A whistleblower scheme is an essential tool for any company that wants to detect or prevent criminal and financial behaviour and conflicts at work. The whistleblower scheme, if used correctly, can also lead to business benefits.
How do whistleblowing schemes work?
A whistleblower scheme is a combination of policies and guidelines linked to a whistleblower portal. A whistleblower scheme is therefore a software solution where employees of a company or organisation can file a report on violations of the law or internal company policies.
Setting up a whistleblower system optimises the company's chances of detecting errors, problematic work processes or outright criminal acts in good time. The system can also be used for further processing of reports.
A whistleblower scheme can be a proactive tool. Externally, it can enhance a company's credibility and reputation. Internally, it can reassure employees that their individual or collective concerns/suspicions are valued and taken seriously by the company. It can also be used when employees cannot reach their superiors through traditional communication channels.
The advantage of whistleblowing schemes is that when individuals report their knowledge or suspicions of wrongdoing in the company, it is done completely anonymously, protecting the employee from accusations by managers, colleagues, the state or society.
The anonymity of a whistleblowing scheme, and of whistleblowers, is essential for the employee, for society and for the law in general.
What is a whistleblower?
A whistleblower is a person who either works or has worked for a company or has inside information about a company that he or she believes should not be kept secret but disclosed to the public.
The person often has knowledge of legal offences or violations of company policies.
For example, an employee of a bank may find out that the bank is laundering money or hiding money in tax havens. A whistleblower would report this.
What can you whistleblow about?
A whistleblower scheme provides an anonymous opportunity to discover and report wrongdoing in a company or organisation.
An employee or other person can report, for example, corruption, bribery, fraud, occupational health and safety, embezzlement or breaches of legislation in areas such as personal data, tax and the environment.
For public bodies, this may further include matters such as deliberate misleading of citizens, social fraud and neglect.
Reporting can improve the image or reputation of a company or organisation, reduce internal conflicts and improve the chances of detecting possible errors, illegalities and conflicts in time.
Infringements of EU law
You can report information on breaches of EU law in areas such as:
- Financial services
- Products and markets
- Prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing
- Transport safety
- Environmental protection
- Radiation protection
- Food and feed safety
- Animal health and welfare
- Public health
- Protection of privacy and personal data and security of networks and information systems
- Infringements affecting the EU's financial interests
The areas are set out in the Whistleblowing Directive, which the Whistleblowing Law implements.
Serious offences and other serious matters
You can also report information about serious offences or other serious matters. This includes both breaches of national law and breaches of those parts of EU law not covered by the Whistleblowing Directive.
Serious offences or other serious matters include, in principle, information that is of public interest.
What can't you whistleblow about?
There is a range of information that employees or other persons cannot report as a whistleblower:
- Reports about your own employment (unless the report concerns a serious offence or otherwise serious matter, such as sexual harassment).
- Information on violations of internal guidelines of a less serious nature, such as sick leave, alcohol consumption, dress, private use of office supplies and information on less serious personnel-related conflicts at work.
- Infringements of a minor nature or ancillary provisions, such as documentation obligations and notification obligations.
Thus, as a clear starting point, it will not be possible to deal with reports of conflicts between two or more employees andreports about one's own employment, unless sexual or gross harassment is involved.
Which companies must have a whistleblowing scheme?
For many small and medium-sized enterprises, multinational companies and public sector organisations, having a whistleblowing scheme is beneficial. In some sectors, it is a legal requirement to have a whistleblower scheme.
Under a new EU directive implemented in Denmark at the end of 2021, all companies with more than 50 employees must establish a whistleblowing channel and define procedures for internal reporting and follow-up. This is also a requirement for most public institutions, such as regions, ministries and municipalities.
About the author
Sofie Meyer is a copywriter and phishing aficionado here at Moxso. She has a master´s degree in Danish and a great interest in cybercrime, which resulted in a master thesis project on phishing.