Coronavirus  

Now is the time to embrace the whistleblowers

In turn, this may drive employee misconduct or make employees feel less comfortable challenging decisions or using the company’s whistleblowing channel. 

On the other hand, less oversight may mean some employees feel more empowered to report concerns away from their managers.       

Employment and pastoral care issues

There are also a number of employment and pastoral care issues to consider.

A heightened risk of redundancies may result in employees feeling reluctant to blow the whistle for fear they will be more likely to be considered for redundancy. Equally, they might tactically blow the whistle in an attempt to stall their departure or position themselves for a financial settlement. 

The extent to which home working has impacted mental wellbeing will differ greatly depending on personal circumstances.

However, less informal and daily interaction with managers might lead to wellbeing issues going unseen.  

As companies decide what working arrangements will look like in the future, discrimination allegations could emerge if businesses and managers do not adopt a transparent and consistent approach to flexible working.   

What companies should do

Companies should remind employees of the right to blow the whistle and the role this can play in the current climate. 

Refresher training and guidance, but also good culture and conduct, should highlight new risk areas and how they can be managed and mitigated.

Similarly, manager training should focus on employee engagement, wellbeing and encouraging an environment where it is safe to speak up.    

In light of changes to working arrangements, companies should ensure their whistleblowing arrangements are in a forum that can be accessed by all employees, no matter where they are physically located and what tools they are working with. 

Companies should take the opportunity to revisit their whistleblowing policies and procedures to ensure they account for changes to the risk profile.

Consideration should also be given to the impact remote working will have on the investigation process. It is possible that documents have been created outside the office and the company’s database, leading to challenges around document preservation and privilege.

As investigation teams become more dispersed, care should be taken to ensure there remains a robust audit trail recording steps taken and key decisions made.  

It is a challenging time for financial services as the industry grapples with the impact of a global pandemic and adapts to new ways of working.

However, whistleblowing can play a vital role in risk management and getting it right can help ensure companies are set up to succeed in the longer term.  

James Chadwick is partner and Chantal Peters is associate at UK law firm TLT