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  • International Workplace
  • 28 May 2020
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COVID-19 and whistleblowing – encouraging a speak-up culture

“In these times of flux, when expectations and duties of organisations towards all their stakeholders have been constantly shifting, it is more important than ever for employers to demonstrate support for anyone who would raise a concern about wrongdoing or malpractice within their workplace,” says Stella Sutcliffe, Business Support Team at whistleblowing charity Protect.

“New and very different practices and ways of working may lead to problems which employers cannot afford to miss,” says Sutcliffe.

“Mass remote working could produce opportunities for data breaches, new reporting methods may lead to mis-reporting of finances, and new working environments may create health and safety hazards or safeguarding issues.

“We have already seen so many examples of whistleblowers raising life and death issues from a medical point of view – the Wuhan doctor who raised the alarm about the virus, and health and care workers coming forward about PPE shortages.

“The Protect Advice Line has been busier than ever, with 40% of our calls being COVID-19 related. Calls to us are usually from individuals who do not know where to turn, or who don’t feel confident following the procedure set out by their workplace. This could be evidence of mistrust, but could also be a sign that organisations are just not communicating their guidelines and attitude towards whistleblowing as well as they could be.”

Continues Sutcliffe:

“The value of speaking up to stop harm has never been clearer, and it could benefit businesses greatly to demonstrate that their support for staff by talking about World Whistleblowers Day.

“Employers regularly ask us how they can talk to employees about whistleblowing without creating alarm, or suggesting problems which may not exist. World Whistleblowers Day is a great opportunity to create a positive conversation around the arrangements they have in place, and why they are so important.”

Protect’s Business Support team offers the following tips on how to increase levels of staff engagement on the subject of speaking up:

  • Circulate your policy with a word from your chief executive.
  • Appoint a whistleblowing champion who will flag fly for your arrangements and monitor the effectiveness of your whistleblowing arrangements. Remember to communicate their details in your staff newsletter or on your intranet.
  • Test employee confidence on whistleblowing by creating a survey, listening exercises or hosting focus groups.
  • Train your staff – especially department heads and line managers who may be the first point of call for all kinds of queries and concerns.
  • Create ‘FAQs’ and ‘How to’ guides for staff and people managers that bring your policy to life and clearly show who the best person to contact would be.

 

Protect is a leading UK whistleblowing organisation, providing training and consultancy for organisations across all sectors. You can email at business@protect-advice.org.uk or watch a free webinar: Whistleblowing during COVID-19: keeping your organisation and employees safe