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5 Whistleblowing Myths Under the Microscope

We take a look at the most common myths around whistleblowing.

Sascha Meier Sascha Meier

    Myth 1: Whistleblowers Harm the Company’s Reputation

    Whistleblowers only harm companies if they report corporate misconduct directly to the public or the media. It is therefore important that companies encourage whistleblowers to report their concerns internally. Companies are advised to set up internal whistleblowing channels and actively communicate these so that employees and other stakeholders are aware of them. Internal whistleblowing channels mean that employees can report their concerns directly to the appropriate department in the company and help to identify and remedy issues at an early stage. This helps to reduce the risk of reputational damage.

    Myth 2: Whistleblowers End up in Court

    If a whistleblower reports their concerns directly to an external body (e.g. the media), they may be liable to prosecution if, for example, they disclose corporate secrets. Exceptions apply if the whistleblower acts in the public interest. Such exceptions are, for example, enshrined in the reporting procedure detailed in the new EU Whistleblower Directive. All whistleblowers that use internal company reporting channels such as a digital whistleblower system to report concerns shouldn’t have anything to fear.

    Myth 3: Employees Use Whistleblower Systems to Anonymously Send Unfounded Reports About Their Colleagues

    According to the Whistleblowing Report 2019, which surveyed nearly 1,400 companies from Germany, France, the UK and Switzerland, less than 9 percent of reports received by companies were aimed at harming individual employees or the company. The study shows that half of all reports refer to compliance-related issues and the remaining reports usually reveal other problems in the company. Nevertheless, it is important when introducing whistleblower systems to clearly communicate that abusive reports will not be tolerated.

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    Myth 4: Anyone Who Sets up a Whistleblower System Will Be Flooded with Reports

    Studies show that companies receive an average of 52 reports per year (cf. Whistleblowing Report 2019). The larger the company, the greater the probability that concerns will be reported. However, receiving lots of reports is not necessarily a bad sign. While it may indicate that there are lots of issues within the company, it may also simply mean that employees have confidence in the whistleblowing arrangements and feel comfortable reporting.

    Similarly, a small number of reports can indicate that there are very few issues but can also be a sign that the reporting system doesn’t work as it should, employees have no confidence in the channel or simply do not know where they should report misconduct. Companies should therefore transparently communicate their reporting channels and handling processes in order to reduce barriers to raising concerns.

    Myth 5: Whistleblowers Should Fear Retaliation from Colleagues

    If the whistleblower provides their name when reporting, the employer must keep the individual’s identity confidential (as far as possible). If the identity of the whistleblower is for some reason disclosed, the employer must protect the whistleblower from retaliation. The European Union also explicitly includes the protection of whistleblowers (including bullying and intimidation) in the Whistleblower Directive adopted in April 2019.

    However, in reality low levels of bullying are difficult to detect and prevent and employees may fear that their name might get out. Allowing anonymous reporting can provide an additional level of security that helps employees feel comfortable reporting, especially on highly sensitive issues. It’s also still possible to communicate with anonymous whistleblowers to collect more information with modern whistleblowing systems.

    Our digital whistleblowing system EQS Integrity Line helps you to reduce risks in your company.

    Sascha Meier
    Sascha Meier

    Director Sales Corporate Compliance – EQS Group | Sascha Meier is responsible for sales of the product segment Corporate Compliance at the Swiss office of the technology provider EQS Group. He has many years of experience in the digitalization of compliance processes and in his function supports organizations daily in the introduction and optimization of compliance management systems. In his previous positions he worked for EQS Group in Munich and Dubai.