Protecting your business - Whistleblowing
Guidance to assist your business in dealing with whistleblowers in a positive manner that protects the business.
What is whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing protection covers individuals who raise with their employers issues which fall within specified categories and for which their disclosure is considered in the ‘public interest’. Disclosure will normally be within the employing organisation but in some circumstances can be to external bodies.
Categories covered include disclosures about a possible criminal offence, the organisation breaching its legal obligations, a health and safety breach, risk of damage to the environment or a miscarriage of justice. Whistleblowing does not include personal grievances. Employers should have a separate grievance policy which deals with these.
Why should you be concerned about this?
Whistleblowers are protected from the start of employment and cannot be disadvantaged as a result of raising a whistleblowing issues. If they do bring a claim in the employment tribunal, any compensation awarded can be unlimited.
The reporting of wrongdoing in the workplace and handling of those reports is a delicate area and one that cannot and should not be ignored.
What can we do to protect our business from a whistleblowing claim?
- Have a clear whistleblowing policy which sets out the procedure for a member of staff to report unacceptable practices, which is accessible and more than a ‘tick box’ exercise.
- Create a working ethos that encourages and supports whistleblowers to come forward and raise concerns as soon as possible.
- Ensure staff know who to approach and how to escalate concerns if necessary.
- Consider appointing a whistleblowing officer as someone staff can go to in order to report their concerns and as someone who is trained and knows how to deal with those concerns.
- Deal with investigations in line with the policy and in a prompt and efficient manner, keeping the whistleblower informed of the actions you are taking.
- Ensure that all levels of staff including management are provided with training on whistleblowing procedures both on joining your business and in refreshers.
- Ensure the policy is published internally and that staff are aware of it.
Benefits to businesses of having a clear whistleblowing policy
- It encourages staff to report wrongdoing in an internal environment. This not only alerts the employer to wrongdoing occurring within their business but also allows them to manage the information which goes beyond the organisation.
- Under the Bribery Act 2010, an organisation could be guilty of an offence if it fails to prevent bribery by a person ‘associated’ with it. Having an adequate whistleblowing policy could help provide a defence in this situation but employers should also have a specific bribery policy in place.
- If an employment tribunal claim is issued it can take up a lot of management time and be expensive to defend. This could be prevented if appropriate action is taken in the first instance.
How can we help?
Brachers can work with you to draft an effective whistleblowing policy specific for your business and/or provide training to managers in dealing with such issues.
Our HR consultancy, KentHR can help introduce and implement whistleblowing policies and procedures and provide staff training.