Why should our organisation have a Whistleblowing Hotline service?

Employees and stakeholders should have the ability to easily speak up against wrongdoing – at any time.

To truly facilitate this, an organisation must:

  • Develop, and fully support, a robust whistleblowing policy
  • Appoint internal Whistleblower Protection Officers
  • Agree on clear protection processes for whistleblowers during and post making a disclosure
  • Define a secure internal reporting pathway
  • Appoint a best practice whistleblowing hotline service offering anonymous reporting

Like any risk management or governance initiative, your whistleblowing program is evolutionary. It only truly operates at a high level when top management endorse and effectively communicate it to stakeholders. By endorsing the program, top management demonstrate commitment to the organisation’s values and integrity. Disclosures against any stakeholder, at any level, without reprisal should be encouraged. This is how an organisation, over time, can create a ‘speak up’ corporate culture.

A ‘tick the box’ or ‘head in the sand’ approach to your whistleblowing program will not protect your organisation. Although this may satisfy, on paper, auditors or a regulatory body it will not truly support your employees… let alone protect your reputational and commercial interests. We have all seen a Current Affair or 4 Corners episode that could have been avoided if the correct stakeholder reporting mechanisms were in place.

An organisation’s stakeholders should not fear speaking up – even when the alleged misconduct includes top management or Board members. A drastic example of an employee’s fear of speaking up is evidenced at the child abuse royal commission including a former Geelong Grammar teacher.

Some types of misconduct can go unnoticed or unreported for long periods of time. It may even now be seen as ‘normal behaviour’ by stakeholders… passed down via a generational culture. This does not result in your organisation being ‘misconduct’ free. Quite the contrary – at times to our clients’ surprise, we actually question when zero internal/external reporting occurs. There may be an systemic problem we collaboratively need to detect and solve.

A well-publicised example of misconduct becoming entrenched within generational culture is surgeon bullying and harassment. A report commissioned by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons found nearly half of all surgeons across all specialities have experienced discrimination, bullying or sexual harassment. The impact of this behaviour was best articulated by RACS president Prof. David Watters “The individuals who shared their stories have described the devastating impact this has had on their personal and professional lives.”

A robust whistleblowing program and whistleblowing hotline service are important parts of an organisation’s risk management/governance framework. Invest the resources to protect your employees and organisation. Take the first step by downloading our best practice Whistleblowing Program checklist.