For this current generation of New Zealanders, the term Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid 19) will forever become entrenched in the annals of world history. The effects of this current Pandemic will reverberate for some considerable time yet to come.
With regards to business activity, the legal levels set out by authorities has created a necessity for huge numbers of employees and contractors to work remotely.
Given the new environment we are in, it is timely for organisations to review their current whistleblower policies, most of which would not have anticipated such a scenario. Ask yourself the question “is our whistleblower policy relevant to this new environment our people are working under?”
The pressures of working remotely combined with battling a pandemic, introduces new business risks. In particular, acts of serious wrongdoing may be committed whilst work is being carried out at locations not previously envisaged.
Working remotely may cause people to have a different attitude in terms of complying with how operational procedures and the like are followed and carried out. In this new working environment, there is a distinct lack of supervision of other people’s actions. Further, the likelihood of someone directly witnessing serious wrongdoing is considerably reduced.
In this new Covid 19 environment, financial hardship and distress may lead to an increase in serious wrongdoing in the form of theft, fraud and corruption. Examples include:
- Breaches of Covid 19 health and safety requirements
- Manipulating financial procedures and controls
- Falsification of time sheets and other claims
- Compromising the security and privacy of customer information
- Unauthorised copying of confidential information
- Suppliers attempting to bribe or unduly influence matters involving contracts
Such factors in this new Covid 19 environment make it all the more important for organisations to look carefully at their whistleblower or protected disclosures policy, and ensure that it is relevant to this new method of working remotely. It goes without saying that now more than ever before, it is vitally important for your organisation to give encouragement and support for the workforce to step up and become a whistleblower to report serious wrongdoing that if not detected, could do harm to the organisation.
History shows us that within your organisation, if there is a person or persons committing serious wrongdoing, a whistleblower with the interests of your organisation at heart will be the person who acts to prevent what could be a major financial loss or reputational harm to your business. Take the example through the lockdown, where New Zealanders have been encouraged to blow the whistle on those flouting the rules, and they have been doing so in droves.
To further assist in achieving this aim, we recommend that organisations:
- Update their whistleblowing policy to consider the remote working arrangements
- Remind their workforce of the protections given them as set out in the Protected Disclosures Act
- Reaffirm with their workforce as to the operation of the whistleblowing reporting channels
If you have any questions in relation to your Whistleblowing Policy or a Whistleblower Platform for protected disclosures in your organisation, or are simply considering how the reporting of serious wrongdoings may affect you, please contact us.