So your employee is a whistleblower

If one of your employees turns out to be a whistleblower, what should you do? HRD asked one legal expert to find out

Although whistleblowing is generally acknowledged as a key component in a transparent workplace culture, it can undoubtedly pose a few HR problems in the aftermath. HRD spoke to Dayne Ho, partner at Shook Lin & Bok, about what to do to minimise the fallout in these situations.
“Whistleblowing is not heavily regulated in Singapore outside of a few specific situations, such as the requirement for a company listed in Singapore to allow for anonymous whistleblowing,” he said.
“For most organisations in Singapore, there are no hard and fast laws that are applicable as to how to handle a whistleblowing incident.”
However, due to Singapore’s pride in matters such as strong corporate governance within its business eco-system, many organisations have created their own whistleblowing guidelines to allow incidents to be reported anonymously.
In the event of a whistleblower coming forward, these will tell HR what they should or should not do, Ho said.
“Most, if not all, of these policies will provide that the whistleblower's identity should be kept anonymous so that a potential whistleblower is not apprehensive of reporting an incident for fear of retaliation.”
As an added layer of protection, the employer should ensure there are no adverse reactions to the whistleblower in the event that their identity is discovered.
“This may have to go so far as to ensure that the personal safety of the whistleblower is safeguarded in extreme circumstances,” Ho advised.
There are exceptional circumstances to this rule such as if the individual was acting maliciously or frivolously, he added.
“There is one caveat to the anonymity of a whistleblower however,” he warned. “In certain circumstances where the incident involves criminal prosecution, it may be possible that a whistleblower's identity may have to be revealed for the purpose of prosecuting the relevant persons.”
In these situations, Ho urged that it was even more important for HR to have a framework in place to protect the whistleblower from direct and indirect retaliation including a hostile work environment.
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