In an ideal world, businesses wouldn’t need whistleblowers, or whistleblower policies. Everything would be done according to the highest possible ethical standards, and every injustice would be spoken about openly, and without fear, by everyone.
Unfortunately, the world we live in isn’t an ideal one. We’re naturally inclined toward bias, and we look out for our own interests as individuals, even if it comes at the expense of people we’ll never meet. When our livelihoods are on the line, the incentives become that much more compelling. The history of business is littered with people who were wilfully blind, or outright complicit, in egregious wrongdoing.
So, how can a whistleblower policy help with this? And what should such a policy look like?
Promotes culture of transparency
Your whistleblower policy should be underpinned by a culture of transparency. Workers should be offered a counterincentive, to offset the natural temptation to turn a blind eye to problems. Employees should be actively encouraged to put up their hands, without fear of punishment.
By fostering such a culture, you’ll put the business at a natural advantage. In 2022, an Imam at an Edinburgh mosque made a complaint regarding the way that money was changing hands among the senior members of the mosque. He was vocal in expressing these concerns, and ultimately fired for it. A tribunal decided that his complaints were valid, and that he had been dismissed wrongfully. Had an effective whistleblower policy been in place, this might have been avoided.
Early detection of wrongdoing
By having a whistleblower policy in place, you’ll be able to detect potential systemic problems earlier. This will allow you to prevent a culture of wrongdoing from taking hold of the organisation. Problems might involve fraud, corruption, safety problems, and other problems which don’t involve malicious behaviour on the part of employees, like cybersecurity lapses.
Legal compliance and protection for whistleblowers
In the UK, whistleblowers enjoy legal protections against unfair dismissal. If you don’t protect your employees, then you could find yourself on the receiving end of legal action.
Having a whistleblowing policy in place can actually be beneficial in avoiding lengthy expensive legal battles. Whether it’s misconduct through criminal legal violations, cases of workplace harassment which might lead to lawsuits or filing abuse claims, or innocent technical errors that leave the business exposed to risk, this can all end up being expensive to resolve and a drain on time and resources across the business. By having a whistleblowing policy in place and creating an environment where employees feel confident in speaking up, you can save your business a great deal of time, stress and ultimately money.
Other problems, like cybersecurity flaws, can cost the company big. Phishing and ransomware attacks are getting more common – but in many cases, they can be avoided with the right whistleblowing policy.