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Why you need a whistleblower policy? - HR Daily

By Alan J. McDonald


Whistleblower situations can negatively impact a workplace if not handled correctly. Employment lawyer Bianca Mazzarella discusses the necessity for whistleblower policies in the workplace.

See below article for further details.

Why you need a whistleblower policy?

Employers should have clear whistleblower policies that encourage staff to air concerns safely and anonymously, but not offer rewards or compensation in return, says McDonald Murholme employment lawyer Bianca Mazzarella.

Whistleblowers are protected by adverse action legislation, but employers should have their own policies and procedures for staff to follow if they wish to bring up concerns about the organisation, and to rely on if they wish to remain anonymous, Mazzarella says.

Policies should provide for appointing external investigators to hear and handle concerns, and assure employees that no one will be disadvantaged or disciplined in any way as a result of airing genuine concerns.

It’s important that HR personnel verbally reinforce such policies, and stress that genuine whistleblowing is a positive act, not a negative one.

“In fact, it’s helping the company to be more efficient and safe and healthy,” Mazzarella says; issues can be raised and dealt with, rather than festering unresolved and causing costly turnover.

Even in cases where concerns are found not to be genuine, employees should never be identified or disciplined, as this could undermine the integrity of the policy – and the employer – and discourage others from speaking up, Mazzarella says.

“Employees should not be fearful that raising concerns may result in the termination of their employment,” she says, describing “the odd unsubstantiated claim” as “the price you pay for legitimate concerns”.

Investigators faced with repeat offenders should instead remind them of the true intent of the policy, and the sorts of concerns that are appropriate and inappropriate to raise, but should stop there, as anything further could discourage others from speaking up.

Don’t reward whistleblowing

Although employers should actively encourage whistleblowing, they shouldn’t go so far as to offer compensation or rewards for employees who make use of the policy, as this could create a flood of frivolous concerns, Mazzarella says.

An employee’s willingness to speak up will partly depend on their relationship with their employer and their seniority, she notes.

“If you’re quite young and you’ve just started a new position and you’re on probation and you’ve got a mortgage to pay, I’d say you’d be quite reluctant [to speak up], just in case there is any adverse impact [or] you’re seen to be creating problems or raising concerns that other people don’t think are an issue.

“But if you’ve been with [an employer] for a long amount of time and you’ve got a good relationship, I’d say you wouldn’t be as concerned.”

Mazzarella says there is “absolutely” incentive for employers to get this area right.

CEOs and directors don’t always have a close-up view of what’s really going on in a business, whereas employees are at the coalface every day.

If they raise concerns and these are acted on effectively, it can save the employer from legal claims and accidents, or even save a life, she says.

Reference: Why do you need a whistleblower policy? HR Daily, 10th March 2016