Every business, no matter what industry, faces the risk of inadequate systems, health and safety practices or corruption leading to dangerous or criminal behaviour. The tragedy at the factory in Bangledesh last year put a spotlight on the supply chains used by retailers, leading a number of Western retailers to sign an accord designed to improve safety in factories.

When risks arise, usually the first people to suspect will be those who work with, or within, a company. For this reason, whistleblowers have been instrumental in revealing serious corruption and fraud and preventing mistakes from leading to disasters.

Over 30 countries have now adopted some form of specific whistleblowing protection, although the scope of such protection varies dramatically between jurisdictions. The absence of European legislation also means that even within Europe, the scope of protection varies considerably.

Japan, China, the UK and the US have comprehensive protection, whereas, for now, in Australia, the existence of express federal laws protecting whistleblowers is limited. In the UAE, an employee dismissed for blowing the whistle to the competent authorities is only entitled to a maximum of three months compensation. Contrast that to the UK, where liability for the same act is potentially unlimited. In the UK, the number of whistleblowing claims in the tribunal system has been increasing steadily year on year, from 157 claims in 1999 to 2500 in 2011/2012.

A report highlighting the variations in whistleblowing protection between jurisdictions and the challenges this presents to global employers seeking to reduce risks to their business can be accessed here – http://www.dlapiperuknow. com/export/sites/uknow/products/files/uknow/DLA-Piper- Whistleblowing-Report.pdf

A well-drafted whistleblowing policy provides an opportunity for employers to set out clear rules about how employees may express their concerns about malpractices in the workplace. Global employers need to take a global approach to manage whistleblowing effectively. Due to the wide-ranging differences among jurisdictions, we recommend that employers who have multi-national operations fit their approach to whistleblowing in each jurisdiction. Investing in a tailored approach is likely to be the most effective strategy to ensure that both employers, and employees, are adequately protected.

Lisa Hodgson