How to Develop an Effective Whistleblower Policy

October 31, 2022

Every wise business wants to create a solid foundation of compliance, a workforce that is positive and productive, and an army of employees who feel protected at work.

One of the best ways to reach these goals is to incorporate whistleblower policies within the company’s internal processes. But, when the time comes to hit the drawing board, companies face several challenges simply “getting started.”

In this article, you will dissect what a whistleblower policy is, why it’s beneficial for your business, and how you can create an efficient whistleblower policy for your company.

What is a Whistleblower Policy?

A whistleblower is someone who anonymously reports any form of misdeed or illegal conduct that may have occurred within the workplace. When someone blows the whistle within an organization, it is critical for the management to take immediate action.

In most cases, the report shared by the whistleblower can help a company avert heavy financial and reputational losses. However, blowing the whistle is not an easy task. Before the concept of a whistleblower policy for private companies emerged, reporting misconduct was a risky task. Back then, the individual who blew the whistle could end up facing issues like retaliation and there was no obligation to protect the whistleblower. A whistleblower policy, however, helped create a safe space for individuals to come forward and report misconduct that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Why Does a Business Need a Whistleblower Policy?

As discussed, businesses stand to gain several benefits when they make it safe for whistleblowers to bring misconduct out in the open.

You can see a Whistleblower Policy as a document that becomes a part of the company’s internal processes. This policy not only protects but also lays the groundwork for carrying out investigations that the whistleblower helps to start.

Whistleblower policy and procedures promote ethical behavior across the company by encouraging individuals to “speak up” if they come across any workplace misconduct. More importantly, this policy communicates the ways in which whistleblowers can remain protected by the law.

Several instances of misconduct could remain hidden away for years and later erupt into serious disasters that end up pushing the company into several financial losses, legal sandpits, and reputational damages.

When you circulate a whistleblower policy within your organizations, you assure the workforce as a whole that: anybody willing to blow the whistle on workplace misconduct will remain fully protected. This, in turn, encourages more people to take the initiative against misconduct, ultimately contributing to a safer work environment and a thriving culture of compliance.

Effective Whistleblower Policy Creation

Here are the best practices you can follow when creating a robust whistleblowing policy:

Your Company’s Commitment

Communicate your company’s commitment to taking whistleblowers’ reports seriously. Here, you can focus on: your strong belief in the fact that employees have the right to report any misconduct they witness or experience, they have the right to remain anonymous, and they will not be facing any retaliation for reporting the misconduct. Be certain to stress how misconduct is destructive to the entire organization and how whistleblowing is important to curbing problems.

Types of Misconducts that Can Be Reported

Your whistleblower policy must outline the types of misconduct your employees can report. While incidents like discrimination, harassment, theft, and fraud may seem crystal clear, others like personal interactions might require a detailed description and examples to help whistleblowers have a better understanding. The goal here is to ensure they don’t confuse misdemeanors with grievances. 

Individuals Who Fall Under your Whistleblower Policy

Consider whom you would want to include in your policy aside from the company’s employees. You may include outside parties like former employees, contractors, partners, vendors, volunteers, customers, or even the general public. Keep in mind that if someone is excluded from the policy, they can cause harm by blowing the whistle via social media or in a public space.

How An Employee Can Report a Misconduct

A great whistleblower policy offers several options for an employee to make a disclosure. Anonymous hotlines, emails, or mobile/web-based whistleblowing software are some of the options you can incorporate in your whistleblowing program. Make certain these reporting mechanisms in common knowledge throughout the organization.

Why Anonymity Matters

Anonymity is a vital element of every whistleblower policy. It helps employees report without the fear of retaliation and contributes to creating a long-term speak-up culture. Explain not only to your employees that their identity is fully protected and they will not face any retaliation for doing the right thing, but that if they experience retaliation they should also report that since retaliation is a form of misconduct.

Outline of The Investigative Process

Outline a thorough investigative procedure to boost your policy’s credibility among those you want to report misconduct. This process will detail what your investigative process entails including the interview process and the subsequent action. Provide as much concrete information here as you can and even set estimated time frames for each stage of the process.

The Need for a Third-Party For Investigation

Many cases require the assistance of a third party for receiving reports and investigating due to the complexities they come with. Therefore your whistleblower policy and procedures must include when and how you might team up with a third party.

The Procedure to Update the Informant

When you craft the investigative process, you should also include how you can keep the informant updated during and after the investigation. Make certain your hotline or web reporting process has a follow-up mechanism in place.

Staff Training and Understanding

Your employees must know their rights and duties when it comes to the process of whistleblowing. Crafting comprehensive training materials can help educate and train them in various aspects of whistleblowing so they can freely and safely raise any concern against any form of misconduct that takes place within the company.

Through training, companies can educate employees of the policies and procedures that are set in place for their protection. The training should also help them understand whom – their supervisor, immediate manager, or the HR team – they can take their concerns to. The training should also help them understand the distinction between grievance and whistleblowing.

From paving the way for a healthy compliance culture to helping your company avert heavy reputational and financial losses – whistleblower policies and procedures can be a powerful compliance tool. This policy not only helps employees come up and do the right thing but also substantially brings down the possibility of wrong deeds down the line.

Your whistleblower policy and training decide how strong your company’s whistleblower program would turn out to be. This is why it’s vital to “do it right” with Ethico’s anonymous tools.