Whistleblowing - the importance of getting it right first time, every time

25 October 2016

Whistleblowing has been under the spotlight in recent years following the Francis Report, which led to a number of recommendations, in part to seek improvements to organisational culture, support for those who raise concerns and a reminder for organisations to review their own procedures to ensure they are known, accessible and operating effectively.

So why do organisations still sometimes get it wrong?

Well, there are several factors relevant to this point, not typically because of intentional failure to follow policy, but often down to:

  • lack of understanding of the processes in handling information; 
  • lack of understanding the importance of maintaining confidentiality; and
  • failing to meet obligations placed upon management within organisations to identify and investigate whistleblowing independently and on a timely basis.

Five key areas to consider 

  1. Culture – do you assess the culture in your organisation?
    • Engage with your workforce by using anonymous secure surveys or mailboxes to seek feedback to inform your view.
  2. Review – does your Board review the level of incidents? Do you get none?
    • Consider whether this is down to inadequate reporting procedures and as such matters are not being flagged up.
  3. Reporting accessibility and responsiveness - are your reporting mechanisms clear and accessible? Where a response is required do they respond swiftly?
    • Consider whether you communicate the different reporting lines clearly and triangulate what is received, to ensure that incidents don’t get reported through incorrect channels or missed altogether.
  4. Professionalism and skills – do your staff have a clear understanding of how to deal with whistleblowing?
    • Provide training so they have the tools to do this effectively, including handling information securely, escalation procedures and investigative techniques.
  5. Strategic position – do you have a whistleblowing champion in your organisation, who fully understands the regime as the point of contact for advice and guidance?
    • This person should be suitably senior with access to the board with a degree of independence, to issue a positive message as to the stance that you take in tackling these matters.

Download the full report where we examine each of the above points to provide a better understanding of where the symptoms often arise from, with key lessons to ensure that your systems are robust.