A third of employees have admitted to being afraid to blow the whistle on illegal or dangerous activities taking place in their workplace.
Over half of employees (53%) said that fear of losing their job would cause them to turn a blind eye, whilst 23% stated that they were worried about the impact upon their career. Other reasons included the fear that colleagues would treat them differently or that their management would not believe their claims. Law firm Slater and Gordon surveyed more than 2,000 British workers for the research.
The results showed that 16% of respondents had previously blown the whistle at work, with almost half reporting health and safety breaches and nearly a third (29%) exposing illegal activity. However over half of these (51%) said that they were treated differently at work after doing so.
Nearly half (48%) said that they were made to feel unwelcome after they blew the whistle, whilst a third reported feeling isolated. Most shockingly, as many as one in ten employees said that they were either fired or made redundant after they had exposed wrongdoing.
Just seven percent said that their employer praised their actions.
However, the number of employees who said that they would consider whistleblowing rose dramatically to 67% if they felt that they could make the report anonymously. 49% said that they would blow the whistle if they had legal protection from mistreatment and would receive compensation if they lost their job.
Whistleblowing is a protected disclosure, and it is illegal to treat an employee differently on the grounds that they have made a report. In a recent high-profile case a former banker received £3.2 million in compensation. This came after she endured ongoing harassment and bullying in her role after she had reported a colleague for insider trading.
HR Solutions consultant Marie Thomas said: “This study proves the necessity of the laws that are in place to protect employees who report wrongdoing.”
“If a third of employees are afraid to blow the whistle, then a third of dangerous or illegal workplace activities are being allowed to continue unchallenged. Employees should be encouraged to speak up whenever they witness that something is not being done correctly.”
“If a third party service can guarantee protection for your employees then that’s something to consider.”