As with many things in business, as a business owner you don’t want to think that you’ll ever need to have a whistleblowing policy in place, but as we have said in previous blog posts; you need to be prepared so if the worst happens you and your employees are protected by the policy.
What Is Whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing is when an employee (known as the whistleblower) can raise their concern at any time about an incident that happened in the past, is happening now, or they believe will happen in the near future within your company. They are likely to be raising this concern because they feel that the public needs to be aware of the misconduct happening within the company. The best way to avoid having whistleblowers in the company is to do things as ethically and professionally as possible; it is still essential that you have a whistleblowing policy in place for misconduct that may take place.
Complaints that count as Whistleblowing
The employee is protected by law if they 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, e.g. doesn’t have the right insurance
- they believe someone is covering up wrong doing
Why Have a Whistleblowing Policy?
As mentioned above employees are protected when whistleblowing. The whistleblowing policy will have set guidelines of how employees should approach the topic and what they should do when they feel this is taking place within the business. A clear whistleblowing policy will help employees understand what is classed as whistleblowing and what is not; certain disclosures such as criminal offences or a breach of safety are protected, but a grey area does appear when the whistleblower is angry or feels they have been ignored – in these instances the use of the company’s Grievance policy may be more applicable. Management should support whistleblowing procedures; as recent high-profile corporate scandals have shown, business ethics can build or destroy a company’s reputation.
A strong whistleblowing policy will protect the business when an employee or previous employee tries to make a false accusation about the business and within your whistleblowing policy you need to clearly explain the consequences of making false claims.
What Needs To Be Included In Your Whistleblowing Policy?
When you are putting your whistleblowing policy into place think about who your employees are and who is classed as an employee and who is not, this policy is only meant to protect your employees so you will need to establish who that is.
Your policy should make clear that:
- The employer attaches importance to identifying and remedying malpractice (specific examples of dangers, illegality or unacceptable behaviour should be included).
- Employees should inform their line manager immediately if they become aware that any of the specified actions are happening (or have happened, or are likely to happen).
- In more serious cases (for example, if the allegation is about the actions of their line manager), the employee should feel able to raise the issue with a more senior manager, bypassing lower levels of management.
- Whistleblowers can ask for their concerns to be treated in confidence and that the employer will respect their wishes.
- Employees will not be penalised for informing management about any of the specified actions.
It’s preferable to deal with whistleblowing separately rather than as an extension to, or part of, an existing grievance procedure, while cross-referencing procedures on discipline and grievances.
Employers should train line managers to ensure that matters brought to their attention are resolved in line with the policy, and in a way that will cause least damage to the business. Policies should be fully supported by senior managers and be communicated to all employees.
We all hope that we will never have to use a whistleblowing policy in our own businesses but it is essential every business one in place. If you require support or advice in putting together a whistleblowing policy please get in touch today with one of aspire cambridge’s HR Consultants on 01223 855441 who will be more than happy to work with you.