Whistleblowing is by no means a new phenomenon; however, the whistleblowing culture is rapidly gathering momentum. It involves workers reporting wrongdoing that they believe has or will damage the public. It is beneficial for organisations to nurture a whistleblowing culture in which employees feel at ease disclosing their concerns. Employees that trust they will not suffer persecution after blowing the whistle are more likely to come to your organisation directly with their concerns. This gives you the chance to address the misconduct internally before considering the involvement of external parties. Enforcing whistleblowing education is a fundamental way of demonstrating whistleblowing acceptance within your organisation. Training is a pivotal tool and should be properly implemented at every level of your organisation.

What is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is the reporting of misconduct by workers in order to protect the public. This misconduct has normally, but not always, been seen at work. Whistleblowers can be employees, prior employees, trainees, agency workers and members of Limited Liability Partnerships. To constitute whistleblowing, the complaint must affect the public rather than be a personal grievance. Whistleblowing complaints can be categorised as follows:

  • Criminal offence
  • Risk to an individual’s health and safety
  • Real or potential environmental damage
  • Miscarriage of justice
  • Breaking the law, including contractual obligations and health and safety regulations

One of the main decisions to make in whistleblowing is who you are going to report your concern to. You could make your report internally to your manager, another manager, human resources or your organisation’s legal and compliance team. Externally, you could choose a lawyer, an external body like a trade union or a whistleblowing hotline.

Why is Whistleblowing Education Important?

Education is a powerful means of generating awareness. Introducing mandatory whistleblowing training for your staff members helps to promote a whistleblowing culture in your organisation. It is important to promote whistleblowing in your organisation because it facilitates early detection of fraud and misconduct. Workers are typically the first people to identify misconduct within organisations. Therefore, encouraging them to come to you immediately allows you to swiftly put an end to the wrongdoing and mitigate any risks and repercussions. An open appreciation and promotion of whistleblowing within your organisation means that staff are more likely to report whistleblowing internally, rather than turning to external bodies. This is beneficial as it allows you to determine whether the issue can be managed internally or whether it requires escalating to the appropriate authorities. Self-reporting is looked upon favourably and often results in financial benefits and more lenient punishments. Also, if legal action is not required the misconduct can be handled entirely within your organisation, preventing a public scandal. Even if reporting is required, you will not be caught off guard by the authorities and the press, allowing you to properly prepare for the attention.

Who Should Undergo Training and How Often?

Every staff member should be trained in whistleblowing. Whistleblowers range from trainees and agency workers to CEOs, as demonstrated by the Olympus CEO who blew the whistle on £1 billion of fraud. In order for a whistleblowing culture to evolve throughout an organisation, it must start at the top and cascade down. Existing workers should undergo regular whistleblowing training and have access to your organisation’s whistleblowing policy. Meanwhile, newcomers to the organisation should receive whistleblower training as part of their induction.