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Developing an effective whistleblowing policy to build staff trust

Building trust and ensuring staff feel happy and secure at work are key elements to motivating and retaining employees. Here Joanna Lewis, MD of whistleblowing service Safecall, highlights how an effective whistleblowing policy helps promote employee confidence while minimising the risk of a corporate scandal or a tribunal.

High profile corporate scandals and a turbulent economy have meant employees are now looking for one thing more than ever – security.

With a rising emphasis on the importance of ethical business practices for staff, customers and the wider public, firms should be looking for ways to engender trust in their business.

Developing a culture of transparency; accountability and integrity is central to this. Your employees should feel empowered and safe to speak up against wrongdoing in the workplace.

This can be achieved by implementing an effective and impartial whistleblowing policy.

There are seven key factors to consider when creating a whistle blowing policy for your workplace:


To instil the most confidence in your employees, your whistle blower policy should carry with it the assurance of impartiality. Whistleblowers should know that throughout the whistleblowing process, their disclosure will be treated fairly and with security.

The most cited reason for not coming forward with a disclosure is fear of repercussions. When the only avenues for making a protected disclosure are internal, employees may begin to question whether the whistleblowing policy their employer has in place is truly impartial.

This concern can be mitigated by outsourcing your firm’s whistle blowing process to a dedicated, specialist, external whistleblowing service provider.


Once your whistleblowing processes are established, it is important that your employees are aware of the whistleblowing policy you have in place. Firms must make a dedicated effort to ensure their employees understand: who they should contact; when they can speak up; and what sorts of issues are appropriate for the whistleblowing process. The best way to raise awareness of your procedures is by offering training to your employees.


Your whistleblowing policy should ensure that reporting avenues are suitable and accessible for all those who may need to use it. An individual that suspects wrongdoing should be able to make a disclosure with as few barriers as possible.

Offering both written and verbal means of reporting is integral to this. This is also mandated by various regulatory legislation.


Make sure your whistleblower policy is compliant with any relevant regulatory legislation within the territories you operate.

Whistleblowing regulatory compliance may mandate:

·       Anonymous hotline provision

·       Protection of whistleblowers from professional retaliation

·       Competence/experience of whistleblowing process handling personnel


If your company’s avenues for making a disclosure are internal, there may be limitations to their availability to your employees. An effective whistleblowing policy should assure workers they will be able to make a protected disclosure at a time that is convenient for them.

Using an external whistleblowing hotline provider means your employees can raise a concern at any point.

Investigative Experience

To maximise the trust your employees have in your whistleblowing policy, it is best to assure them of the reliability and impartiality of your investigation processes.

Outlining how investigations are handled, and how this may vary depending on the scope of the allegations made, improves the transparency of your whistleblowing policy.

Assuring your employees that investigations have the capacity to be outsourced to an external whistleblowing investigations provider can improve the trust your employees have in your whistleblowing policy.


Considering the sensitive and confidential nature of making a protected disclosure, and the risks considered by a whistleblower when making a report, security must be assured by your whistleblowing policy.

It is imperative that organisations put measures in place to protect the identity of whistleblowers and those whom the report concerns. EU whistleblowing law mandates that public and private organisations with 50 employees or more must offer reporting channels that ensure confidentiality.

Your whistle blower policy should identify what sort of conduct to be reported

Listed below are examples of the types of misconduct or behaviour that could give rise to a report. This is not an exhaustive list:

• Criminal activity or offences, including fraud, theft, and embezzlement.

• Corruption, bribery, or blackmail.

• Financial malpractice, impropriety, or mismanagement.

• Facilitating tax evasion.

• Failure to comply with any legal or professional obligation or regulatory requirements.

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Joanna Lewis, Safecall

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