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What is whistleblowing?

What is whistleblowing: A man standing at a railing looking down.

Whistleblowing is when someone raises concerns about wrongdoing. Usually within a work context in a public, private, or governmental organisation. You may also hear it referred to as “raising the alarm”, “making a disclosure” or “speaking up”.

“Not everything that someone perceives to be wrong is whistleblowing.”

That’s right. Whistleblowing is only when the concern is in the public interest. This means that the person reporting the wrongdoing believes it will affect others, i.e. their employer, customers or the general public.

So it tends to illegal, unethical, or harmful activity or behaviour that the ‘whistle is blown’ on. And the activity may be in the past, present, or going to happen. Examples are:

  • fraud or corruption
  • harassment, bullying and discrimination
  • violations of health and safety standards
  • damage to the environment, goods or property
  • deliberate breaking of the law

You may also hear whistleblowing referred to as “raising the alarm”, “making a disclosure” or “speaking up”.

When it’s not whistleblowing

What is not whistleblowing is when a complaint or grievance is personal. As opposed to something that negatively impacts others. This is when the issue is personal to the person reporting it, like a complaint about a colleague’s behaviour, being treated unfairly or a breach of employment rights. Usually handled under an employer’s grievance procedure through the Human Resources (HR) department.

Reporting internally or externally

Internal is when submitting a report within the company in which the illicit activity is taking place. This may be via reporting channels such as an online portal, phone, voicemail or letter. Encouraging internal reporting helps organisations become aware of an issue and to act on it at an early stage.

External is when someone discloses misconduct elsewhere, such as to the media, police, or a government department. This may occur when there isn’t a way to report internally, or an issue hasn’t been followed up seriously. You may also hear it referred to as “raising the alarm”, “making a disclosure” or “speaking up”.

Anyone can ‘blow the whistle’

It isn’t only current employees who report wrongdoing. Any person closely connected with an organisation can raise concern if they suspect wrongdoing. Such as past employees, customers, suppliers, job applicants, contractors and so on. Whoever it is, they must only do it in good faith.

Why Whistleblowing is a hot topic

In 2019 the EU put Directive ‘2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of EU law’ into force. Its aim is to better protect the whistleblower, i.e. those who report breaches of union law in the workplace.

So why is there lots of talk about it?

The Directive requires companies in the EU with over 50 employees to implement internal reporting channels. In fact, companies with over 250+ must have channels in place by the end of 2021.

Are you interested in learning more about a whistleblowing service and safe internal reporting channels? Read more about the EU Whistleblowing Directive here and at EUR-Lex.

Are you looking for a safe and secure whistleblowing solution? Read more here.

Would you like to discuss a whistleblowing system for your organisation?
Please contact us or book a free demo!

If you have any thoughts about this article or would like to know more about Whistlelink, we’d love to hear from you.

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