13th March 2018

Staff are braver when reporting harassment at work

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A company that provides whistleblowing hotline services has seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of calls it has received in the past year.

Expolink provides the service for more than 600 companies and calls have covered health and safety, harassment and unprofessional behaviour in the workplace.

The firm recently published a report which revealed the data. According to the report, almost a quarter (23.3 per cent) of the calls received by Expolink in 2017 involved HR, grievance procedures and unfair dismissal.

While almost one in five (19.2% per cent) were a result of unprofessional behaviour, 14.4 per cent were about bullying, discrimination or harassment.

Almost one in 10 (9.4 per cent) were about theft or fraud and 5.9 per cent were about health and safety, and environmental safety.

John Wilson, chief executive at Expolink, told SHPonline: “In recent years, we have seen this rate slowly increase as employees have become gradually more comfortable with speaking out and using whistleblowing hotlines. This trend has leapt forward again since the autumn.

“We suspect that broader social issues are affecting people’s confidence and encouraging them to come forward. It’s an obvious correlation and it’s about how confident people feel about how their concerns will be treated by their employer.”
Mr Wilson adds there was a “huge uplift” in the number of calls about sexual harassment in the last three months of 2017.

He added: “I think people are becoming less accepting of behaviour that 10 or 20 years ago would have been tolerated. People are becoming more demanding of their workplace and they are not prepared to tolerate behaviour, which they see as demeaning or discriminatory.

“If you want to protect your business and really hear from people, you have to be prepared to demonstrate you will listen to what people say. If somebody wants to be anonymous, don’t spend your time trying to work out who that person is. You must focus on what they are reporting instead.

“Ironically, the businesses that are the best run and the most open will receive the highest number of reports. A lot of businesses take the view why do I need a hotline, but if they employ 20,000 things will go wrong and people need to feel it’s ok to speak up. You need to have both sides of the equation in place.”

Sampson Low, head of policy at the trade union Unison, said: “There’s a definite awareness of health and safety and patient safety in health and social care settings, where I think there is more willingness to phone up about these issues.

“Our local reps are being approached by more members of staff with a variety of mental health and stress issues. We think it’s vital that companies and organisations are open to staff or through these hotlines. It can alert them to financial irregularities, harassment and other shortcomings.

“There is also a greater acknowledgement in large employers about staff wellbeing issues and no tolerance for harassment, bullying and other poor behaviours.”