Bullying, fraud & corruption | Report reveals rise in whistleblowing cases and the reasons behind them

Report reveals rise in whistleblowing cases and the reasons behind them

There has been an increase in whistleblowing – in the UK - especially reports of dishonest behaviour, racism and harassment in the workplace, according to a new report.

While a post-pandemic 2022 saw a return to office working for most companies, the world-wide cost of living crisis, a global economic downturn and the introduction of new whistleblowing legislation combined to create a complex whistleblowing environment.

The return to widespread office working saw an upturn in the number of dishonest behaviour related reports, including fraud and corruption.

HR concerns remained in the highest reported category with reports from employees categorised under bullying, discrimination, harassment, racism, unfair treatment, and victimisation making up 55% of all concerns.

Safecall’s Whistleblowing Benchmark Report 2023 highlights the rise in reporting rates, the trends, and areas of reported wrongdoing in different sectors. The data contained within this annual report – based on anonymised data from more than 900 organisations with over three million people in total - is aimed at helping companies and organisations understand the trends in misconduct.

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UK-based Safecall – a leading independent, specialist whistleblowing and compliance services provider – says the changed post-pandemic landscape has accelerated greater awareness and appreciation of whistleblowing. In turn, this is driving a worldwide growth of this specialist business sector.

Report author Greg Ogle, client account manager at Safecall, said: “The data is designed to inform and help organisations make better decisions when it comes to establishing whistleblowing arrangements. It should help HR and health & safety managers or departments to determine and measure performance of their organisation against their peers.

“There are many factors associated with an effective whistleblowing management system. Working across an extensive client base, in 136 countries, we have established best practice guidance to help organisations get the most from their whistleblowing arrangements.”

While legislation (notably the EU Whistleblowing Directive) and compliance are among the drivers of change, many businesses and organisations are discovering that whistleblowing improves workplace environments, in turn helping employees feel respected, experiencing benefits to their overall wellbeing.

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Greg explained that more employees are being encouraged and empowered to do the right thing and report wrongdoing at work; likewise, more employers are recognising the ethical benefits of supporting staff to report wrongdoing safely.

The latest report, which covers 2022, reveals that Safecall received reports from 136 countries across the world, a marked increase from 2021. The company also received the greatest number of reports it has ever recorded. While most reports of wrongdoing are from companies headquartered in the west, Safecall received its highest number of reports from South East Asia, particularly from real-estate and manufacturing customers.

Ogle explained that with an increased awareness surrounding whistleblowing and confidential reporting, led by the EU Whistleblowing Directive, external reporting facilities are becoming the norm rather than the exception. In 2022 the company saw a dramatic switch to web reporting and a decline in the number of telephone reports, although these still represented around 50% of all reports received.

Reporting rates vary year on year for every organisation with whistleblowing arrangements. The company culture, the current change agenda and growth strategy all contribute to the number of concerns raised by employees. Those companies that regularly promote, refresh and talk about their ‘Speak Up’ services receive more reports year on year.

The highest number of reports per employee for 2022 came from the emergency services sector. Healthcare, mining, and non-profit sectors received some of the highest levels of HR reporting – no doubt related to continued difficult working conditions. Education, manufacturing and financial services remain the lowest reporting sectors.

Safecall evaluates reports into four classifications – HR, general, dishonest behaviour, and health & safety. During 2022 the number of health & safety reports decreased.

“As we predicted last October, the unfavourable economic circumstances and reduction in living standards is having a perceptible knock-on effect,” said Ogle, revealing a 3% rise in reported dishonest behaviour overall. Corruption reports were up 2%, fraud and bribery both up 1%.

Elsewhere, substance abuse continues to be an issue for Safecall’s clients, particularly within the construction and manufacturing sectors. There has also been a slight uptick in food product contamination concerns.

Joanna Lewis, Safecall managing director, said: “More companies and organisations see the benefits of creating a safe space for employees to live and work. Employers are increasingly seeing how such services protect the integrity of an organisation as well as the reputation of a brand.”

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