What Human Resources need to know about whistleblowing

Feb 2, 2023

What do Human Resources need to know about Whistleblowing?

Every day, it appears as though a news headline is exposing corporate misconduct. Whether it is financial irregularities, sexual assault, racism, or harassment, unethical behaviours are no longer tolerated in the corporate world. Organizations facing public allegations of misbehaviour have everyone’s attention on their response and subsequent actions. As whistleblowing has grown in popularity, so has the number of participants. Historically, whistleblowing has been the responsibility of the risk or legal team. These departments concentrated on the financial consequences of the misconduct. However, human resources (HR) is becoming involved as more whistleblower reports focus on personnel issues. Moreover, organizations are assessing risks based on more than just the financial impact; they are now considering the impact on their workers. For this reason, human resource is more involved in instances of whistleblowing. HR managers can contribute significantly to an organization’s whistleblowing activities. Consequently, this article dives into the numerous components of Whistleblowing and the critical role that human resources could play.

Human resource managers should be familiar with the numerous whistleblowing laws and regulations. For example, in the United Kingdom, major whistleblower legislation is the 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA). Whistleblowers are protected from retaliation and victimization under the legislation, even in the presence of a signed non-disclosure contract. In order to qualify for indemnification, the person must be classified as a company employee, make a qualifying disclosure, and follow the proper procedure. This entails disclosing the information to their company in good conscience or through another avenue permitted by the employer. Additionally, the United States has whistleblower protection laws and regulations that safeguard workers’ and contractors’ freedom of speech in specific circumstances. For example, the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) protects Federal employees and job candidates who legitimately reveal information they believe demonstrates misconduct. In this case, other federal employees are prohibited from taking or threatening to take an adverse personnel action against another employee that initiates protected Whistleblowing. Thus, the laws remind human resource professionals about the legal protections and obligations associated with whistleblowing.

Although not required by law, it is always recommended practice for human resources to develop a whistleblowing policy. This can assist them in managing the whistleblowing process and training personnel on handling whistleblowing incidents. Having a whistleblowing policy can be beneficial since it enables human resources to train staff and management and reinforces organizational standards. Additionally, a well-defined whistleblower policy helps safeguard a business from false or malicious accusations levelled by an active and former employee. A policy on whistleblowing can help explain the ramifications of such malicious accusations. Additionally, by instituting a whistleblower policy, the company conveys to its workforce that it takes any misconduct extremely seriously and is dedicated to investigating and resolving issues. Finally, a whistleblower policy might serve to remind employees of the critical nature of their confidentiality obligations to their firm and clients. On the other hand, whistleblowing rules should be adjusted to the specific employer’s industry and sector.

Additionally, human resources should support current whistleblowing initiatives to promote ethical business practices. By investigating and challenging illegal activities, whistleblowers do an essential public service. Employees in corporate compliance or human resources functions typically have an unrivalled ability to uncover employer misbehaviour and compel top management to rectify and publicize the resulting problems. As a result, compliance and human resource experts must ensure the preservation and refinement of whistleblower policies. As whistleblowing has evolved, corporations have recognized that there is a human component to it in addition to financial risk. Taking a “micro” view of this factor focuses on the impact corruption has on the persons affected. This involves ensuring that those who disclose misconduct do not face retaliation. Additionally, it entails ensuring that individuals accused of wrongdoing are dealt with fairly and professionally. The “macro” perspective is concerned with the organization’s overall workforce and the impact of misconduct. This encompasses the impact of a single incident on employees and the broader cultural impact of systemic misconduct. As a result, corporations are becoming aware of the impact of misbehaviour on company cultures and are attempting to promote internal whistleblowing programs.

Additionally, human resource managers should broaden the scope of an established whistleblowing program.  As previously noted, human resources support an existing whistleblower program. Because whistleblowing activities are prioritized according to the type of wrongdoing, HR should collaborate on an equal footing with legal, risk, and compliance departments. When employees report instances of people-related misconduct, human resources takes ownership and controls the matter. In other cases, such as fraud and theft, HR assists their colleagues in conducting investigations. Human resources are responsible for receiving and reviewing reports about personnel issues. While this people-centric approach preserves a conventional whistleblowing policy and framework, it enables HR to make the most of its unique features. The difficulty with this method is typically communication. Employees may be familiar with the company’s existing whistleblowing policy, and any modifications must be transparent. Human resources must ensure that staff understands the program’s expansion strategy and which departments handle particular cases. Notably, human resources can take a significant role in designing and updating whistleblowing policies. Many firms lack dedicated risk and compliance personnel, and their legal departments may be understaffed. HR may leverage its skills to conceptualize, develop, and manage a whistleblower program. For many businesses, the majority of wrongdoing reported confidentially is related to people. Therefore, HR is capable of setting up the platform and receiving and investigating reports once they are submitted.

In summary, HR is at the centre of managing, implementing, and upgrading an effective whistleblowing program. For this reason, HR should understand the various federal laws that govern and protect whistleblowing, such as the WPA and PIDA. Nonetheless, the HR department is also significantly involved in supporting current policies and upgrading them. Thus, as whistleblowing programs gain popularity, human resources will continue to play a substantial role in supporting them. Human resources contribute significantly to the process, from assisting those participating to monitoring whistleblowing programs. By including HR, other areas of the organization are exposed to HR best practices. Each whistleblower report involves individuals. All successful whistleblowing programs make it a priority to treat informants respectfully and professionally.

By <a href="https://iblowthewhistle.com/author/j0rd4npananth3r2023/" target="_self">Editorial Team</a>

By Editorial Team