Whistleblowing is the term used to describe the employee reports about wrongdoing. Confidential disclosures can be made about miscarriages of justice, illegal and criminal acts like fraud, sexual assaults, endangering human safety and the environment, and the covering up of all of the above.
But blowing the whistle is just a starting point for a case management. In order for the organisation to investigate the suspected wrongdoings, there are best practices to follow. Read more to learn what we suggest all organisations to do for effective case management.
8 Tips For Managing Whistleblowing Cases
Whistleblowing and confidential reporting channels are some of the most effective ways is the most effective way to address fraud and other tips of wrongdoing. Full 43% of occupational fraud cases are detected as a result of whistleblower tips, with public organisations in UK losing 0.5% to 5% of their spending to fraud. And that's just considering fraud and its financial impact not even considering other wrongdoing such as sexual harassment, product safety misconducts and environmental violations with the personal and social impact of each them.
So, whistleblowing is an important way for companies and public institutions to deal with the damaging impacts of fraud and malpractice. Here are eight tips to help you better your whistleblowing case management.
1. Set Up and Name A Dedicated Team
With whistleblower cases, there is no limit to the kinds of reports that one can file. People can report all sorts of issues relating to accounting malpractice, sexual misconduct, discrimination, human trafficking and unreported employment just to name a few.
So, you need to set up a team that is capable of handling all sorts of cases. It’s important to have representatives from your Legal, Compliance, HR and Ethics Departments to Corporate and IT Security. In a proper misconduct management system, different types of reports are automatically routed to the correct assignees.
This team should not be too big though as the larger the group, the bigger the risk of someone leaking sensitive information.
2. Be Responsive
During the processing and investigation of a report and even after the closure of a case, communicate! There’s nothing worse than being left in the dark when you’re already feeling unsure and anxious. With the risks of whistleblowing, most employees that step forward will feel both.
So, respond promptly and compassionately to the notifications. Urgency encourages confidence and ensures the swift carrying out of justice.
You must also respond to every allegation. According to the EU Directive the first response must be done within seven days of receiving the report. If your staff feel that they’re being taken seriously, more people will blow the whistle when they see something suspicious. The whole point here is that you don’t want whistleblowers to feel ignored or dismissed. By giving feedback and providing support, the company can also avoid backlash and unnecessary conflict.
The first step is by simply acknowledging receiving the situation through your team or whistleblowing channel.
3. Internal vs External Whistleblowing Case Management
Again, not all whistleblower cases are the same, which means the approaches and investigations aren’t either. Companies may choose to handle occurrences, like minor cases of bullying, internally. However, they might need external help for more serious whistleblowing investigations for example from Police Departments or Financial Auditors.
Your decision to keep things internal or external doesn’t need to be situational. A company can opt to permanently outsource whistleblowing management by hiring a law or audit firm that handles everything from receipt to investigation to closure. But even then it is recommended that the organisation is still encouraging staff members for internal reporting as well. This promotes a more open culture where wrongdoings are not just outsourced.
Having external management has its benefits though. It ensures due diligence, the case is less affected by internal biases and escalation is better guaranteed if higher-level company authorities are implicated.
Whether internal, external or perhaps optimally both, however, procedures need to be trustworthy and transparent.
4. Establish A Whistleblowing Mechanism With Anonymity
There are many possible channels a business can use for reporting. Of course, whatever platform you choose needs to encourage timeous responses, open communication, accessibility and the safety of whistleblowers. It is also important to make anonymous reporting and protected dialogue an option to engender trust in the system.
5. Create A Policy That Matches Your Vision And Mission
It is vital to have a policy that stipulates what whistleblowing is and the procedure workers can follow should they need to report something. The policy needs to be accessible to workers, which is why some organisations have it available online.
A company can also bring regular awareness to the policy through internal communication. This can include newsletters, emails, trade unions and training.
Your whistleblowing policy needs to align with the values, vision and mission of your company. If these do not promote openness and trust, the policy won’t be as effective.
6. Refer To Whistleblower Protection Rights And Laws
Whistleblowers often face mistreatment, harassment and ostracisation from seniors and colleagues. Whistleblower laws, like PIDA, and directives like those established by the EU Council, aim to protect whistleblowers. Your whistleblower policy, tool and team must keep in line with these regulations and refer to the whistleblowers themselves how and why they are protected.
7. Ensure Your Worker’s Awareness
Trust and honesty should be intrinsic to your whistleblowing procedure. Making sure your workers are informed and educated on their rights, the policy, and process, ensures a fair start for them. They can then make an informed decision to blow the whistle.
8. Keep the lines of investigation confidential
When requesting for information and documenting the findings for the case investigation, it is important to keep the lines of investigation separate and confidential. Informants and interviewees should only be involved to the point that it helps to investigate the case further. A trustworthy and secure system helps to link different lines together without compromising the identity of the whistleblower or the confidentiality of the informants.
Final Thoughts On Whistleblowing Case Management
Dealing with whistleblowing is not easy, but it’s worth it. There is no one-size-fits-all but the tips above are a good start. Just remember this: whistleblowers do the good that others are afraid of. If everybody looked the other way, your company might become overrun with problems and that is no way to do business.
If you're looking for a whistleblowing solution that is hyper easy-to-use, ticks all the boxes for anonymity, protected dialogue, has built-in workflows for multiple use cases and more, have a look at our incy.io | Whistleblowing module and contact us for more information!
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