Whistleblowing Policies and Procedures: Guidance For Employers


Whistleblowing can be a complex and challenging process for workers, often involving significant personal and career risks. Visibility and discussion of whistleblowing have increased due to greater media attention and interest, as well as a heightened sensitivity to misconduct. And there are now a lot more anonymous reporting channels in the workplace, which should make it more obvious how people can raise concerns.

But our experience in investigating these cases suggests that, even though most organisations now have established whistleblowing policies and procedures for managing concerns and disclosures, whistleblowers still face a hard time when it comes to speaking out in the workplace.

At the heart of the challenge organisations face with whistleblowing is, in our view, an overly defensive mindset, that sees whistleblowers as nuisances and often as trouble-makers – rather than as people with the best interests of the organisation at heart.

At Verita the whistleblowing services we provide have enabled us to work with staff and management teams across many different types of organisations and sectors, helping develop a way forward to improve working practices. We have seen well-handled whistleblowing cases, but we have seen more cases where the employer has reacted badly to concerns that have been raised, and has tried to stifle, conceal and deflect the individuals concerned.

So, on the one hand, we understand how robust policies and procedures can help in developing an open and transparent culture and creating a safer work environment. But we also know that, too often, these same policies and procedures can deter people from raising concerns, and can tie a whistleblower up in protracted and stressful investigations that often leave them disaffected and feeling exposed and victimised.


So, feel free to get in touch with us or book a free consultation to understand more about whistleblowing policies and procedures and the impact they can have on your organisation and employees.

What is whistleblowing in the workplace?

Whistleblowing, technically known as “making a disclosure in the public interest,” goes beyond merely speaking up about personal grievances. It involves exposing serious wrongdoing within an organisation that affects the public good, which is a crucial distinction. The concerns raised must have a significant public impact, beyond the individual, often involving criminal activity or serious harm.

Such concerns can be raised internally through designated channels or externally to authorities or media, depending on the situation and legal framework, resulting in a whistleblowing investigation. Although such frameworks vary across countries, offering different levels of protection to whistleblowers, staff in the UK who whistleblow are protected by law and should feel safe to raise their concerns.

After all, whistleblowing can help to protect the public, employees and the organisation itself from risks.

Examples of Whistleblowing

Whistleblowers have been key to fundamental changes in the NHS and other organisations. The investigation into bullying at NHS Highland was prompted by a group of clinicians who blew the whistle on what they saw as unacceptable behaviours across the organisation. Whistleblowing resulted in positive changes being made within the organisation, as well as payments to staff totalling around £3.4m as part of the reconciliation process.

Whistleblowing can also highlight issues with broader societal implications. Some further examples include:

  • Exposing safety hazards in a workplace that pose risks to employees or the public.
  • Reporting fraudulent practices that defraud consumers or taxpayers.
  • Revealing environmental damage caused by corporate negligence.
  • Uncovering corruption within public institutions that undermines trust and fair practices.
  • Bringing to light discriminatory practices that violate human rights or equal opportunities.

In these situations, blowing the whistle allows for corrective action and protects the public from potential harm. Organisations without robust whistleblowing policies and procedures in place can be at greater risk of legal and financial penalties, as well as damaged reputation.


Whistleblowing at Work

The Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA), is a crucial piece of legislation in the UK aimed at protecting individuals who report wrongdoing within their organisations.

PIDA makes it unlawful to subject a worker to negative treatment or to dismiss them because they have raised a whistleblowing concern. Raising a whistleblowing concern is also known as a making a ‘protected disclosure’ in law. It covers a wide range of workers, including, employees, agency workers, apprentices, NHS practitioners and self-employed professionals in specific sectors like healthcare. Crucially for employers, these rights for workers apply from day one, unlike other employment rights that accrue after time in post.

Key steps when creating whistleblowing policies and procedures

Developing a robust whistleblowing policy requires commitment, planning and, importantly, ongoing monitoring of how it is working. Seeking guidance from a specialist organisation such as Verita can be crucial for navigating these complexities and ensuring safe and effective reporting.

  1. Consider the legal landscape in terms of the laws governing whistleblower protection in your sector. Include industry-specific requirements or additional voluntary standards.
  2. Outline the scope and definitions specific to your sector. State the concerns which are covered in the scope, such as fraud, safety risks, unethical conduct or conflicts of interest and who is able to report them, such as all employees, contractors and suppliers. It is important to state any exclusions, such as personal grievances or issues unrelated to the operations of the organisation.
  3. Define what constitutes “whistleblowing” under the policy using clear and concise language and provide examples of reportable concerns and non-reportable concerns for clarity.
  4. Explain the reporting channels in terms of who will receive and handle reports, confirming their independence and impartiality. Organisations could offer a variety of reporting options, including online platforms, phone hotlines, in-person meetings, and third-party reporting services.
  5. Provide examples of reportable concerns within that specific workplace to help employees identify relevant situations.
  6. Explain how the whistleblower is protected and include references to relevant whistleblower protection laws and regulations. Organisations should also explicitly state a commitment to confidentiality and data protection, elaborating on any exceptions based on legal requirements.

It is then important to promote and communicate the policy effectively and to establish a robust investigation process. Continuous monitoring and improvement are essential aspects of a strong whistleblowing policy to ensure your organisations stays relevant and up to do date. Partnering with whistleblowing service providers will allow organisations to benefit from their experience and ensure compliance with relevant regulations.

Charity Governance

Why have whistleblowing policies and procedures?

Although it isn’t mandatory to have a whistleblowing policy, the legal protection offered to whistleblowers, means that having defined policies and procedures aligns with legal frameworks and strengthens an organisation’s defence against potential lawsuits.

Many of the organisations that we work with have well-established “Raising Concerns” policies that are often helpful in dealing proactively with issues that workers raise.

Having appropriate policies and procedures that work smoothly should also give workers confidence that their organisation will take their concerns seriously, investigate them promptly and thoroughly, and protect the individual from any detriment for making the disclosure.

It might seem counterintuitive, but organisations who develop a structured whistleblowing process can channel concerns constructively. Clear reporting and investigation procedures can prevent rumours, speculation and reputational damage by detecting and resolving issues early, minimising potential escalations and legal ramifications.

Whistleblowing can uncover valuable insights and perspectives, leading to better-informed decisions, as well as a safer and more ethical work environment. As well as this, a clear whistleblowing policy discourages unethical behaviour by demonstrating the organisation’s zero tolerance of wrongdoing and providing a safe reporting channel for workers to raise their concerns.


Benefits for Healthcare organisations

As a healthcare provider, having a whistleblowing policy helps with early reporting of unsafe practices, medication errors, or hygiene breaches which serve to protect patients and improve healthcare quality.

Whistleblowers can expose fraudulent activity such as billing issues, insurance scams, or procurement irregularities, saving resources and upholding ethical standards. Moreover, a Just Culture of open communication and addressing concerns fosters trust and improves employee well-being.

Benefits for Charities

Transparency and accountability within a charity are crucial for maintaining donor trust, which whistleblowing promotes. Robust whistleblowing policies and procedures can help to expose fraudulent activity, or violations of ethical fundraising practices, which protects resources and the charity’s mission.

Such policies could have been instrumental in avoiding, or at least reducing, the impact of the Oxfam whistleblowing allegations raised in 2011 regarding safeguarding issues, which rocked the charity following an inquiry in 2018.

Whistleblowing can also highlight internal control weaknesses or wasteful practices, leading to better governance and allocation of resources.

In Summary

Investing in a robust whistleblowing program is not just about legal compliance, but about building a culture of integrity, accountability, and ultimately, doing the right thing. By following these steps and fostering a culture of open communication and integrity, you can create a framework that protects both your organisation and those who speak up.


If you need help developing whistleblowing policies and procedures, or would like to know more about our whistleblowing services, please book a free consultation, or if you prefer, use our contact form, or contact Ed Marsden on 020 7494 5670 or [email protected].


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *