Directive 2019/1937 of the European Union 'Whistleblowing' has put on the table the obligation on the part of private companies with 50 or more workers, and of many public bodies, to have an effective complaint channel that guarantees the rights of people who report a possible infraction. European regulations come to be constituted as an umbrella to provide protection to potential whistleblowers, taking as flag and cornerstone thefidenity of these.
In our country, the Government approved, on March 4, the Preliminary Draft Law regulating the protection of people who report regulatory infractions and the fight against corruption. This new law will sanction whoever retaliates against the complainant, the amount can amount to up to one million euros.
The main reason to regulate this issue is that, without adequate protection and systems for whistleblowers, companies lose the ability to detect early when an employee notices that something is not right in your organization.
A good acid test to know in depth if a company has a effective whistleblowing program, and thus an embedded culture, is whether it treats all complaints vigorously and deems it necessary to investigate them. It should not be the case that companies choose which ones to tackle or which ones to take seriously, for example, based on criteria such as employee seniority, position, jurisdiction, etc.
If a company's program helps identify problems early, that is likely to better position the company to address potential problems before they become a major obstacle or threat to the business. In the same way, anonymity should not influence the seriousness with which an organization should approach the resolution of a whistleblower.
One of the decisive aspects is that the company assures the employee that they will not face retaliation for participating in the process. Employees must be protected against threats, as experience tells us that, on many occasions, the natural response may be to go against the way the employee has handled the situation.
If organizations are left in any doubt about the importance of an effective whistleblower program and the consequences of failing to embed these programs into the organization's culture, they need only look around and see recent scandals in the press, where the historical concerns of the whistleblower employee were not handled properly. In even the worst cases, steps are taken by senior management to suppress, hide or downplay the accusations made by the whistleblower. Due, the company may suffer significant financial and reputational damage, which happens when there is no effective reporting program and there is a culture of fear within the organization.
And, increasingly, companies, also driven by regulators, are aware of its importance. According to the latest report, 2022 ACFE Report to the Nations, from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), which every two years makes a detailed x-ray of fraud in companies around the world, 70% of the companies analyzed already had complaint channels, when in 2012 the percentage was 54%.
Main advantages of reporting channels
Undoubtedly, the main advantage of this law is that the complaints channel allows the complaints received to be managed safely, guaranteeingfideciality of the data and even anonymity, and preventing access to unauthorized personnel. Is about create a favorable environment for reporting violations. Establishing a secure and reliable communication channel represents one of the most effective instruments to prevent misconduct and detect violations in an organization.
In fact, thanks to this channel withfideInitially and protocols developed for this purpose, a work environment is created in which employees feel they can report misconduct without worrying about career consequences, thus fostering communication and trust.
Another challenge is the prevention of sexual or gender-based harassment. It is important to make it clear that, both in this case and in others, this channel does not replace the courts, but the 'whistleblowing' channel helps to prevent and channel complaints or claims that workers may make due to situations of sexual harassment or sexual harassment. by reason of sex. These are behaviors that affect the dignity and the most intimate side of people and, again, thefidenciality and the possibility of anonymity are powerful weapons.
Thirdly, some studies carried out by international organizations have shown that the establishment of secure and reliable reporting channels is an essential resource for fraud prevention and its possible impact on society in general. Employees are often the first people to become aware of threats or damage to the public interest that arise in certain business areas and, by reporting them, they perform an important social function.
Lastly, we cannot forget that uA whistleblowing channel provides and encourages good business practices. If a worker sees suspicious conduct or actions that may entail a legal infraction, compromise health or safety, or violate codes of ethics or internal corporate regulations, you can communicate it through the complaints channel and make the situation stop.
Ultimately, these channels benefit us all as employees, employers and society. In fact, they can become an extraordinary lever for change in the business field, both locally and internationally.
Juan Garcia Perez de la Blanca
Director FTI Consulting
Senior Director FTI Consulting