New rules on whistleblowing for financial firms across the country came into effect this month. They were published in April by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), alongside the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).
This follows on from the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act in 2015 which includes a section on whistleblowing and has implications for SMEs in particular.
So perhaps it is time for firms of all shapes and sizes to consider whether they should have their own whistleblowing policy in place.
Whistleblowing is the term used when an employee raises concerns about wrongdoing in the workplace. This can include criminal offences, failure to comply with an obligation set out in law, miscarriages of justice, endangering someone’s health and safety, damaging the environment, or covering up wrongdoing.
It is good practice to create an open, transparent and safe working environment where employees feel able to speak up. If there is a clear procedure in place, then complaints can be investigated promptly and hopefully resolved without the involvement of any third parties.
There have been a number of high profile cases recently which have confirmed that many workers may be scared of speaking up about poor practice when it comes to whistleblowing.
These have included the public inquiry into problems at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, and the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards which prompted the changes introduced this month by the FCA.
Making sure employees can approach management with concerns is the most important step in creating an open and healthy culture within the workplace.
It is good practice to make sure employees know about the existence of any whistleblowing policies so they know how they can make a disclosure. Feedback is also vital so that whistleblowers understand how their complaint has been handled.
For example, the boundaries of what is unacceptable conduct should be clearly defined, making it easier for employers to find out when something has gone wrong.
Steps should also be taken to ensure the whistleblower is not ‘victimised’ as this should not be tolerated, and if they do feel this has happened, their concerns can be raised through the grievance procedure.
And if necessary, it should be possible for the whistleblower’s identity to remain anonymous.
It should also be made clear that disclosures should no longer be made “in good faith” but rather in the “public interest”.
There could be cases where an employee believes they are blowing the whistle when, in fact, their complaint is a personal grievance – which is not covered by whistleblowing rules. It is important that any procedure should make this clear to employees.
There is no one-size-fits-all whistleblowing policy – it will vary depending on the size and nature of the company.
While larger firms may have a policy where employees can contact their immediate manager or specific team who are trained to handle disclosures, small or medium-sized firms may not have sufficient resources to do that.
We see a lot of small companies buy an “off the shelf” policy and then place it in a folder, but in fact it doesn’t say what to do or how to deal with people!
Ansa HR can provide advice and guidance to any small insurance companies or call centres which find themselves affected by the new procedures and can assist with whistleblowing policies and how they can best be implemented in your workplace.