Making it easy to blow the whistle
Updated: Apr 26, 2021
I’ve read a lot about the whistleblowing rules for big banks. Our firm has an open, safe culture where employees feel that they can speak up if something is wrong, should we be doing more?
Whistleblowing rules for banks and other specified larger institutions have been in place since 2016. These rules act as “non-binding guidance” for other firms regulated by the FCA. The question is, if you are one of the other regulated firms how should you be approaching whistleblowing?
We would recommend a two step approach:
1. Benchmark your firm’s approach to whistleblowing against the rules that apply to big banks.
Below is a summary of the main whistleblowing rules, use these as a basis to understand the rigour of your firm’s current approach:
Appoint a Senior Manager as the whistleblowers’ champion.
Put in place internal whistleblowing arrangements able to handle all types of disclosure from all types of person.
Ensure that settlement agreements explain that workers have a legal right to blow the whistle and do not contain warranties from the worker which require them to disclose to the firm that:
o they have made a protected disclosure, or
o they know of no information which could form the basis of a protected disclosure.
Tell UK-based employees about the FCA and PRA whistleblowing services.
Present a report on whistleblowing to the board at least annually.
Inform the regulator if it loses an employment tribunal with a whistleblower.
Require its appointed representatives and tied agents to tell their UK-based employees about the regulators’ whistleblowing service.
Include appropriate training for UK-based employees, managers of UK-based employees and employees responsible for operating the firm’s internal arrangements.
2. Look for specific areas of vulnerability
Recent research by Protect (Silence in the City 2) looks at the state of financial services firms’ handling of whistleblowing. It shows up several areas of concern and weakness and these may be useful places to start when looking at whistleblowing within your firm.
The trends identified in the report suggest several potential areas of focus:
The report suggests that junior employees are far less likely to raise concerns through internal channels so consider whether further communications and/or training should be targeted towards junior level staff to empower them to raise their concerns.
Whistleblowing cases concerning harassment and discrimination are increasing – be vigilant in these areas, ensure that HR have the training and tools to identify broader trends here.
Look at your whistleblowing data and reports carefully to identify broader issues and to understand why others affected by these problems did not step forward. This could be down to a lack of awareness of whistleblowing processes or a feeling of a lack of safety.
Victimisation of whistleblowers is a growing problem. Use your general staff training to explain what victimisation is and how cases will be dealt with. You could also consider implementing a process of ongoing support for a whistleblower for several months.