Whistleblowing in the UK: All Is Not Awesome

Most People Want to Blow the Whistle but Feel They Can’t

“HR teams that fail to implement good whistleblowing architecture are putting their companies at risk of damaging exposure in future”. – PCAW policy officer Andy Parsons
New research from UK charity Public Concern at Work (PCAW) has found 80 per cent of workers who identify themselves as whistleblowers had suffered some form of reprisal at work following their efforts to blow the whistle.
PCAW gathered data from all cases received in 2014 and it would seem that human resources is failing to prepare for or support the majority of whistleblowers, setting companies up for more risk and issues in the future.

Eight in ten whistleblowers were victimized at work, with half being fired or losing their jobs, the data showed. This is an alarming number. illustration whistleblower hands with knives at his back
And in more than one in two cases the employer’s response was to deny or ignore the concern, according to the data. The survey, which combined data on 2000 working UK adults, found that only 33 per cent of identified whistleblowers had experienced a positive reaction.
PCAW chief executive Cathy James said: “While the perception of whistleblowers in society is increasingly positive and when asked hypothetically our respondents thought they would to do the right thing, we are seeing that more staff are unwilling to speak up.
“This must, in part, be due to the lack of awareness around legal protection and the fact in reality whistleblowing is still a risky activity for a large number of our clients.”
Sky diving is a risky activity. Whistleblowing should not be a risky activity.
What HR professionals should be doing is making sure there is a culture of protecting all employees who raise concerns. This includes reminding employees who may want to raise concerns that their issues will be supported and acted upon by those at the very top of the organization. Well according to the 2014 data this isn’t happening:

Outcome for the Individual

  • Dismissed after raising the concern 25%
  • Victimised and/or disciplined by my employer 25%
  • I resigned after raising the concern 24%
  • My workplace improved 15%
  • There were no consequences 7%
  • Bullied by co-workers 3%
  • Thanked and/or rewarded for raising the concern 1%

A measly 1% were thanked or rewarded for raising a work concern, a concern that if left unaddressed, could have the potential to affect all employees negatively, or risk the reputation of the company.
Good employers should see whistleblowing as an early warning system about areas of concern in their business. The survey said that whistleblowers uncovered by the research were largely normal people who wanted to suggest improvements, rather than be classified as ‘campaigners’.
We wrote a post a while ago about how whistleblowing hotlines could be used as a suggestion tool. What if employees could use a hotline as a tool for giving ideas for areas of improvement? What if they thought their idea was ‘silly’ but still wanted to anonymously get it out there? What if an employee was too shy to come forward, out in the open, with a new idea about a product the company could manufacture? They may even have ideas about how to improve an organization’s customer service.
Well according to the PCAW survey, this is grounds for dismissal, thank you very much. So what value do the employees bring then? They work, they get paid, they go home – but don’t speak up about misconduct, or bring forth any great new ideas for improvement. That could result in a lie-in the next day.
Why should whistleblowing be encouraged? Whistleblowing can inform those who need to know about health and safety risks, potential environmental problems, fraud, corruption, deficiencies in the care of vulnerable people, cover-ups and many other problems. Often it is only through whistleblowing that this information comes to light and can be addressed before real damage is done.
Break down this negative barrier and get started on implementing your whistleblower hotline. Download an eBook now.
eBook: 7 Reasons to Implement a Whistleblower Hotline

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