongdoing include:

• Criminal activity, such as fraud
• Health & Safety risks, accidents or malpractice
• Risk or damage to the environment
• Miscarriages of justice
• Your company is breaking the law
• Someone is covering up wrongdoing

How to deal with whistleblowing in your organisation

First and foremost, it is good practice to create a company culture that emboldens workers to speak up about any wrongdoing, without fearing penalisation. Workers are usually the first people to witness any wrongdoing and should, therefore, be encouraged to communicate. You should demonstrate at all levels of your organisation that disclosures are welcome and put in place robust systems to ensure workers feel comfortable and confident to do so.

It is not a legal requirement to have an official whistleblowing policy, but it is certainly best practice, as it demonstrates to workers that you are committed to openness and transparency.

A comprehensive whistleblowing policy will help you to:

• Identify wrongdoing quickly and efficiently
• Enable you to respond and investigate promptly
• Give you better control of information to help you make decisions and control risk
• Create a company culture committed to openness and transparency
• React to wrongdoing by utilising internal systems, rather than requiring a worker to go to a third party

What should your whistleblowing policy cover?

All organisations are different and as such, there is no standard whistleblowing policy you should adopt. You may have a variety of different policies for individual business units, a standalone policy, or a policy built into your code of ethics. There is often confusion as to the type of wrongdoing that should be disclosed so you should clearly outline the type of disclosures that fall under whistleblowing and direct workers to your grievance policy for any other matters. Your whistleblowing policy should also outline in detail the steps a worker should take when making a disclosure for them to remain protected by law.

There are several elements your policy should cover including, and not restricted to:

• The type of disclosures that are classed as whistleblowing
• Your procedures for handling whistleblowing
• The correct procedure a worker should adopt to blow the whistle
• Clarification that contractual ‘gagging clauses’ do not prevent whistleblowing
• The feedback a whistle-blower is likely to receive
• The time frame for dealing with disclosures
• Signposts to information or support networks to those thinking of whistleblowing, such as Acas, Trade Unions, Public Concern at Work or the Government.

The importance of communication

You should communicate your commitment to whistleblowing, and your whistleblowing policy, regularly and through a variety of means. This could be via your company intranet, company newsletter or through team meetings or 1:1s. Keeping workers regularly informed through communication and training will reinforce the importance of openness in your company culture.

If a worker has made a disclosure, you should explain your procedures to deal with it and explain how you intend to keep them informed. Many whistle-blowers will expect to be kept in the loop and your policy should outline the information you intend to share with them following their disclosure. It is best practice for organisations to provide feedback on how their disclosure has been dealt with. Lack of communication can cause resentment or frustration from the whistle-blower and could result in them looking to a third party to take the disclosure further, a scenario you would probably wish to avoid.

It’s vital to be prepared

Whistleblowing should not be a source of fear in your business. By implementing a thorough policy, and instilling a culture of transparency, you will be able to deal with issues quickly and robustly before they turn into even bigger problems. For more information on your responsibilities as an employer, this guide from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills is particularly helpful.

For further advice on implementing a whistleblowing policy, or if you have a case of whistleblowing with which you require professional support, we’re here to help. Call us for an informal chat on 0330 555 1139 or email us at hello@crossehr.co.uk.

References

http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1919
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/415175/bis-15-200-whistleblowing-guidance-for-employers-and-code-of-practice.pdf
https://whistle.org.uk/category/articles/

Cathartic – inspiring employee wellbeing and engagement

I recently came across Cathartic – an online platform where you can confidentially share any issues or problems you have in your personal or professional life safe in the knowledge that it is completely anonymous. I spoke with founder and owner Neil Chandler about what inspired him to create the site and his hopes for it going forward. I think its a great tool for HR managers and employers out there to enhance their employee wellbeing and engagement offering.

What inspired you to create Cathartic?
I want to help the people who slip through the cracks. With Social media we are all very public about our lives but all to often we avoid the issues that are hare to talk about, Cathartic is a place where anyone can say anything, with complete anonymity. So far we have posts covering just about every subject, Mental Health, Abuse, Addiction, etc.

Over the last last 17 years I have predominantly worked for FTSE100 companies as a Technical Solutions Architect.

I am now the founder of Cathartic.co a non profit social enterprise that encourages self expression for mental well-being. After seeing various friends struggle with addiction and mental health issues, I decided to do something to try and help improve mental health awareness and provide a platform of expression for those struggling alone.

Users can share their thoughts, fears or entire story in a safe place designed to help. Self expression has proven benefits for mental well-being and many people are unable to fully express how they really feel. Cathartic.co is changing this. No problem is off limits; stress, depression, mental health, relationships, work or even political oppression have all been discussed on Cathartic.

Cathartic.co was designed with anonymity as its core value. No personal details are stored, all IP addresses are masked and even cookies are destroyed as soon as the session is closed. It is this robust anonymity that is allowing people who were previously hesitant to discuss their problems, fearing identification or stigma, to feel confident enough to fully discuss any issues that are on their mind. The need for anonymity is taken very seriously and a Darknet portal is provided for those who wish to use another layer of anonymity, thus allowing technology previously used predominantly in illegal activities to be deployed in a positive and empowering way.

What does Cathartic do?
We let people tell their story in complete anonymity, once a story is shared we then scan and present a list of relevant people who can help.

How can a person access Cathartic?
A member of the public can just goto https://cathartic.co from there you can read or write stories. It’s designed to be as simple as possible, works on mobiles, tables, etc.
Within an orginisation we create a custom link, this goes to a private version of cathartic, it can be cases from anywhere but all posts are 100% private.
How would it benefit employers?
We offer a safe place for employees to talk about issues,

Why do you think employers might be interested in it?
We can increase employee engagement and give anonymous statistics of issues within their organisation, most importantly we protect the employees so they have a safe place to talk to HR and Compliance.

How easy would it be to integrate onto a companies intranet?
It takes us 10 minuites to get everything up and running, from there you just share the link with your employees.

How confidential is it?
100% from the ground up Cathartic has been build to be anonymous. In addition security is key, everything is encrypted with military grade encryption, we also give the customer control of the data, if they choose to purge a story it’s impossible to recover.

What are your plans for the site?
We just want to grow, we are working with a highstreet bank and a new product will be released shortly. In addition we are looking to partner with an organisation who can greatly increase the levels of support we can offer to the public.

www.cathartic.co

@catharticsite