VIEW: On whistleblowing
Written by David Thompson, director of policy and public affairs, Chartered Insurance Institute
There are many characteristics that make an individual a professional person, one of which is upholding ethical standards of behaviour. That means not only ‘doing the right thing’ but also being prepared to challenge behaviour in others that falls short of the mark.
Whistleblowing should not be mistaken as disloyalty; it is just the opposite. Those who blow the whistle can be the most loyal and public spirited of employees and can help their firm avoid serious consequences that regulators and the law can apply to companies found to be involved in wrongdoing or malpractice.
Whistleblowing is raising a concern, either in the workplace or externally, about a danger, risk, malpractice or wrongdoing which affects others. The issue of concern could involve a dangerous activity, a serious risk to the business, malpractice in how an activity is being undertaken or wrongdoing in how the organisation is being run. Whistleblowing can save lives, jobs, money and reputations. It can also be an early warning system for misconduct wrongdoing or dangerous behaviours. The level of concern will come in all shapes and sizes, and some will involve wrongdoing that is too serious to be reported through internal company channels. This is not easy territory to navigate, so it is important to know how best to address it.
Firstly one must be clear about the facts and consider the situation from different perspectives. Carefully weigh up just how serious the situation is and if there is a simple way of resolving it. Compare what you’ve encountered with your firm’s code of ethics and be clear about what is being undermined.
Most firms have an internal procedure for whistleblowing. In most cases this is the best route to take initially. However if your concerns are serious or not resolved then individuals need to consider what can be done carefully. Your relevant industry regulator; in most cases this is the Financial Conduct Authority have specific powers to investigate such concerns and apply any necessary sanctions. The CII provides guidance for its members on what individuals need to think about before taking further action. And the charity, Public Concern at Work, offers independent and confidential advice.