UK companies lack managers who are trained to handle whistleblowing, survey finds

Freshfields says companies need to review whistleblowing training and policies in a world of hybrid work

Almost two-thirds of managers globally are opposed to anonymous whistleblowing Shutterstock

A sizeable chunk of UK companies don’t have anyone trained to deal with whistleblowing in their organisations, according to a new survey by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Just 58% of respondents in the UK said they have managers trained on whistleblowing, the survey showed, while less than half of global respondents felt the ‘average employee’ would know what to do if a whistleblowing incident occurred.

As many as 85% of global respondents felt remote and hybrid working has impacted whistleblowing, with 29% saying it has reduced reporting of incidents because people working from home are less likely to see or hear any wrongdoing. Another 29% said they believe employees feel more comfortable to blow the whistle when they are working from home due to a sense of privacy.

However, the data shows an increase in whistleblowing overall since 2020, with more than 40% of respondents globally saying they have been involved in some form of whistleblowing incident.

Adam Siegel, a dispute resolution partner at Freshfields, said: “We know that a broader focus from stakeholders on corporate culture and employee behaviour is driving a change in attitudes towards whistleblowing. It is also impacting expectations as to how whistleblowing matters are handled. Companies must grapple with those expectations against the backdrop of significant changes in the workplace, with remote and hybrid working arrangements becoming the norm for many global employers.”

More than half of UK respondents said it was important for companies to provide up-to-procedures to give employees a route for raising concerns.

The survey also showed that managers are mostly opposed to anonymous whistleblowing claims, with 63% of managers globally wanting the identity of a whistleblower to be revealed, compared to 48% in the UK. However, 61% of UK respondents working in the financial services sector want the identity of a whistleblower to be revealed when they make a claim.

Holly Insley, people and reward partner at Freshfields, said: “Our latest research demonstrates that having a robust framework for whistleblowing and compliance in business should be prioritised by clients across sectors… It’s critical that organisations provide clear messaging on policies and reporting routes, and proactively raise awareness with colleagues to prevent reputational and financial risk later down the line.”

Freshfields surveyed more than 2,500 managers in large companies in the UK, US, Hong Kong, Germany and France.

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