Anonymous Reporting

The biggest risks to your business are often the ones you can’t see. But with many people still reluctant to ‘speak up’ about workplace issues, these risks can remain hidden.

Enabling anonymous reporting can help break down these barriers and reveal crucial information – before it’s too late.

What is anonymous reporting?

Anonymous reporting is a process whereby people can submit a whistleblowing report without revealing their identity.

Anonymous reporting maybe favoured by people who are fearful of the risks of being identified.

Is “anonymous reporting” the same as “confidential reporting”?

Anonymous reporting is not the same as confidential reporting. Confidential reporting means the discloser’s identity is known (by at least one person or entity, such as the report recipient or investigator) but it remains protected.

Is anonymous reporting illegal?

There are legal restrictions on anonymous reporting in certain countries. These restrictions typically relate to:

  • the type of issue that can be reported anonymously
  • the protections afforded to people who make anonymous reports
  • whether anonymous reports are legally valid in specific cases

However, the landscape is shifting. Since the beginning of 2019, countries such as Australia and Spain have lifted restrictions on anonymous reporting. And while the new EU Whistleblower Protection Directive does not specify how member states should treat anonymous reporting from 2021, it’s likely many states will adopt a more progressive, unrestricted approach.

Why should you allow anonymous reporting?

1. It builds trust

Fear of retaliation for disclosers can be a huge factor preventing people from speaking up.

Giving people the option to remain anonymous when raising their concerns will help build trust in your whistleblowing process. It tells people that addressing an issue is more important than identifying a discloser.

2. You can still communicate with anonymous reporters

It is a common misconception that it’s impossible to have a dialogue with anonymous disclosers.

In reality, most third-party reporting platforms enable two-way communication between a discloser and their organisation – regardless of whether they remain anonymous or not.

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3. Anonymous reporters often reveal their identity later

In 2018, around 72% of reports received through Expolink channels were from people that wanted to remain anonymous to their organisation.  This decision is often driven by the uncertainty that exists around the speak up process.

Once the organisation responds to the discloser and takes steps to reassure them about the protective measures they have in place, it’s quite common for people reveal their identity and become more deeply engaged.

4. Anonymous whistleblowing reports are still valuable

Even anonymously-submitted reports can shine a light on issues you may otherwise be unaware of. They can highlight areas of risk within your organisation that require attention, or provide a crucial piece of information that relates to an existing investigation.

Expolink’s 2019 Client Insights Report revealed just how valuable whistleblowing reports can be to an organisation. In the preceding 12 months, almost 50% of organisations had dismissed an employee or vendor as a result of a whistleblowing report, while 25% had initiated some form of criminal proceedings.

Anonymous whistleblowing reports: The statistics

In our 2019 Benchmarking Report we reported a rise in anonymity rates during 2018, from 59.5% to 61% – the first such rise for four years. We also saw a 47% increase in Confidential reporting, whereby disclosers share their identity with Expolink but not their organisation.

This coincided with an increase in reports submitted through Expolink’s web channels, which typically generate more anonymous reports (up to 75%) than live telephone reporting channels (46%).

We also revealed that four issues have unusually high anonymity rates (above 73%):

  • Bribery/ Corruption
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Food Safety or Quality
  • Substance Abuse

This suggests that disclosers are more likely to fear the risk of being identified or retaliated against when raising concerns about a colleague’s integrity, or when questioning an organisation’s safety or quality control processes.

Meanwhile, “enabling anonymous reporting” is the second most popular reason for implementing an external hotline, according to our research. This highlights the value many organisations place on receiving anonymous reports, despite the potential drawbacks.

What are the drawbacks of anonymous reporting?

Aside from potential legal implications (which should be assessed with help from external legal counsel), anonymity can complicate the investigation process. This is particularly true if:

  • the report submitted lacks crucial details pertinent to an investigation
  • further information is required from the discloser
  • the discloser made their report using a one-way communication channel

These risks can be reduced by taking the following steps:

  1. using a structured question set as part of your report capture process
  2. utilising reporting platforms that enable two-way conversation with anonymous disclosers
  3. offering a range of reporting channels that span web and telephone

The role of anonymous reporting in your organisation

Offering anonymous reporting is a simple but powerful way to encourage a strong speak up culture.

Removing barriers to reporting will result in a greater volume of reports, and in turn greater insight into the risks within your business. Anonymous disclosers can then be encouraged to reveal their identity and take a more active role in the investigation process.

Implementing a reporting platform that enables secure two-way communication– regardless of a person’s disclosure preferences – will enable you to make greater use of anonymous reports, and better protect your organisation from the risks it faces.

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