Best Advice on Whistleblowing Policies

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For many employers, there is an inherent fear in receiving a whistleblowing claim. This is probably in part due to lack of understanding which can then give rise to a failure to deal with matters properly and effectively.

There was considerable press coverage recently in respect of Barclays Bank where the new Chief Executive asked the information security team to identify the author of letters sent to the Board; ostensibly in breach of rules designed to protect the anonymity of whistleblowers.

As a direct result of this, there was an investigation and considerable press and adverse publicity.

Notwithstanding the Barclays case, it is important that employers are ready for all eventualities in respect of whistleblowing claims. The first imperative is for them to have a clear policy in place and for that to be followed in all instances. This also means that there should be training for Managers and staff alike in terms of the existence and application of the policy. The most important thing to remind all staff is that any detriment suffered by an employee who makes a whistleblowing disclosure WILL be unlawful. It’s a good idea to keep a record of the training and add it to employee training records.

The policy needs to be accessible and kept up to date. If employers still use paper versions of employee handbooks, this is especially important. Of course, if employers use electronic systems, then it’s much easier to keep documents current.

In the event that a whistleblowing claim is received, it is important the identity of the whistleblower is protected at all times. This is the golden rule that needs to be embedded in the understanding of both Managers and employees!

Any claims received need to be investigated thoroughly. It’s important to keep the whistleblower informed of progress but of course, there is no automatic right for them to be advised of the outcome of that investigation.

Given this is a potentially tricky topic, our recommendation would always be to take legal advice at an early stage if required.

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