The different reporting channels for whistleblowing systems
As you could already read in Part 2 of our Whistleblowing Basics series “The Whistleblowing System”, the whistleblowing system is the core element of a compliance management in the company. There are different reporting channels that could be considered for whistleblowing. It is an internal reporting channel that allows employees to report violations of law or unethical behaviour within the company.
In addition to the basic introduction of a whistleblowing system, the EU Directive on Whistleblower Protection stipulates that confidentiality must be maintained throughout the processing of the report. Although enabling anonymous reporting is not obligatory according to the directive, it is a clear recommendation from practice for implementation. At the same time, direct communication between the whistleblower and the responsible person in the company is necessary, not only to confirm the receipt of the report, but also to be able to communicate the results of the investigation.
Which reporting channels exist for whistleblowing in the company?
You will find a variety of whistleblowing systems on the market. The EU Whistleblowing Directive gives your company the free choice in terms of the system’s design – provided that the reporting channel meets the Directive’s requirements. The best known and most important channels for whistleblowing are the following:
- Call centre: a hotline for reports via phone
- Ombudspersons: impartial, external mediators
- Mailboxes: written communication
- Online solutions: Digital whistleblowing systems
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of these reporting channels?
The call centre: The whistleblowing hotline
The call centre is one of the classic reporting channels for whistleblowers. The advantages: with outsourcing the hotline abroad, it is possible to make it available around the clock and throughout the year. Whistleblowers are offered personal communication with a neutral person. This person can ask the whistleblower specific follow-up questions while the report is still being processed. The disadvantage, however, is that personal communication increases the inhibition threshold for whistleblowers. Statistics show that the proportion of reports made by telephone is steadily decreasing. Another difficulty is the lack of opportunity for the anonymous whistleblower to check the report made by the call centre employee in writing. Misunderstandings of language or content carry the risk of false or distorted information being transmitted. If anonymity is maintained, it is hardly possible to provide additional supporting information such as documents or photos.
Ombudspersons are external persons of trust, usually lawyers, who are engaged by the company to act as an impartial, neutral contact for whistleblowers. Receiving reports is classically facilitated by email or phone call, with the lawyer’s time capacity being a limiting factor. The advantage is that the ombudsperson can also directly deal with the legal assessment and investigation of a report. Even though the ombudsperson as a lawyer is sworn to confidentiality, a lack of trust or a lack of possibility to report completely anonymously can trigger an additional inhibition threshold for potential whistleblowers.
The letterbox, often also known as a grievance or suggestion box, allows written reports confidentially and anonymously. The big problem: in the case of an anonymous report, contact with the whistleblower is impossible, i.e. also queries or transmission of information. Because of this, the letterbox cannot be used in accordance with the Directive: both the confirmation of receipt and the transmission of information on results or follow-up measures are required by the Directive.
Digital whistleblowing systems are mostly online solutions specifically developed for whistleblowing. They combine the advantages of the previously mentioned reporting channels: Digital whistleblowing systems allow anonymous and confidential reporting from any internet-enabled device. They are available 24/7, 365 days a year. Furthermore, the whistleblower can upload supporting materials, such as documents or images. Through a secure real-time chat, the whistleblower can be asked questions and receive information after the investigation – his identity remains anonymous the whole time.
For more information on the functionalities of digital whistleblowing systems, read the third part of our Whistleblowing Basic series “The Digital Whistleblowing System”.
Our tips for choosing the right whistleblowing system for your company:
After having introduced the best-known and most important channels to you, you will now have to make a choice for the appropriate whistleblowing system for your company. The following tips will help you to make the best choice:
- Make a market and price comparison
When choosing your solution, you should compare the different (technical) solutions and get an overview of functions, security aspects, server locations etc.
- Choose a legally compliant solution
Find out about the legal requirements and consider them when choosing your whistleblowing system. Keep in mind that your company is likely to use the system for many years.
- Choose the tool that meets the requirements of your company
In addition to legal compliance, the solution should of course also meet the requirements and needs of your company. Especially as a small or medium-sized enterprise, you should therefore choose a solution that is also tailored to this target group.
- Get started now!
Practical experience shows that usually several weeks (sometimes even months, depending on the company structure) pass between research and implementation. So don’t hesitate and get started now!
You know best which reporting channel suits your company the most. However, keep in mind that the implementation of a secure whistleblowing system is not the end of the story. In order to exploit the potential of internal whistleblowing, you not only need a reporting channel but also a corresponding corporate strategy for dealing with whistleblowers and their reports in a specific and open manner. Learn more about this in our article “Modern whistleblowing system: early warning system and protective shield for your company” or contact one of our experts.