23 June 2023 was World Whistleblowers’ Day. Hot on the heels of the new EU Whistleblowing Directive, the purpose of marking the day was to raise global awareness in combatting corruption, to promote more comprehensive rights and protections for whistleblowers, and to celebrate a positive speak-up culture within organisations.
Culture & supporting Speak Up
Culture forms the bedrock of any organisation, influencing the behaviours and decisions of its business, stakeholders and employees. Having a strong corporate culture is a regulatory imperative in markets like the UK financial services market but it is also critical across all sectors in light of the volume of highly newsworthy incidents of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct which mean that organisations must be prepared to review and act on issues raised. Building an environment where employees feel that the culture fosters psychological safety is a critical route to being able to operate an effective whistleblowing programme. Many employees are reluctant to come forward with concerns because they have little faith that those concerns will be investigated, or they are worried about retaliation. Having a secure and confidential whistleblowing programme in place, increases the sense of security within the organisation for both employees and management and reinforces a culture of trust. It also provides for the rapid detection of reported issues or themes which organisations can then address.
According to a recent whistleblowing report by a whistleblowing hotline provider, only 21% of UK respondents felt that their workplace actively encouraged their employees to speak up, and a total of 53% felt that their colleagues would be discouraged from whistleblowing due to concerns that it might harm their reputation or future career prospects. These figures show that there is still a long way to go in raising awareness about whistleblowing within organisations.
A changing landscape - the UK’s new Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill
In most countries there is a legal regime around whistleblowing as well as often a regulatory requirement in the financial services sector. The EU Whistleblowing Directive has added a huge amount of complexity to cross border whistleblowing programmes. In addition, the importance of an organisation having a robust comprehensive whistleblowing programme is highlighted by the UK’s Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill (ECCT), which is likely to come into force later this year. As part of this legislation, a new strict liability corporate criminal offence of “failure to prevent fraud” will be introduced. This will make it easier to prosecute organisations where fraud is committed by an employee or agent of an organisation.
The ECCT is also likely to broaden the circumstances in which an organisation can be held criminally liable for economic crimes committed by individuals representing it. Under the current UK legal position, an organisation must have a “directing mind and will” before it can be criminally liable for the acts of such individual. However, the ECCT will include senior managers within the scope of attribution to an organisation, significantly expanding the circumstances in which an organisation can become criminally liable.
How can we help?
Deloitte’s Global Conduct Watch platform provides a secure and seamless end-to-end whistleblowing solution which can help organisations accelerate how they identify, resolve, and report on fraud and other misconduct. Together with wrap around legal advice on structuring whistleblowing programmes, policies and investigations, as well as Deloitte’s forensics capabilities, organisations can build a single source of information to manage and monitor cases relating to incidents of workplace misconduct, policy and procedure breaches, and compliance and integrity matters.
If you require any further support or guidance on your whistleblowing processes or want to find out how our end-to-end whistleblowing solution can help your organisation, please contact:
Julia Gorham, Partner in Deloitte Legal’s Employment law team
Glafkos Tombolis, Partner in Deloitte Legal’s Corporate team
Jules Colborne-Baber, Partner, Head of Investigations and Lead of Deloitte’s Economic Crime proposition
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