What is a whistleblowing hotline?

A whistleblowing hotline is a service that enables employees and third party suppliers to report malpractice, unlawful or unethical behaviour within the workplace.

It usually refers to a telephone-based service, but is often complemented by other reporting options.

It’s also known as…

Whistleblowing hotlines are often referred to by other names, including:

  • Speak up line
  • Ethics line
  • Security line
  • Fraud line
  • Loss prevention line

Many organisations choose to brand their hotline to reflect its desired purpose, or to encourage only certain types of whistleblowing reports.

Why do organisations use hotlines?

Protect employees

Organisations often introduce hotlines to allow employees to raise issues that they may feel uncomfortable discussing with a manager.

This can help expose important issues that would otherwise remain undisclosed and help reassure employees that their concerns will be taken seriously.

Risk intelligence

For most organisations, there is no better information source than its employees.

But corrupt and illegal behaviour often goes undetected because employees fear the consequences of reporting them through existing internal channels.

Implemented correctly, a hotline can be a powerful tool in helping to expose illegal or unethical behaviour. Organisations therefore often place a high value on the risk intelligence that an effective hotline can provide.

Reputational reasons

Protecting brand reputation is often a key motivator for a business choosing to introduce a whistleblowing hotline.

If employees or third parties do not have access to a reporting channel provided by the organisation, they may choose to use alternative public channels.

A whistleblowing hotline can give an organisation early sight of a potential issue, and reduce the likelihood of potentially damaging information reaching the public domain.

Compliance

A whistleblowing hotline can help a business comply with its legal and regulatory responsibilities.

The existence of effective speak-up channels, such as a hotline, are one of the six adequate procedures recommended by the UK Department of Justice for an organisation to prevent bribery and comply with the UK Bribery Act 2010.

Internal or External?

Many organisations operate their own internally-administered hotline. This can present challenges, particularly in organisations where employees are fearful of possible retaliation.

For this reason, some organisations choose to combine or replace an internal hotline with an independent, outsourced service to help build trust and encourage reports.