Whistleblower Helpline FAQs | WhistleBlower Security

Whistleblower Helpline FAQs

What is a Whistleblower Helpline? FAQs

The term whistleblowing has been part of our lingo for many years. Previous connotations of the word would include snitch, rat, tattle tale. Any variation of what some would consider a person who wants to get someone else in trouble by volunteering information about that person of a sensitive or illegal nature.  Today, many businesses may shy away from a 'whistleblower hotline' due to the perception that the very word may still invoke some negative connotations.

However, these very same businesses are not shying away from encouraging people to speak up about wrongdoing because they now accept that by understanding the issues happening in the workplace, the good, bad, and ugly, they are handed a golden opportunity to fix what's wrong and use this information to better themselves.

Business now include whistleblower helplines or variations of this concept, as part of their whistleblower programs, implemented either internally, or with the help of a third-party provider. The process includes the ability for employees to speak-up about wrongdoing they have witnessed, or illegal behaviour they have become alerted to, that is happening in the workplace.

Whistleblower Helpline FAQs

As our business name would suggest, we're not shy about the term whistleblowing. Everyday we encourage business everywhere to open their communication gates and provide opportunities for employees to say what they want to say, bring knowledge of wrongdoing to management, and feel safe to do so. Following are some frequently asked questions about whistleblower helplines we hope can ease any doubt about the word itself, and the process.

Why would my organization need a whistleblower helpline?

A good business practice is to take steps to minimize the risk of fraud and workplace misconduct. Whistleblower reporting tools provide a smart way for employees to let management know about unethical behaviour and misconduct in the workplace. These tools provide management and stakeholders with an opportunity to create better business practices, provide more intuitive policies and procedures, and more importantly to most, they help drive inclusive and speak-up cultures.

Aside from the human aspect of creating a safe and inclusive space, whistleblower helplines offer organizations a tool to help prevent unethical or illegal practices that if left unchecked, could have devastating results.

  • Management of Workplace Risk

Whistleblower helplines are designed to provide a process for employees to report any wrongdoing that they’ve witnessed in their workplace. This can include theft, sexual harassment, discrimination, or misrepresentation of facts and data. A whistleblower program benefits an organization by creating an effective way to assess and manage risks, and allows leadership to effectively and thoroughly prevent damaging the reputation of the company, and the safety of employees.

  • Fraud Detection

When an employee or someone in an authority-based position commits fraud, it can be challenging to detect. Typically, fraud will continue for approximately 12 months before it's ever noticed and / or reported. However, someone is always going to figure out the behaviour happening and by encouraging the use of a whistleblower helpline to help ensure misconduct is shared with leadership, the sooner the situation can be fixed.

  • Workplace Harassment

Harassment, bullying and inappropriate behaviour should never be accepted in an organization. This type of behaviour can lead to a toxic workplace culture leading to lack of morale, low productivity, and a high turnover rate. Employees who feel assured that they can safely and anonymously share knowledge of a toxic workplace environment with leadership will help facilitate a quicker response to preventing the behaviour from continuing.

Is outsourcing a helpline better than creating one in-house?

Many employees don't have any tolerance for being silenced. In fact, they have no problem speaking up when they see something wrong. However, if they don't feel safe to speak-up internally, they may take their concerns externally to outside parties like the media. One risk of keeping a whistleblower hotline inhouse is that if anyone does speak up, the reports may be improperly handled by management. An outsourced program will offer more transparency and a secure database that enables organizations to proactively identify and react to trends within their organization. 

What are some other names of whistleblower helplines?

Many organizations will shy away from rolling out a 'whistleblower hotline' to their staff because of the negative connotation with the very word, as mentioned above. Instead, many organizations are getting creative in the naming of their program in an effort to create buy-in and acceptance of the process. Many organizations, or industries, use words like fraud hotline or intake hotline instead of whistleblowing. The concept is the same, it's all in the perception of words.

There's no right or wrong term for a whistleblower hotline. The name itself should fall in line with an organizations vision, mission, and culture. Some names to consider are:

  • Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline
  • Speak-up Line
  • Integrity Line
  • Anonymous reporting system
  • Anonymous hotline
  • Confidential reporting system
  • Confidential hotline
  • Ethics Reporting Hotline
  • Security hotline
  • Fraud Hotline
  • Health and Safety Hotline
  • HR Reporting Hotline
  • Loss Prevention Hotline

The list can be endless and completely up to you. What doesn't change is the process.

Are whistleblower helplines really anonymous

Yes, well constructed whistleblower helplines are really anonymous, where allowed. In some countries employees bringing forth reports are not able to do so anonymously. Most third-party providers have built this process into the program to help guide the employee in their reporting process. But where anonymity is allowed, that same carefully build program will allow any reporting employee to remain strictly anonymous, partially anonymous, or completely transparent. As well, these systems should include statements ensuring the employee's anonymity will be maintained in the event they choose not to share any contact information.

What happens to the information if an employee uses a helpline?

A third-party provider will provide a private and secure case management system where all reported concerns are kept. These databases are only accessible by designated company management personnel who are assigned to investigate reported concerns. Once an employee submits a whistleblower report, the information is provided to these authorized designates who will use the case management system to assess each complaint and decide what actions need to be taken. Typically when an employee calls into a third-party helpline, the questionnaire used to work through the complaint is the same one used when an employee chooses to file their concern using an on-line web form.

What are key features of a whistleblower helpline

  • Multilingual
  • Live Intake Agents
  • They encourage a speak-up culture
  • Provide evidence to misconduct quicker
  • Allow management to dig deeper into issues or areas of concern
  • Allow safer dialogue with wishing to remain anonymous
  • They protect employees
  • They protect the company's reputation
  • They allow management to gather intel to be used to asses risk
  • Help avoid violations and legal battle

A speak-up workplace culture values and encourages employees to express their fears, provide their feedback, ask questions, raise concerns, and make suggestions without fear of retaliation or any other kind of harm resulting from speaking up. A whistleblower helpline allows employees to safely bring their concerns to management.

Contact us and let's have a chat!
photo Amanda Nieweler
About the Author
Amanda writes for WhistleBlower Security about ethics, compliance, workplace culture, and whistleblower hotlines. Amanda brings her nearly two decades of risk and compliance experience to the WBS blog where she is dedicated to helping people and companies promote speak-up cultures.