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More than half of UK companies now have measures to protect and support whistleblowers

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Employers are taking more steps to support whistleblowers in their organisations, new research reveals.

Half (54%) of UK businesses now have measures in place to enable whistleblowers to report fraud-related or other suspect activity which is an increase of 35% compared with last year when only 40% of UK businesses had whistleblowing hotlines, according to the latest International Business Report (IBR) survey from Grant Thornton UK.

The survey canvassed the opinion of 500 privately-held businesses in the UK (unlisted companies including family, entrepreneurial and SME businesses) to garner their opinions on what fraud prevention practices are in place in their companies.

Sterl Greenhalgh, forensic partner at Grant Thornton, said: "This is good news as hotlines are an important safeguard for both companies and employees and are a key element in creating an ethical business culture.  Equally, the FSA recently reported a doubling in the number of whistleblowers. This could be down to a number of reasons but, most likely, the rise is linked to the economic downturn, when fraud does tend to increase and become more apparent.

"Furthermore, in the current economic climate, where moral questions have been raised on such issues as MPs' expenses and on the bonuses of high earners, employees may have fewer qualms as they see it about 'grassing' co-workers.

"Whistleblowers should know that they are currently protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which protects against dismissal and discriminatory treatment providing the whistleblower has acted in good faith and has not gained personally from the disclosure."

The report also found 49% of these companies employ specialists to detect fraud. Again this is an increase from last year when only 37% had specialists in place.  While this is a relatively low figure, especially considering the Bribery Act has now passed into legislation, it does show that positive action is being taken to implement procedures and provide tools to equip firms to mitigate fraud risk.