Why is whistle blowing a good thing?
16th March 2015 by Fiona Hotston Moore
Whistle blowing is universally accepted as a good thing. Encouraging employees to speak out safeguards the integrity and reputation of an organisation, safeguards the employees and public and minimises financial loss and inefficiencies. A whistle blowing policy is an essential part of good corporate governance in companies of all sizes as well as charities and public sector organisations. In essence “Don’t shoot the messenger”.
Albert Einstein said “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing”.
Businesses and charitable organisations should take seriously the benefits of implementing a formal whistleblowing system. Financial malpractice is the top concern reported by workers and yet over half of such concerns reported are not acted upon or ignored.
There is an essential difference between a whistle blowing concern which raises a concern about something affecting the organisation or others and a personal grievance which is a personal complaint about the individual’s own employment situation.
Whistle blowers are protected under UK employment legislation and can take a claim in the Employment Tribunal if dismissed or bullied after they report a concern which is “in the public interest”.
So what should an organisation do to encourage whistle blowing?
They should have:
- A published policy of how to report concerns confidentially;
- Training for line managers and the board;
- Clear policies for investigating concerns raised including regular reporting to the board and feedback to the individual;
- Consider engaging an external resource to facilitate whistle blowing and support to whistle blowers;
- Communicate the organisation’s commitment to an open and ethical culture.
The investigation of a reported concern must be properly undertaken to avoid the potential for future legal claims by employees or third parties. The investigation must be undertaken with a clear plan ensuring:
- It is carried out by individuals with the necessary skills;
- There is no conflict of interest real or perceived;
- A record is maintained of all evidence obtained;
- Communication with the whistle blower;
- The output is an objective report from which those in authority and, if necessary the relevant external authorities, can review the evidence and reach an informed decision.
External investigators such as forensic accountants are often engaged by organisations to ensure the process is objective, confidential and professionally conducted. Our report may be used in court proceedings or in an employment tribunal. We may also be engaged by the whistle blower to give an opinion on the investigation if they decide to challenge their treatment.
For further information or advice please contact the Ensors Forensics team.
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