What is whistleblowing?
Someone blows the whistle when they tell their employer, a regulator, customers, the police, or the media about wrongdoing, risk or malpractice that they are aware of through their work.
Whistleblowing can inform those who need to know about health and safety risks, potential environmental problems, fraud, corruption, deficiencies in the care of vulnerable people, cover-ups and many other problems. Often it is only through whistleblowing that this information comes to light and can be addressed before real damage is done.
Whistleblowing is a valuable activity which can positively influence all of our lives.
When someone blows the whistle they are raising a concern about danger or illegality that affects others (e.g. customers, members of the public, or their employer). The person blowing the whistle is usually not directly, personally affected by the danger or illegality but in some cases by not blowing the whistle might have a future influence on their personal situation.
This is very different from a complaint. The person making a complaint has a vested interest in the outcome of the complaint and, for this reason, is expected to be able to prove their case.
For these reasons, it is not in anyone's interests if an organisation's whistle blowing policy is used to pursue a personal grievance. Most organisations have a grievance or complaints procedure and this will be more appropriate for making a complaint. However what happens if the person you want to report is your direct manager or has the means to influence your report. Where do you go to? One of only a few online places to report your information is www.onlineinformant.com
Isn't a whistleblower a snitch / grass / tattle-tale / rat / clype?
No. Whistleblowers provide an early warning system that can alert their colleagues, employers or the public to danger or illegality before it is too late. They can be among the most loyal and public-spirited employees. Unfortunately, there are still some people who believe that “whistleblower” is a dirty word and don't realise how whistleblowing can save lives, jobs, money and reputations. Thankfully, more and more people are beginning to realise how invaluable responsible whistleblowing can be.
If you are unsure whether blowing the whistle is doing the right thing, you may want to ask yourself these questions:
· If my baby was going into hospital for an operation, would I want a nurse to tell someone if they thought the surgeon was incompetent and dangerous?
· If I was that nurse, should I tell my managers that I thought this surgeon was not up to the job and might be harming patients? Wouldn't this normally be a quicker and better way to address the actual problem than going to a regulator or the media?
· If I was a manager at this hospital, would I want someone to tell me about this surgeon before more patients were harmed and the hospital's reputation was damaged?
How do I blow the whistle?
The best thing you can do is to seek independent advice from an experienced organisation before blowing the whistle. We suggest you contact your trade union, a lawyer or, if there is one in your country, an organisation that specialises in advising whistleblowers.
While every situation is different, and so it is sensible to seek advice before blowing the whistle, there are some general points to keep in mind when raising a concern.
· Stay calm.
· Remember that you are a witness, and not a complainant.
· Think about the risks and outcomes before you act.
· Let the facts speak for themselves - don't make ill-considered allegations.
· Remember that you may be mistaken or that there may be an innocent or good explanation.
· Do not become a private detective.
· Recognise that you may not be thanked.
Should I blow the whistle anonymously?
There are additional risks when workers raise their concerns anonymously. These are:
· being anonymous does not stop others from successfully guessing who raised the concern;
· it is harder to investigate the concern if people can not ask follow-up questions;
· it can lead people to focus on the whistleblower, maybe suspecting that he or she is raising the concern maliciously.
What is the difference between anonymity and confidentiality?
A worker raises a concern confidentially if he or she gives his or her name only on condition that it is not revealed without their consent. A worker raises a concern anonymously if he or she does not give his or her name. Usually, the best way to raise a concern is to do so openly.
Don't all whistleblowers get fired?
Most cases of successful whistle blowing go unreported - so the popular perception that often the messenger is shot is not challenged. Many people blow the whistle without thinking of themselves as whistleblowers and their concerns are properly addressed. These people feel that they are just doing their job or being good workers when they warn others that something is going wrong. When their employer recognises the value of the information they are being given and takes action to deal with the concern, often it does not occur to the people involved that this is a case of whistleblowing.
Will I be legally liable if I do not blow the whistle?
There are some circumstances in International Law where people are under a legal obligation to raise a concern.
Does a gagging clause prevent me from blowing the whistle?
In South Africa, gagging clauses in employment contracts and severance agreements are void insofar as they conflict with legal protection. Legal protection can also apply in many cases where the worker is covered by the Official Secrets Act.
When I doubt visit sites like www.onlineinformant.com where you will be guided through the prosess.
Happy Whistle Blowing.
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