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What is a whistleblower?

As the EU Whistleblowing Directive nears, whistleblowing is becoming a hot topic for all organisations with 50 employees or more. This directive will require all such organisations to set up confidential whistleblower channels. 

These channels will need to follow the EU standards that aim to protect whistleblowers. They will also impose strict penalties against anyone who attempts to hinder the reporting process or retaliate against the reporters themselves. 

This is great news for whistleblowers as many people avoid reporting incidents for fear of retaliation or blame. The EU Whistleblower Directive will most likely help with this and result in more cases being reported. In turn, workplaces will become safer as they can solve issues more efficiently. But, before we get into all that, let’s take a more in-depth look at whistleblowers. 

What is a Whistleblower?

A whistleblower is someone who reports allegations or suspicions of misconduct, wrongdoings, or otherwise illicit behaviours to the relevant supervisors or investigators within an organisation. 

For example, an employee might observe something that goes against the ethics or code of conduct as outlined by the company. This could include something like fraud, embezzlement, harassment or money laundering. To report such an observation is to become a whistleblower.

The claim is then assessed for credibility by means of follow-up questions and obtaining relevant sources and leads. Platforms that offer anonymity and/or confidentiality allow whistleblowers to keep some or all their identity a secret though.

With confidential whistleblowing, you still provide some form of identification. This information does not get shared with anyone other than the relevant investigative authority. This is so that they can ask follow-up questions and assess the credibility of the claim. 

On the other hand, anonymous whistleblowing allows people to report without having to give their name or any kind of identification. This is so that the report cannot be traced back to them.

The Importance of Whistleblower Channels in Organisations

Whistleblowing is a tricky subject. There are many laws in place all over the world that aim to protect whistleblowers and their rights to anonymity and confidentiality. 

Yet, many of these people face retaliation or even dismissal as a result of having “blown the whistle”. This is a direct result of organisations not adhering to the proper standards. It also shows that the platforms used by whistleblowers to make reports are not secure. Subsequently, people may be hesitant to report things for fear of blame, retaliation, or dismissal.

New standards and advancements in technology may mean the end of this kind of retaliation. It also means that the ethical standpoints of organisations can be further secured and applied. 

What is so important about whistleblowing is the attempt to defend morality and integrity within the organisation. Ultimately, this helps to protect the employees and the organisation itself. 

Anyone can be a Whistleblower

Whistleblowers are usually the employees of the organisation. But, it is possible to be a non-employee reporting allegations or suspicions of misconduct and ethical breaches. 

For example, an auditor, a consultant or a service provider may observe fraud within an organisation and report it. As such, anyone with access to proof of fraud or otherwise illicit behaviours can use this proof to report their allegations. 

People wishing to “save” their organisations (or expose other organisations) often carry a psychological burden: fear. Their motivations may be pure, but, unfortunately, they are often seen as disloyal by others. 

This is why it is so important to have proper whistleblower channels set in place. These should allow for the utmost security and secrecy of reports.

Examples of Whistleblowing Cases

There are many examples where whistleblowing has been successful in exposing an organisation’s wrongdoings and resulted in the rectification of these wrongdoings. Sometimes, whistleblowers themselves are rewarded for their contributions towards these investigations. 

One of the most famous examples of a successful whistleblowing case is that of Mark Felt. His reports and investigations led to the fall of the Nixon administration and the Watergate scandal. 

There is also the more recent, less successful case of Li Wenliang. He was the Chinese ophthalmologist who attempted to warn the public about the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wenliang was admonished for his claims and later contracted the virus, passing away in February of 2020. 

There are also some infamous cases. Edward Snowden released classified NSA documents and exposed their illicit surveillance practices. Then, there’s Julian Assange who founded the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

These are all examples of whistleblowers. Although each case had a radically different outcome, one thing remains clear. The implementation of a directive that protects whistleblowers is essential. It can serve to protect the health and safety of the whistleblowers themselves, the organisations they work for, as well as the public. 

Why the EU Directive is good for Whistleblowers

The EU Whistleblower Protection Directive is set to be implemented in full in December of 2021. It aims to enhance whistleblower protection and more. 

The commission states that “the new law will establish safe channels for reporting both within an organisation and to public authorities. It will also protect whistleblowers against dismissal, demotion and other forms of retaliation and require national authorities to inform citizens and provide training for public authorities on how to deal with whistleblowers.”

What this means is that the future of whistleblowing is looking a lot brighter, at least in the EU. Whistleblowers will have more protection and security than ever before. As such, the psychological burden and fear that comes with reporting wrongdoings should decrease. 

These laws will also serve to deter organisations from acting in retaliation or blaming the whistleblower. This will, in turn, lead to an increase in whistleblowing and an ultimate decrease in fraudulent practices.

Set Up Your Whistleblower Channel Now

Safe, secure, and confidential channels are important in ensuring that these new laws are adhered to properly. This will help whistleblowers to feel more comfortable and confident when reporting incidents. As a result, your company will be able to resolve any problems quickly and make sure that your employees are happy. 

If you don’t have one already, have a look at our incy.io | Whistleblowing tool and contact us for more information.


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Reporting Tool Whistleblowing

Arttu Vesterinen

Chief Executive Officer