We’re on our way to making whistleblower protections more than theoretical

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services has tabled the report on whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors. The report is available here 

Professor AJ Brown, project leader of Integrity@WERQ has written for The Conversation, discussing Integrity@WERQ research, the reports recommendations, and the historic steps Australia is making in achieving higher confidence in our integrity and institutions.

Among the reports recommendations are protections for whether whistleblowers report internally, to regulatory agencies, or publicly (if enforcement agencies fail to act) and recommendations that whistleblowers should be rewarded, or compensated if they suffer reprisals from their actions. This demonstrates that whistleblower protection is not only about justice, but also how organisations and regulators can best learn they’ve got problems, before they turn into even bigger ones.

Our latest research, heavily cited by the committee, has already shown how these reforms can help organisations manage whistleblowing better. Often despite best intentions, most organisations are falling down on basic elements of good whistleblowing systems, like providing suitable support, and mechanisms for making it right if employees do suffer damage for reporting.

Since then, we have also surveyed more than 12,000 employees, governance personnel, and managers across 38 organisations. Select work-in-progress results, available here.

This research is ongoing. But so far, our respondents confirm “reporting by employees” to be the single most important mechanism by which wrongdoing comes to light. Yet despite this, only 46% of employees indicated they know what support their organisation would provide, and only 44% were confident something appropriate would be done if they were to blow the whistle.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In some organisations, as many as 70% of staff have this confidence. In others, though, it falls as low as 20%. By finding out where they stand on this spectrum, organisations can identify exactly how much work lies ahead in earning the confidence of their own people – and, if or when the Committee’s proposals are implemented, in meeting the new standards.

Integrity@WERQ is a research and benchmarking package to help any organisation measure the strength of its ethical culture, climate, leadership, and processes for responding to wrongdoing concerns from staff. Get in contact and ensure your organisation’s governance systems are ready to meet these standards in 2018.

September 14, 2017