Whistleblowing and Honesty in your Workplace

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 15 March 2017
Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite
Issues covered:

Under the Protected Disclosures Act, employees that are unfairly dismissed due to whistleblowing could be awarded up to 5 years’ salary.  It is also possible for employees dismissed for this reason to bring an unfair dismissal case without completing one year's service with the company which is usually a precondition for unfair dismissal cases.

Although the term ‘whistleblowing’ is often associated with high profile cases in the media, a disclosure may be made in any industry at any level. Fraud and business malpractice can cause major damage to a company’s reputation. To prevent such matters going undisclosed, it is imperative to implement an Honesty & Whistleblowing Policy. Under this policy, employees should clearly understand what they should do if they come across malpractice in their place of work.

The company should outline in the policy that they take malpractice seriously. Clear examples of malpractice should be outlined, such as:

  • Unauthorised use of Company money
  • A criminal offence
  • Failure to comply with any legal obligation

How employees can raise a concern in the workplace should also be stated and the relevant contact person’s details should be included in the policy.  It is advisable, where possible, to engage an independent company to act as the contact point. The HR Suite offers this service to many of our clients throughout Ireland. We find that by offering an external liaison, employees are more comfortable with the idea of coming forward.

Having a procedure in place also aims to prevent staff from discussing sensitive information with unsuitable parties. In turn, the company will treat disclosures in confidence and will not reveal the identity of the person making the allegation so long as it does not hinder or frustrate any investigation. It is important to state in the policy that the company will not tolerate the victimisation of any person who discloses a wrongdoing under the procedure and that victimisation will be treated as a disciplinary offence. Therefore, if an incident occurs the employee will feel protected and may be more likely to make the disclosure.

Drafting the Honesty and Whistleblowing policy is the easy part – implementing it may be a lot more difficult. There have always been negative connotations associated with the term whistleblowing. The idea of ‘tell-tale’ or ‘informer’ tends to creep into employees minds. Employees need to start realising that whistleblowing is in place to protect them, the company and, at times, the public interest. They also need to be assured that the policy is fully supported by the management of the company. Management must take all disclosures seriously and when necessary undertake an investigation into the matter. It is also important for employees to be aware that there will be no negative consequences for making disclosures.

Honesty in the workplace can be encouraged by clearly identifying the company’s expectations of employees and management. An Honesty Policy is designed to protect the majority of people in the workplace who want to work in an environment in which honesty is fostered and expected. It protects the employee and the employer from any dishonest acts by fellow employees, customers, suppliers or the general public.

Of course, there can be times when allegations are untrue or malicious. At times, allegations can be made in good faith but sometimes, after investigation, they may be found untrue. However, it may be discovered that the allegations are malicious or vexatious. If this is the case, disciplinary action may be taken against that individual.

Be aware that your company may be at risk if you lack internal controls, policies and procedures.  Controls and standards should be in place to ensure staff have clear instruction and know what constitutes appropriate behaviour. Security measures should also be in place where necessary, for example, secure passwords and CCTV. All companies must implement strict internal controls as a first step towards making the company secure. Employees must then be made aware of all policies including the Honesty and Whistleblowing policy in an effort to limit fraud and dishonesty in the workplace. 

This article is correct at 15/03/2017

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite

The main content of this article was provided by Caroline Reidy. Contact telephone number is +353 66 710 2887 / +353 86 775 2064 or email info@thehrsuite.com

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