Why workplace misbehaviour goes unreported

Fear of retaliation and a lack of trust in company processes is preventing employees from reporting workplace misconduct, even though half of them admit to being far more aware of the importance of whistleblowing.

High profile cases have raised awareness to such an extent that 43 per cent told researchers recently that they had seen or experienced some kind of inappropriate or illegal behaviour at work.

One in ten said that has involved sexual harassment and three in ten have seen or experienced bullying. But in both cases, almost half said they did not bother to report it.

The figures come ahead of an expected government review into UK whistleblowing frameworks, with the aim of developing and improving the existing regime and reviewing whether the objectives of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) are being met.

PIDA was implemented 25 years ago to support wider cultural change on whistleblowing, to recognise its benefits and to provide a framework for employees to make disclosures and to be protected from detriment and dismissal when they do.

Businesses should themselves work to build the kind of workplace culture that fosters employee trust and goes above and beyond

“The extent of workplace misconduct is worrying, and the rate at which these go unreported is even more so,” said Pete Cooper, Director of People Partners & DEI at Personio, the HR software company who conducted 2,000 interviews for the survey.

“It’s clear that having whistleblowing channels in place is only one small part of the puzzle to make workplaces safer. A workplace culture that prioritises trust and transparency is critical. People need to understand that these reporting processes exist, feel safe using them, and have trust in their organisation to listen to and act on their concerns.”

The data points to the role that culture plays in creating a space where people feel they can safely report issues via the appropriate channels.

While concerns are eased in organisations where people trust bosses to listen to and support them. But trust within many organisations is clearly lacking, according to these findings.

And while putting in place anonymous ways to blow the whistle would also help ease employees’ fears, nearly one in five don’t believe that their organisation would protect their anonymity if they reported misconduct, and the same number do not feel there is an accessible or anonymous process in place at work to report misconduct.

Pete Cooper added that publication of the government review will be a step in the right direction, adding: “It will not be a silver bullet or a quick fix. As well as leaning on government guidance and support, businesses should themselves work to build the kind of workplace culture that fosters employee trust and goes above and beyond to put their safety right at the heart of their organisation.”



When a day at the office becomes too much of a headache