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Small businesses may not think that it is necessary to introduce a whistleblowing policy or procedure in their organisation. Many will mistakenly think that wrongdoing is more likely to occur in larger organisations where it is more likely to go unnoticed or can be easily covered up.
However, smaller businesses are often exposed to many types of wrongdoing usually because they have not taken appropriate action to encourage staff to speak up or have failed to provide an adequate mechanism for staff to raise concerns.
The tips below provide some useful advice for smaller businesses that explains how they can encourage their staff to speak up and protect themselves against the many forms of wrongdoing that threatens their business interests.
Providing a safe and supporting environment for reporting concerns
- Ensure employees have another route to raise a concern. It can be difficult for employees to raise a concern, especially when the concern may have an impact on their colleagues or managers. If an employee does not feel comfortable raising concerns with their internal line-management, provide them with a reporting outlet to allow them to report their concern to a senior figure within your business such as a Director or CEO.
- Provide employees with a mechanism to raise a concern in confidence in case they do not want their identity to be disclosed without their prior consent.
- Make it clear to employees who do come forward that you will support them and protect them from reprisals.
- Explain to managers and employees that victimising people who raise genuine concerns is a disciplinary offence.
- Promote relevant external reporting routes such as an independent and external whistleblowing provider. This will provide assurances that you want to treat concerns seriously.
Getting the communication right
- Ensure that your employees are provided with a clear message from your CEO or Director advising that wrongdoing will not be tolerated within your business. Whatever tone management sets will have a trickle-down effect to employees of your business. If the tone set by managers upholds ethics, your employees will be more inclined to uphold those same values.
- Explain to employees how wrongdoing impacts your business. For example, the impact on employment, finances, reputation and potential growth of the business.
- Provide employees with examples of what conduct is unacceptable. Discuss with them any particular risks your business may face.
- Provide your employees with flexible reporting routes including a telephone hotline, online web reporting and a dedicated whistleblowing e-mail address. The easier it is for your employee to raise a concern the more likely that a concern will be raised.
- Provide regular awareness training to all employees and ensure that they have fully understood the process from the point when the concern is raised to when the matter has been fully investigated and closed down.
- Explain the difference between a genuine whistleblowing concern and a grievance.
- Report back to the employee about the outcome of any concern that they have raised including any remedial action you propose to take.
- Make it clear that raising an untrue allegation maliciously is a disciplinary offence.