Almost a third of FTSE 100 do not disclose whistleblowing rules
According to exclusive data given to Financial News by Linklaters, one of London’s elite law firms, 29% of companies in the FTSE 100 do not make their reporting mechanisms freely available on their websites.
The findings come as pressure mounts on large UK employers to ensure staff are able to flag problems at work without fear of retaliation, and as MPs discuss a formal review of whistleblowing regulation in order to provide better protection.
"Companies must protect employees who choose to whistle-blow"; Nicky Morgan, the Conservative MP who chairs Parliament’s Treasury Committee, told Financial News.
"But not only that, companies must also ensure employees are well aware that whistleblower policies exist and that they have confidence in their employer that the policies would be followed in full."
The financial services sector has come under fire for its handling of whistleblowing incidents. Last year, Jes Staley, the chief executive of Barclays, the UK bank, was fined £642,430 for trying to uncover the identity of a whistleblower.
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Mary Inman, partner and head of the whistleblower practice group at Constantine Cannon, the law firm, said: “It’s rather shocking in this environment where more and more industries are being required to have them [details of their whistleblowing policy] that FTSE 100 companies wouldn’t be publicising them.
"[Whistleblowers] are [a company’s] eyes and ears. Why wouldn’t you want to know about the little and big problems?"
The Financial Conduct Authority said in its 2018/19 annual report, which was published last week, that whistleblowing has been on the rise. The regulator managed and assessed 1,119 reports from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019.
Dave Lewis, professor of employment law at Middlesex University London and convener of the international whistleblowing research network, said: “If someone is willing to give you information about wrongdoing and you don’t make policies known to them, then they might think ‘I don’t know how to do it, so I won’t bother because I don’t have a legal obligation’,” he said.
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According to the Linklaters study, which does not name any companies, the two most common options available to staff voicing concerns were a dedicated phone line, and speaking to a line manager. Sixty per cent of FTSE 100 companies opted for these two arrangements.
Fifty-three per cent stated that their policy was for whistleblowers to contact the human resources department or the legal team. Only 7% of the companies specify that anyone, not just staff, can make a report on a whistleblowing issue.
For their research conducted in September 2018, Linklaters defined whistleblowing as reporting issues related to personal abuses, but also concerns regarding corruption, information and communication, environment and sustainability, trade compliance, market integrity and financial malpractice.
Jillian Naylor, the partner on the employment incentives team at Linklaters who lead on the research, told Financial News the challenge lies not in whether or not a policy is public, but the efficiency of it.
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