As a business, you need to adhere to British laws and not take part in any illegal or unethical behaviour—whether you’re a private or public organisation. When businesses do engage in such behaviour, then they can be exposed by employees. You should establish a policy to help staff members discuss wrongdoings when required. And our guide explains how you can go about establishing yours. If you need immediate help with this topic, you can refer to our employment law services for whistleblowing enquiries.
What is whistleblowing in business?It’s when an employee reports wrongdoing, usually by a business. Only certain types of behaviour qualify—it must be in the interest of the public (in that it affects the general public in some way). The act of reporting a wrongdoing is a “protected disclosure”. To help define whistleblowing in business, employees can raise a concern about activity that’s occurring now, in the past, or that will occur at some point in the future. Whistleblowers receive protection under current British laws. Even if they unveil damaging information about your business, you can’t fire them in response—you also can’t treat them unfairly. Those who receive protection from the law include:
- Employees such as office workers, NHS staff, police officers etc.
- Agency workers.
Why is whistleblowing important to business ethics?It’s essential as it helps to protect your business, as well as your workforce, customers, and reputation. There are only certain types of wrongful activities an employee can report. To make things clearer for you, here are a few business ethics whistleblowing examples:
- Criminal offences, such as fraud, mismanagement, or corruption.
- Placing someone else’s health in danger.
- Damage or risk to the environment.
- Miscarriages of justice.
- Breaking the law (such as having no insurance).
- Covering up unethical or illegal activities.
- Breaching legal requirements.
What your policy needsIf you have a clear process in place, then it’ll significantly reduce the risk of being accused of whistleblower discrimination. A whistleblowing policy for small businesses, medium, or large must aim to establish the same goals. That is, employees shouldn’t be seen as being in the wrong (“snitching”) by coming forward to disclose details. A policy is quite lengthy and you’ll require an employment law specialist to complete it for you. But the basics you’ll need to include are:
- Introduction: Lay out your explanation about your commitments and business transparency. You can explain here how your policy relates to the Public Interest Disclosure Act and how you endorse the provisions established in that.
- Scope of your policy: Explain what you’re enabling—that employees can come forward to raise concerns internally about malpractice or impropriety (illegal behaviour).
- Safeguards: This section will explain how employees receive protection when they disclose concerns in good faith or on the reasonable belief that the information shows malpractice or impropriety.
- Confidentiality clause: Explains that you treat all information with the utmost privacy and in a sensitive manner. The identity of the individual may also remain anonymous. Although the employee won’t receive protection from your disciplinary procedures if they don’t use the whistleblowing procedure.
- Anonymous allegations: Encourages whistleblowers to put their name to disclosures they make. This is because anonymous claims carry much less weight.
- Procedures for making a disclosure: Go into detail about how the employee will make their complaint. You can detail the investigative process that follows, as well as a clause explaining other individuals (trained and designated) they can contact you for advice on making a complaint.
- Timescales: The amount of time you expect the investigation to take, considering variables such as the seriousness of the allegations raised.
- Investigating procedure: Explain the steps the investigating officer will take to reach a conclusion.