Whistleblowing Policy

Published:

Mar 13, 2024

A whistleblowing policy is an internal policy document used by employers to outline the company’s procedure to report, disclose or expose any suspected wrongdoing, breach of legal obligation, misconduct, deliberate concealment or failure to act by any personnel within the organisation.

☑ It helps create an organisation where ethics and integrity are valued, encouraging employees to act in the company’s best interest by reporting wrongdoing.

☑ Enables early detection of unethical or illegal activities, allowing your organisation to address issues before they escalate - potentially saving resources and protecting the organisation’s reputation.

☑ Acts as a risk management tool by identifying and mitigating risks early - reducing potential legal, financial, and reputational damages.

☑ Many jurisdictions have laws protecting whistleblowers and mandating mechanisms for reporting malpractices - making a whistleblowing policy a compliance necessity.

☑ Demonstrate to your employees that their concerns are taken seriously and that they are valued members of your organisation - leading to improved morale and trust.

Table of Contents

  1. How Does Whistleblowing Benefit the Organisation?

  2. What is a Whistleblowing Policy?

  3. What is the Scope of a Whistleblowing Policy?

  4. What Are The Expectations of Employees Under This Policy?

  5. What Are The Expectations of Managers and Supervisors Under The Whistleblowing Policy?

  6. What Are The Expectations of a Whistleblowing Officer / Committee?

  7. What Should be the Procedures for Reporting a Breach Under a Whistleblowing Policy?

  8. When should you use a Whistleblowing Policy?

  9. Why is a Whistleblowing Policy Important, and Why Should You Use It?

  10. What Are The Common Pitfalls When Adopting a Whistleblowing Policy?

  11. Who Can “Blow The Whistle”?

  12. Can A Whistleblower Report Anonymously as Part of the Policy?

  13. Should a whistleblower report Remain Confidential?

  14. What Protections Do Whistleblowers Have Under This Policy?

  15. What Happens After A Whistleblowing Report Is Made?

  16. What Should Happen If a Whistleblowing Report is About Their Manager or Supervisor?

  17. Can the Person Who Whistleblows be Fired for Doing So?

  18. How Long Does A Whistleblowing Investigation Take?

  19. What Outcomes Can Result From a Whistleblowing Investigation?

  20. Who Should Oversee A Whistleblowing Policy?

  21. Ready to Get Started With Your Whistleblowing Template?

How Does Whistleblowing Benefit the Organisation?

Whistleblowing helps identify and address misconduct early, preventing legal, financial, and reputational harm to the company.

It also reinforces a culture of transparency and accountability, enhancing trust among employees, stakeholders, and the public.

What is a Whistleblowing Policy?

A whistleblowing policy is an internal policy document used by employers to outline the company’s procedure to report, disclose or expose any suspected wrongdoing, breach of legal obligation, misconduct, deliberate concealment or failure to act by any personnel within the organisation. 

The policy also sets out the protection offered to the whistleblower. 

Our whistleblowing policy - on the Pocketlaw platform - covers employees, officers, consultants, contractors, volunteers, interns, casual workers and agency workers, to name a few.

What is the Scope of a Whistleblowing Policy?

The whistleblowing policy applies universally within the organisation, covering all employees from:

  1. Senior management

  2. Entry-level positions

  3. External stakeholders

  4. Contractors

  5. Suppliers

  6. Clients

This inclusive approach ensures that anyone who witnesses - or becomes aware - of misconduct has a clear and protected path to report their concerns, reinforcing your organisation’s commitment to integrity and ethical behaviour.

What Are The Expectations of Employees Under This Policy?

With this policy, employees are expected to report any known or suspected malpractices, including illegal activities, ethical breaches, safety violations, or financial irregularities. 

Reporting should be done in good faith, through designated channels, ensuring confidentiality and protection from retaliation. 

Furthermore, employees play a critical role in upholding your organisation’s integrity - contributing to a safe and ethical working environment by alerting management to potential issues promptly.

What Are The Expectations of Managers and Supervisors Under The Whistleblowing Policy?

Managers and supervisors are pivotal in promoting the whistleblowing policy - ensuring their teams are aware of and understand the process. 

Consequently, they are responsible for helping to build an environment where employees feel safe to report concerns without fear of retaliation.

Upon receiving a report, they must handle it with discretion, ensuring it is escalated appropriately for investigation, thus safeguarding the whistleblower’s protection throughout the process.

What Are The Expectations of a Whistleblowing Officer / Committee?

The Whistleblowing Officer or Committee is designated to receive, investigate, and manage whistleblowing reports. 

They are tasked with maintaining the confidentiality of the reports and ensuring whistleblowers receive the necessary support and protection against retaliation. 

As a result, their role is crucial in ensuring that all reports are investigated thoroughly and impartially - upholding your organisation’s commitment to both transparency and ethical conduct.


What Should be the Procedures for Reporting a Breach Under a Whistleblowing Policy?

The procedures for reporting a breach of a whistleblowing policy consist of 3 main areas. These include:

Channels for Reporting

Employees and external stakeholders can submit whistleblowing reports through various channels, including a dedicated hotline, a specific email address, and an online portal would be ideal. 

Physical drop boxes and direct communication with the Whistleblowing Officer or Committee may also be made available. 

Consequently, having multiple channels ensures both accessibility and convenience for whistleblowers to report their concerns securely.

Anonymity

The policy allows for anonymous reporting to encourage openness and protect the whistleblower’s identity. 

Anonymity is safeguarded through secure reporting channels (please see above) that do not track personal information or IP addresses. 

As a result, the organisation should commit to handling all reports with the utmost confidentiality, ensuring that the whistleblower’s identity remains protected - whether they choose to disclose it or not.

Process Overview

Upon receiving a report, the Whistleblowing Officer - or Committee - should log the issue and initiate a preliminary review to determine the report’s validity. 

If deemed credible, a detailed investigation should then follow.

Throughout the process, confidentiality should always be maintained, and the whistleblower should receive updates on the investigation’s progress.

Then, upon conclusion, appropriate actions should be taken based on the findings, and the case is officially closed with a final report summarising the investigation and outcomes.

When Should You Use a Whistleblowing Policy?

Whilst it is not always a legal requirement to have a whistleblowing policy in place, the implementation of such a policy would only benefit the company. 

Indicates to Staff

Having a policy in advance of necessity would indicate to every person in the organisation the company’s commitment and stance against illegal conduct and activities. 

As a result, such commitment to lawful and ethical behaviour helps create a culture of accountability and employee empowerment.  

Consequently, every company, however small or large, should put a whistleblowing policy in place. In particular, companies should assess if a more extensive policy should be in place depending on any increased risks arising from the activities, industries or markets within which they operate. 

Helps to Serve Two Key Purposes

The policy serves two essential purposes. 

Firstly, it aims to convey the seriousness that the employer attaches to identifying wrongdoing and to encourage everyone within the company to raise concerns internally as soon as possible. 

Secondly, assure the whistleblower that, in addition to their legal protection, the company will also protect and support them. 

Why is a Whistleblowing Policy Important, and Why Should You Use It?

Having a whistleblowing policy in place would help establish a culture where concerns are reported internally at an early stage. 

This culture would hopefully result in such activities being investigated and halted before it becomes a more serious regulatory or legal issue for the company. 

Designed to Limit Risk

An effective internal policy is designed to limit the risk of the whistleblower reporting - or exposing - the wrongdoing to the press or an external third party.

This risk mitigation can only be achieved if the whistleblower is comfortable with and confident of the whole whistleblowing process set by the company. 

This process includes the assurance that they would not suffer any repercussions for reporting their concerns. 

Established Protections

The protections set out in the whistleblowing policy will also minimise the risk of litigation arising from the dismissal of or detriment suffered by a whistleblower. 

The implementation of the policy would send a clear message across all levels, including management, that the company is taking proactive steps to ensure compliance and internal control - and, therefore, will not tolerate unethical or illegal actions.

Closely Linked 

A whistleblowing policy is also often closely linked with the anti-bribery and corruption policy, as the whistleblowing policy can help demonstrate that the company has “adequate procedures” in place to prevent bribery and corruption offences from occurring.

These processes are essential as it is a potential defence in the event that a member of staff commits an offence under the Bribery Act 2010 (the Bribery Act) in the UK, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in the US, or the EU legislation on anti-corruption, to name a few.

What Are The Common Pitfalls When Adopting a Whistleblowing Policy?

The whistleblowing policy should be in line with all other company policies, that is clear.

In particular, this policy often has a close relationship with the company’s anti-bribery and corruption policy, grievance policy, health and safety policy, disciplinary rules, confidentiality provisions within employment contracts, regulatory codes (if applicable) and industry codes of conduct (if applicable). 

As a result, companies should take care to ensure that the policies are consistent with each other, which may confuse what is laid out in the whistleblowing procedure. 

How to be Effective?

In order for the whistleblowing policy to be effective, the language should be plain, simple and without any legal jargon. 

The whistleblower, for example, would be more likely to come forward if they have a clear understanding of the procedure and protection afforded. 

Whereas a complex or legalistic policy may deter personnel from reporting misconduct if they are not entirely sure of the procedure and protection.

Who Can “Blow The Whistle”?

Anyone associated with the organisation, including employees at all levels, contractors, suppliers, and clients, can blow the whistle.

Consequently, the policy should be designed to be inclusive, ensuring that all stakeholders who observe - or suspect - wrongdoing have a clear and protected path to report their concerns.

Can A Whistleblower Report Anonymously as Part of the Policy?

Yes, your organisations should allow for anonymous reports to protect the whistleblower’s identity. 

However, encourage them to provide contact information if it can help the investigation process (but this should be optional) if further information is needed. 

Anonymity is protected under law, but it’s essential to make them aware that they should provide as much detailed information as possible to help the investigation of the policy breach.

Should a whistleblower report Remain Confidential?

Confidentiality is a cornerstone of an effective whistleblowing policy. 

The identity of the whistleblower and the details of the report are kept confidential and accessible only to those directly involved in the investigation. 

Consequently, the organisation should take measures to ensure that confidentiality is maintained throughout the process, and this should, if applicable, be mentioned in the policy accordingly.

What Protections Do Whistleblowers Have Under This Policy?

Whistleblowers are protected from retaliation, including termination, demotion, harassment, or any form of discrimination, as a result of their report of a policy breach. 

Consequently, many jurisdictions also have legal protections for whistleblowers (please see above) - reinforcing the organisation’s policy.

What Happens After A Whistleblowing Report Is Made?

After a report is submitted, it should undergo a preliminary assessment to determine its credibility. 

If the report is determined to be a policy breach, then it will be deemed credible. At this point, in line with the policy, a full investigation should be conducted. 

Throughout the process, the whistleblower should receive updates, depending on the organisation’s policy and legal considerations.

What Should Happen If a Whistleblowing Report is About Their Manager or Supervisor?

Whistleblowing policies are designed to handle reports involving any level of staff, including managers and supervisors. 

If a report concerns a superior, it should be directed to a higher authority - or a designated independent body - to ensure an unbiased investigation.

Can the Person Who Whistleblows be Fired for Doing So?

No, there are legal protections in place that forbid the termination of employment as retaliation for whistleblowing. 

Such protections are in place to encourage reporting without fear of adverse consequences.

How Long Does A Whistleblowing Investigation Take?

The duration of an investigation depends on the complexity of the report and the amount of information that needs to be gathered. 

While your organisation should strive for a timely resolution, thorough investigations should always take precedence to ensure fairness and accuracy to the whistleblower especially.

What Outcomes Can Result From a Whistleblowing Investigation?

Outcomes may include disciplinary action against individuals involved in the misconduct, changes to policies or procedures to prevent future wrongdoing - or, in some cases, referral to the police / law enforcement or regulatory bodies for the worst breaches. 

Who Should Oversee A Whistleblowing Policy?

The Whistleblowing Officer or Committee typically oversees the policy, ensuring it’s promoted, implemented, and updated as necessary.

Senior management’s support is crucial for the policy’s effectiveness, signalling the organisation’s commitment to ethical conduct.

Ready to Get Started With Your Whistleblowing Template?

Create all your whistleblowing policies in minutes. Pocketlaw offers you a platform with AI-powered drafting support, a clever AI-powered contract management system, as well as access to searchable contract repositories, metadata tagging, document review and redlining, eSigning and much more.

Disclaimer:
Please note: Pocketlaw is not a substitute for an attorney or law firm. So, should you have any legal questions on the content of this page, please get in touch with a qualified legal professional.

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