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HR concerns make up majority of whistleblowing reports

HR-related concerns, like unfair treatment, racism and harassment, made up the majority (55%) of whistleblowing complaints in 2022, according to a new report.

Unfair treatment made up most (68%) of the HR-related whistleblowing complaints, a decrease of 6% from 2021.

There was a 5% increase in the proportion of harassment-related claims, a 1% increase in the proportion of racism reports and a 2% increase in dishonest behaviour reports.

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Report author Greg Ogle, client account manager at whistleblowing service provider Safecall, attributed the complaints, including minor rises, to more scrutiny by colleagues due to a return to office working, and the cost of living crisis driving more high-risk behaviour.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Our research into previous recessions suggest that a downturn in the economy and the increase in the cost of living has led to more people taking more risks. Risks that are more likely to involve a level of dishonest behaviour.” 

Nick Marshall, managing associate in the employment and incentives team at law firm Linklaters’, said that while it is disappointing to learn of harassment and racism related incidents, their increased reportage is in fact a positive a sign of a growing speak-up culture.  

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “The subject matter of the reports shows that environmental and social governance (ESG) values have gone mainstream, driven by social movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, and are increasingly priority issues for employees.”

Marshall said HR teams must understand the importance of handling whistleblowing complaints correctly.

He said: “The next step for employers is to be aware that the successful handling of a whistleblowing complaint does not start with the making of the complaint; it starts with having appropriate policies, procedures and practices in place to be able to react quickly and consistently when employees raise concerns.

“Employers need an investigation protocol which considers confidentiality and data protection issues, addresses the interaction with disciplinary policies, and takes account of overseas whistleblowing regimes, where relevant.”

Safecall’s annual report is based on anonymised data from more than 900 organisations in 136 countries employing over 3 million people in total.