One of the UK's leading academic experts on whistleblowing has warned that too many British companies still don't have confidential reporting procedures in place, leaving them open to financial or reputational ruin.
This stark message, from David Lewis, Professor of Employment Law at Middlesex University, will be given as he launches a cross industry whistleblowing award designed to highlight the value to society of an individual or organisation making a disclosure of information in the public interest.
Despite a rise in the use of confidential reporting procedures in large FTSE companies (Prof Lewis' own research* suggests that more than eight out of ten 250 FTSE firms have had their procedures invoked), many smaller organisations and SMEs have no formal mechanisms for employees to confidentially report wrongdoing. This is situation that will become even more problematic when the Bribery Act comes into force in July.
Prof. David Lewis said: "Bribery, fraud and malpractice can happen in any business at any level, but organisations in the private and public sectors can put procedures in place that allow them to receive information about possible problems before they escalate. Confidential reporting procedures also remove the need for workers to make external disclosures that damage the company's reputation."
Professor Lewis proposed the award as a way of recognising the importance of reporting concerns about wrongdoing and continued "Recent events, for example in the care and financial sectors, demonstrate that we need to keep this issue at the top of the UK agenda. It takes courage and determination to report something like theft, fraud or bribery and so it's preferable for businesses to make it easy to report corruption and then deal with problems properly and avoid reputational damage."
The award will be launched at the International Whistleblowing Research Network's conference on Thursday 23 and Friday 24 June at Middlesex University, London. The event - aimed at human resource and legal practitioners, representatives from government departments, NGOs and academics - will bring together experts from Australia, Germany, Norway, USA and Israel. Topics for discussion include the role of independent regulators, preventing and dealing with retaliation against whistleblowers and the implications of the UK Bribery Act.
Information on the Whistleblowing Award and conference are available from firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Professor Lewis' whistleblowing research was funded by SAI global and can be found at https://www.saiglobal.com/compliance/resources/expert-commentaries/david-lewis-hotline-research.htm