The trend for UK employees to be increasingly comfortable using whistleblowing hotlines has been accelerated by last year’s Hollywood harassment scandals, with new research showing a 20 per cent increase in calls according to Expolink, Europe’s leading provider of such services.

According to its annual Whistleblowing Benchmarking Report, including an analysis of 8,281 reports filed by UK employees in 2017 (covering the hotlines for over 600 major organisations), the number of new reports per 1,000 employees has jumped from 2.1 in 2016 to 2.5 in 2017 – a 20 per cent increase.

John Wilson, Expolink’s chief executive, said: “The value of having a whistleblowing hotline is something leading employers have become increasingly aware of.  In fact, hotlines have been widely regarded as part of good corporate governance and HR best practice for many years.  For instance, the Financial Conduct Authority now requires the larger banks, insurers and investment firms it regulates to have whistleblowing procedures in place.

“The tsunami of public whistleblowing that was unleashed in the autumn following revelations in Hollywood, and then elsewhere, has emboldened Britain’s employees to increasingly report workplace problems, whether harassment or other issues.

“Our research shows a large increase of 20 per cent in the propensity of employees to ‘speak up’ in 2017 compared to the previous year.  In recent years we have seen this rate slowly increase as employees have become gradually more comfortable with speaking out and using whistleblowing hotlines.  This trend has leapt forward again since the autumn.

“The extensive publicity around Hollywood, and perhaps also some of the high profile corporate cases of poor ethics in 2017, has encouraged employees to examine their own organisations more objectively and speak out if they see unethical behaviour. I expect this trend to continue into 2018, not least because of the impact of continued revelations, such as the lurid President’s Club saga and the ongoing revelations about abuse and bullying in the charity and aid sector.

“Readily available speak-up channels, combined with a culture of listening to employee concerns, is often the best defence for organisations against festering problems that could eventually erupt as scandals. Having an early warning system in place allows those issues to be identified before they escalate – providing management is willing to listen, of course.”

John Wilson added: “I would urge all organisations to revisit their own speak up policies and procedures and pose themselves two critical questions.  Firstly, are they making it as easy and comfortable as possible for employees to speak up?  Secondly, can those employees who are brave enough to speak up be confident their report will be met by a senior team that is ready to ‘listen up’?”

Complimentary copies of Expolink’s Benchmarking Report are available from this link: 

The types of issues most likely to be reported by UK employees on whistleblower hotlines (2017):

23.3 per cent HR (including Duty of Care, Grievance with Colleague or Manager, Gross Misconduct and Unfair Dismissal)
19.2 per cent Unprofessional Behaviour (including Malpractice)
14.4 per cent Bullying, Discrimination or Harassment (Including all forms of Discrimination, Sexual and Other Harassment, Victimisation and Abuse)
11.9 per cent Breach of Company Policy or Procedure (Including Mis-selling, Confidentiality Issues and Privacy Issues)
9.4 per cent Theft or Fraud (including Money Laundering, Intellectual Property Theft and Misappropriation of Company Assets)
5.9 per cent Health & Safety / Environmental Safety
4 per cent Security issue