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Whistleblowing – time to change?

26 November 2015

Is the tide turning on whistleblowing? I say yes. I think the wind is blowing in the direction of a big change in corporate attitudes, brought about in part by public censure of the detrimental response to some whistleblowers. The World Anti-Doping Agency pointed out that in sport, at least, whistleblowers generally are being treated more harshly than the dopers on whom they inform.

Maybe a seismic shift is needed to change any culture where whistleblowers are perceived as a threat into one in which they are viewed as an asset. This is just what is being expected of the financial sector in their new whistleblowing regime, which accompanies the Senior Manager and Certification Regime.whistleblowing

PCaW’s whistleblowing best practice and report

For all organisations interested in rethinking their whistleblowing environment – particularly those covered by the Senior Manager and Certification Regime – the best practice guide by the charity Public Concern at Work ("PCaW") is likely to be of interest. It was launched this week alongside a report on organisations like AIB, Diageo and Network Rail who have been implementing the Whistleblowing Commission’s Code of Practice for the last six to 12 months. The Commission recommended that the Government adopt the Code for tribunals to take into account in whistleblowing cases, but this proposal was never taken forward. Instead, it is now used by regulators and employers as the high water mark of effective whistleblowing arrangements. Unsurprisingly therefore, there are numerous similarities between this Code and the new FCA/PRA whistleblowing regime for the financial sector. Below are a few insights from organisations currently implementing the Code.

Difficult aspects of the Code

  • Even with large organisations, resource limitations were identified with particular reference to conducting audits and review work.
  • Organisations find it challenging to assess overall staff awareness and confidence in the arrangements, and to capture information about issues raised and resolved by local managers.
  • Providing feedback to whistleblowers on investigations and outcomes, particularly in the light of duties of confidentiality to the accused and witnesses.
  • One organisation highlighted a hesitance in promoting the regulators as an alternative point of disclosure.
  • Another organisation was nervous about publishing annual information about the types of concerns received in case it prompted an influx of further questions from stakeholders.
  • Cultural barriers such as mistrust of management in relation to confidentiality or fear of reprisal.
    Anonymous reports make it difficult to communicate positive outcomes/success stories.
  • Jurisdictional differences – Code is in conflict with requirements in other European countries; providing full information to the accused about a whistleblowing allegation, for example.

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