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What is and what isn’t Whistleblowing

What isn't whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is when a person raises the alarm about something that doesn’t feel right. This is often wrongdoing taking place at work within a private or public company, organisation or authority. The whistleblower can be anyone who has a close relationship with the organisation – such as an employees, former employee, subcontractor, supplier, customer, shareholder, board member, job seeker or trainee.

What is external whistleblowing?

An external channel makes it possible to raise a concern to an official agency appointed by the authorities. An external whistleblowing solution has the obligation to receive, follow up and provide feedback on reports in certain areas. Whistleblowers can choose to turn to an external channel if they have tried to report internally but have not received a response or nothing has happened, if the organization does not have a whistleblowing system, if you are afraid of retaliation or if you think an internal report does not change anything.

What is internal whistleblowing?

This is when someone, who has concerns about wrongful behaviour or activities taking place at work, raises them with the organisation in question. This may be to a manager, colleague, HR department, or through a dedicated internal whistleblowing channel. This could be in the form of a telephone hotline, physical post or an online reporting system.

What is public whistleblowing?

This happens when someone chooses to announce information publicly or disclose it to the press or social media. To submit a report, one should primarily choose internal or external channels, but there are exceptions to the rule. For example, if there is an imminent or obvious danger to life, or devastating health, safety or environmental consequences. Another reason may be because the whistleblower assumes that internal or external reporting would lead to retaliation or that the misconduct will not be rectified.

When to raise the alarm

The report can be about an ongoing event, something that has already happened or something that will happen. For the reporting person, a conflict of loyalty can arise and may feel like a breach of trust. For the vast majority of whistleblowers, the focus is primarily on protecting the public or correcting mistakes, rather than gaining benefits for themselves. All forms of whistleblowing are covered by the EU Whistleblowing Directive, provided that the whistleblower acted in good faith and had good reason to believe that the information was correct at the time of reporting.

All that feels wrong in the workplace is not whistleblowing

A personal grievance or complaint is not a whistleblowing matter, it must be about breaches of Union Law or wrongdoing that is of greater public interest. This could be illegal, unethical or harmful activities that can affect others in a negative way, for example

  • Fraud or corruption
  • Harassment, bullying and discrimination
  • Violations of health and safety standards
  • Environmental or property damage
  • Deliberate illegal offenses

Reading tip > 7 examples of workplace misconduct

A personal complaint could be about a colleague’s behavior, that they are treated unfairly or that the company has violated the Employment Protection Act. Such complaints do not belong to the whistleblower channel and must be handled by the HR department.

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