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14th Jun, 2022

Olivia Maguire
Olivia Maguire
Job Title
Content Marketing Lead

What is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is the act of disclosing information about wrongdoing in the workplace. This could include reporting illegal or immoral behaviours/actions, miscarriages of justice, or risks to the health and safety of individuals or the environment. Whistleblowers are protected by law, meaning they should not be treated unfairly or lose their jobs over speaking out.

The information they disclose must be in the public interest, which means it must affect others, such as the general public. They should be able to raise concerns at any time about an incident that happened in the past, is happening now, or they believe will happen in the near future.

What did ‘partygate’ highlight?

In her report into the Downing Street parties during the Covid pandemic, Sue Gray highlighted that “Some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so. No member of staff should feel unable to report or challenge poor conduct where they witness it.”

So, while the report suggests that many wanted to speak out, they either chose not to or felt unable to. Those that felt unable to may have been fearful of repercussions - which highlights a wider problem in that whistleblowers are still not feeling supported by their employers.

Why should businesses encourage whistleblowing?

The thought of whistleblowing can make some business leaders fearful, however there are actually a lot of benefits to encouraging people to speak up against wrongdoing.

Infographic whistleblowing

How to embed a culture of openness into your business

You cannot create a culture of openness in your business if your leaders do not support it. There needs to be a top-down approach which should spread throughout the organisation at every level. Leaders who regularly communicate with their employees and are open and transparent about company goals, revenue, and successes - as well as failures - will help reinforce the importance of open communication in the company.

In addition, all employees should be positively encouraged to speak to their managers if they see anything they are concerned about. However, there may still be situations where someone feels too afraid to blow the whistle, especially if they work closely with the person they want to report. One way to ensure people feel comfortable speaking out, is to make sure all reporting is anonymous. Many people fear for the safety of their jobs if they speak out, so whistleblowing should be an anonymous process.

As well as creating a culture of transparency, clear procedures need to be put in place to ensure people are able to easily report misconduct. These should be regularly reviewed to make sure they are delivering effective and efficient results. Ensure that the codes of conduct and whistleblowing policies are easily accessible and every member of staff knows how to find them.

Discouraging whistleblowing can have disastrous consequences – problems cannot be solved by ignoring them. Minor misconducts can escalate, and an environment of fear can lead to loss of productivity and employee morale.

There are three tiers of whistleblowing reporting: internal, external, and public disclosure. If your business has no formal procedure, or fosters a culture where employees are punished for speaking out, the only option left is for them to blow the whistle publicly with the media. If this happens, the potential damage to your brand and business can be devastating.

In the wake of a public scandal like ‘partygate’, it’s more important than ever for businesses to assess their own workplace cultures and whistleblowing policies, ensuring all employees feel safe, protected, and heard.

Creating a safe and happy workplace culture is all about finding the right people.

If you are looking to find talented professionals to join your team, get in touch with one of our specialist consultants today.