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.
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. This whistleblowing policy on PocketLaw covers employees, officers, consultants, contractors, volunteers, interns, casual workers and agency workers.
When should you use a Whistleblowing Policy?
Whilst it is not a legal requirement to have a whistleblowing policy in place, the implementation of such policy would only benefit the company. Having a policy in advance of necessity would indicate to every person in the organisation the company’s commitment and stance against illegal conducts and activities. Such commitment to lawful and ethical behaviour would in turn foster a culture of accountability and employee empowerment.
Every company, however small or large, should put in place a whistleblowing policy. 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.
The policy serves two key 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 to assure the whistleblower that, in addition to their legal protection, the company will also protect and support him or her.
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 would hopefully result in such activities being investigated and halted before it becomes a more serious regulatory or legal issue for the company. 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 can only be achieved if the whistleblower is comfortable with and confident of the whole whistleblowing process set by the company. This includes the assurance that he or she would not suffer any repercussions for reporting their concerns.
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.
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. This is important 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).
What are the common pitfalls when adopting a Whistleblowing Policy?
The whistleblowing policy should be in line with all other company policies. 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/or industry codes of conduct (if applicable). Companies should take care in ensuring that the policies do not contradict each other which may cause confusion as to the whistleblowing procedure.
In order for the whistleblowing policy to be effective, the language should be plain, simple and without any legal jargon. The whistleblower would be more likely to come forward if he or she has a clear understanding of the procedure and protection afforded. A complex or legalistic policy may deter personnel from reporting a misconduct if he or she is not entirely certain of the procedure and protection.
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