Whistleblowing – keep calm and carry on

Article Index
Overview


Whistleblowing is always a hot and emotive topic. It’s also an important one for any organisation (whatever you think of it) and requires treating carefully. And it’s becoming more and more of a valuable tool in corporate governance and ethics. So what practical steps can an organisation take to reduce the heat? 

Understanding whistleblowing

Whistleblowing does need to be understood properly. The law is detailed, complex and a lawyer’s dream. It can also sometimes get in the way but its basic principles are good to know. Here is the quickest of quick overviews to tell you what you need:

  • ‘Whistleblowing’ (in the employment world) is a convenient description of a current or former member of staff reporting serious malpractice in his or her organisation.
  • The law comes from The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 which amended the Employment Rights Act 1996. 
  • Its purpose was to encourage the raising of wrongdoing on the basis that proper whistleblowing is a good thing.
  • The legislation doesn’t however mention ‘whistleblowing’ - it’s all about ‘qualifying protected disclosures’.
  • Workers (not just employees) who make qualifying protected disclosures are protected against detriment or dismissal by their employers or third parties 
  • To be a qualifying protected disclosure, the disclosure must get past a number of legal hurdles.
  • It must disclose ‘information’, be made in accordance with one of the specified methods and be in the public interest. 
  • It doesn’t have to be made in good faith. The motive behind the disclosure is irrelevant to whether it is protected. The reason, or causative link, for the dismissal or detriment is however key to a claim.

Dealing with it - the spectrum

The law only really kicks in after the event and when someone complains about their treatment. If you are at the point of disputing whether the protection applies then you might well have crossed the Rubicon. 

When dealing with whistleblowing there is of course a pretty lengthy spectrum of possible scenarios to consider (isn’t there always?). At one end whistleblowing can be a positive thing. Someone might raise genuine issues, internally to their line manager, which an organisation wants to know about so it can resolve them. At the other end it might be someone solely seeking to pursue their own destructive agenda and making external disclosures to a tabloid. 

These are of course two very different scenarios with a lot in between. Take for example the difficult situation of someone who does raise genuine issues but at the same time breaches a whole load of confidentiality obligations in doing so.

This naturally leads on to there being a range of possible outcomes for the whistleblower. For instance, one might be applauded for helping the organisation whilst there might be a disciplinary issue for the other. Both may well have protection though.

Practical steps

  • Policy: a good whistleblowing policy will take the heat and light out of ‘whistleblowing’ and help people understand what it is. Keep it short and concise. Set out in clear terms what whistleblowing is (i.e. not a grievance). Explain how, and to whom, an issue should be reported and what will happen when it is – and what won’t happen.
  • Other policies: issues should be dealt with in the right forum. Ensure that a whistleblowing policy links into and refers across to other relevant ones such as grievance or disciplinary. 
  • Training: consider what training or awareness programme you can run. A policy is only as good as the paper it is written on unless people understand it and how it should be used. This training works for both those who might blow the whistle and those who will deal with it once it has happened.
  • Responsibility: this will depend on the size and resources of the organisation but consider having somebody officially designated as the individual responsible for the organisation’s whistleblowing policy.
  • Hotlines: consider using an anonymous hotline service to field calls in the first instance.
  • Listen: actually listen to what people are saying. Spotting a possible whistleblowing issue early, and addressing it appropriately, means it is less likely to blow up later. 
  • Understand: if you want to minimise any possible risk it is important to what exactly you are being told. What is the wrongdoing that is being reported?
  • Watch your knees: no one likes being told bad news, or having to take it up the line. The first and perhaps the most difficult thing to do when faced with an actual or potential whistleblowing issue is not having a knee-jerk reaction. Remember your initial reaction will colour whatever you do going forward. 
  • Separation: the wrongdoing should be separated out from anything else – such as the manner of the reporting. This will help you understand the whole picture of what you are dealing with. You can then make sure that the next steps are carried out in the more appropriate way.
  • Investigate: if wrongdoing has been raised (no matter how and by whom) should it be investigated? Sleeping dogs can still bite.
  • Communication: if someone does raise an issue which is investigated, don’t forget about them. Update them with what you can to avoid isolation. 


 

Comments 

 
# olefugoofux 2017-01-13 10:15
http://dutasterideavod artonline.org/ - dutasterideavod artonline.org.ankor online-purchaselevitra .net.ankor http://20mg-cheapest-pricelevitra.net/
Reply
 

Add comment


Security code
Refresh





Forgotten your password?

 
I'd like to subscribe
Subscribers only - te law will answer your employment law queries. Find out more about our email support

Now there's more ways to stay in touch

Join Us on Linked in Become our Fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter