Culture changes and new hybrid working patterns created by the global pandemic are raising unforeseen HR and health and safety issues among employees, according to a new report.
The pandemic and frequent changes in rules and guidance have created uncertainty and increases in misconduct in many workplaces, resulting in higher reporting rates of whistleblowing.
UK-based Safecall says the changed landscape has accelerated greater awareness and appreciation of whistleblowing. In turn, this is driving a worldwide growth of this specialist business sector.
Safecall’s Whistleblowing Benchmark Report 2022 highlights the rise in reporting rates, the trends, and areas of reported wrongdoing in different sectors. The data contained within this annual report – based on anonymised data from more than 750 organisations with 2.5 million employees – is aimed at helping companies and organisations understand the trends in misconduct.
Report author Greg Ogle, client account manager at Safecall, said: “The data is designed to inform and help organisations make better decisions when it comes to establishing whistleblowing arrangements. It should help HR and health & safety managers or departments to determine and measure performance of their organisation against their peers.
“There are many factors associated with an effective whistleblowing management system. Working across an extensive client base, in 108 countries, we have established best practice guidance to help organisations get the most from their whistleblowing arrangements.”
While legislation (EU Whistleblowing Directive) and compliance are among the drivers of change, many businesses and organisations see that whistleblowing establishes an improved workplace, where employees are respected, which has the added benefit of improving overall wellbeing.
Greg explained that more employees are being encouraged and empowered to do the right thing and report wrongdoing at work; likewise, more employers are recognising the ethical benefits of supporting staff to report wrongdoing safely.
The latest Report, which covers 2021, reveals that trends during the year appear to have reverted to more normal patterns after the shock of Covid-19 in 2020. Dishonest behaviour and general misconduct reports were back to similar levels seen in 2019.
However, the ongoing pandemic meant the number of health and safety reports remained higher than in past years and HR reports continued to rise.
Reporting rates vary year on year for every organisation with whistleblowing arrangements. The company culture, the current change agenda and growth strategy all contribute to the number of concerns raised by employees. Those companies that regularly promote, refresh and talk about their ‘Speak Up’ services receive more reports year on year.
Safecall evaluates reports into four classifications – HR, general, dishonest behaviour, and health & safety. During 2021 the number of health & safety reports decreased as Covid rules became more normalised and widely accepted. This was replaced by an increase in the number of general reports, mainly related to company policy and procedure. Reports continued to be predominantly HR related, accounting for more than 55% of all reports in 2021.
Within the HR classification, reports from employees are categorised under bullying, discrimination, harassment, racism, unfair treatment, and victimisation. The data reveals that ‘unfair treatment’ is the main complaint with slight increases in bullying and harassment reported in 2021.
When it comes to health & safety reports, the number of reports remains higher than pre-pandemic albeit slightly lower than in 2020. Substance abuse continues to be the main issue, particularly within certain sectors.
Dishonest behaviour reports remained consistent with 2020, albeit with a decrease in the number of integrity and fraud issues raised.
Within the general classification, there continued to be an emphasis on reputational issues along with policy / compliance matters.
The vast majority of industries receive the largest percentage of their reports in the HR category, with health & safety, and general following.
Tim Smith, Safecall operations director, said: “The pandemic seems to have accelerated different patterns of working and behaviour. This, in turn, has made more employers look at culture change and that has prompted greater interest and use of whistleblowing services.
“More companies and organisations see the benefits of creating a safe space for employees to live and work. Employers are increasingly seeing how such services protect the integrity of an organisation as well as the reputation of a brand.”