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  • AutorenbildCarrie Cook

Updating your Whistleblowing Policy

Aktualisiert: 3. Jan. 2022

Is your whistleblowing policy fit for purpose?

The way corporations conduct business is under greater - and more public - scrutiny than ever before. People expect far more from the companies they do business with and work for, making whistleblowing procedures an integral part of building trust and maintaining brand integrity. This report from our partners at RiskBusiness looks at some of the latest developments in the area of whistleblowing regulation and guidance, including the EU Whistleblowing Directive.

EU Whistleblowing Directive

The EU’s Whistleblowing Directive (Directive 2019/1937) was launched to address fragmentation in approaches to whistleblowing across its member states. “The consequences of breaches of Union law with a cross-border dimension reported by whistleblowers illustrate how insufficient protection in one Member State negatively impacts the functioning of Union policies not only in that Member State, but also in other Member States and in the Union as a whole,” says the directive.

Deadlines for the EU directive

For larger companies (those employing 250 people or more), the deadline for implementation is December 2021, meaning firms who operate in member states have just a few months left to ensure compliance. Companies with 50-249 employees will have two additional years to comply. The main focus of the directive is to provide greater protection for whistleblowers who have historically only been protected in a handful of EU countries, resulting in resistance from individuals to report wrongdoing.

Each member state must transpose the directive into law by December 2021. It is likely there will be some differences in how each state interprets the directive into national law, so firms should keep this in mind when implementing their whistleblowing policy.

ISO 37002 - Whistleblowing Management Systems guidance

Due for release this year, the ISO 37002 guidance on whistleblowing management systems is a global standard that seeks to provide a framework for the handling of whistleblowing reports specifically (rather than issues in relation to the whistleblower themselves.) It will provide “guidelines for implementing, managing, evaluating, maintaining and improving a robust and effective management system within an organisation for whistleblowing.”

It is the first ISO standard dedicated to whistleblowing, demonstrating how regulators and industry bodies are shifting focus towards this area of policy making. ISO 37002 is expected to be published by July 2021. ISO convenor Dr Wim Vandekerckhove recently spoke to about the guidance and said we can expect it to fit easily alongside other standards currently in use: “At the moment ISO 37002 is not a certifiable standard like anti-bribery or compliance, but it is a plug-and-play into those standards. Think of it as a stand-alone standard that can easily be used in conjunction with those related standards,” he said.

Updating your whistleblowing policies and procedures due to COVID-19

23% of respondents to a survey by law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer felt that whistleblowing procedures needed to be updated as a result of COVID-19. Firms should now be thinking about the logistics of their whistleblowing procedures from a remote-working perspective: do employees still have access to reporting methods? Is their ability to remain anonymous impacted by working from home? Are they able to get in touch with their line manager easily during normal working hours and, if not, do they have an alternative method for raising complaints?

Getting it right internally

In June 2020, a study into whistleblowing in the financial services industry (Silence in the City 2) revealed that more than 90% of whistleblowers who contacted the whistleblowing charity Protect for advice had already raised concerns internally. This demonstrates the importance of ensuring your internal whistleblowing procedures are fit for purpose and allow employees to maintain anonymity where possible. Feedback to complainants is also hugely important, because if an individual doesn’t have confirmation that their complaint is being addressed, they are more likely to seek external advice or contact the press. Most whistleblowing guidance encourages internal reporting first, so providing staff with a visible and accessible reporting channel - and encouraging line managers to adopt an open-door policy - could be the difference between an internal investigation and a public scandal.

This is an abridged extract from Updating your whistleblowing policy: the EU whistleblowing directive and more, by RiskBusiness. To view the full report, which goes into greater detail on the regulations and guidance mentioned above, click here

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