Establishing whistleblowing management procedures in the workplace is developing across the globe and is no longer a western trend driven by legislation and compliance.
There is growing evidence that HR departments in companies across the world recognise the benefits of encouraging employees to speak up to report wrongdoing in the workplace.
Safecall, a Sunderland-based whistleblowing hotline provider to businesses and organisations, has seen a marked increase in demand for its services from around the world, particularly South East Asia, Africa and India.
In 2022, Safecall was managing reports from more than 900 organisations in 136 different countries. The year before the company was handling reports of wrongdoing from around 750 organisations in 108 countries and this year-on-year growth is continuing in 2023.
With rising global demand for its services, the company is currently investing heavily in internationalising its website and increasing the language options available to clients. Current translations are being undertaken in Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Indonesian, Nepalese, Sinhala, Swahili, Tagalog, Zulu, Uzbek and the list goes on.
Tim Smith, director at Safecall, said: “We are witnessing a growing global awareness of the benefits of whistleblowing processes in organisations and we are investing heavily in translations and our online systems to keep up with overseas interest and demand.
“What started in North America, the UK and EU – driven by legislation and compliance – is now becoming a mark of best practice within a growing number of global companies and organisations.
“It’s recognised that many of the most successful companies and organisations rely on positive working cultures, where employees feel respected, safe and secure. Building trust with employees is fundamental to establishing a good company culture.
“It is widely accepted, in organisations around the world, that you can build and strengthen employee trust through feedback and whistleblowing systems. Employees want to know that wrongdoing at work – whether that’s bullying, discrimination, harassment, racism, or unfair treatment – won’t be tolerated when it is reported to management.”
There is evidence that whistleblowers are crucial to keeping firms healthy and that functioning hotlines are of paramount importance to business goals including profitability. The more employees use whistleblowing hotlines, the less likely companies will, for example, face lawsuits, and the less money firms will pay out in workplace tribunal settlements.
Smith added: “A professional, independent whistleblowing service builds and strengthens trust among employees. Staff should know that complaints of wrongdoing will be dealt with in an efficient, reliable, and impartial manner.
“Knowing that a report will be investigated thoroughly and with expertise could encourage further reports being made. On the other hand, if an employee feels that investigations may be conducted with a vested interest by an internal party, their confidence in the whistleblowing policy could be diminished.”
While he welcomes the growth in awareness and use of whistleblowing services across the globe, he says that for some firms who want to support whistleblowers, managers often may not know what to make of the information provided in internal reports.
This, he says, is why training is so important. Having a whistleblowing management system in place is the first step. “Whistleblowing reporting systems need to be more than a tick-box exercise. To be effective they need to be promoted internally and staff need to know there is a channel and mechanism to raise wrongdoing.
“If there is little or no training on what whistleblowing is about, then employees will most likely revert to their default inclination: Not speaking up. Wrongdoing will go unreported and potentially continue. That isn’t good for the organisation and certainly isn’t good for building employee confidence and trust.”