A whistleblower policy pertains to a statute or regulation that underlines in clear, non-equivocal terms how a person who reports a malpractice, corruption or breakage of the law is to be protected by the organization or the government.
The term whistleblower or whistle blower originated from a sports referee who blows the whistle after catching a violation in the conduct of a game. Since the term’s coinage, its application has grown steadily to include a wide variety of modern-day situations.
In the workplace, the employee who witnesses an act of dishonesty or non-compliance with accepted principles or practices enshrined in the company’s standard operating procedure may be called a whistleblower.
However, it is not enough to be a witness for a wrongful act, it is essential that the person involved makes a record of, and reports or divulges what was witnessed as opposed to keeping the matter under wraps.
The whistleblower might choose to do the reporting in writing or by actually voicing it out to a confidant.
A person who keeps the information to himself or herself after witnessing some unlawful or unsanctioned behavior is not a whistleblower and accordingly cannot stake a claim for protection under an existing whistleblower policy.
Such a policy takes care of the individual from the repercussions or consequences of his or her act. Like a shield, the whistleblower can count on the policy to keep himself or herself immune from harassment or even prosecution.
While it so easy to say that a whistleblower may be grandstanding or just out to aggrandize himself or herself, the sheer act of reporting an act of indecency or impropriety requires a lot of courage and conviction.
Depending on the gravity of the malpractice witnessed, the individual’s reputation, job or even life might be at stake. These are the reasons why a whistleblower policy is so crucial.
Without a clear whistleblower policy, individuals will neither have the courage nor the guts to report corruption or an infringement, not especially if it endangers their work, family or security.
A perfect example of an excellent whistleblower policy is the False Claims Act of the United States which came into effect in 1863 and revised in 1986.
The False Claims Act not only protects whistleblowers from reprisals, the act even provides for a percentage share of the rewards from the recovery of losses pertinent to the anomaly caught in the act.
A whistleblower policy has proven essential to regulating big business particularly in the United States where a good example is the tobacco industry. In this case, however, it took a major whistleblower a great deal of pain and suffering before his rights were eventually recognized.
On the other hand, the implementation of a whistleblower policy at the stock market, law enforcement and internal revenue levels is relatively straightforward.
On a cursory country by country comparison, a G7 country like Canada lags behind Europe and the United States when it comes to having a comprehensive or transparent whistleblower policy.
Whether it is government or big business, an effective whistleblower policy is required as a viable checks and balances mechanism between sound practices and fraudulent activities.