The Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) and the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) teamed up in April 2014 to publish a “whistleblower survey” titled Helpline Calls and Incident Reports. The survey results were based on 677 responses from compliance and ethics professionals.
This survey follows a 2011 SCCE-HCCA survey that showed that 90 percent of the compliance professionals surveyed reported that their employer had an ethics hotline. The question in 2014 was whether the recent increased attention to whistleblowing had led to increased reports of incidents. (SCCE-HCCA, 2014)
The report highlights a number of key findings, including the fact that just over half (51 percent) of survey respondents report that the volume of calls to hotlines has remained unchanged over the last two years, while incident reporting via all means, including direct reporting to supervisors, has increased. Employees seem to prefer reporting their concerns internally, whether via hotlines or other methods, as opposed to going to the government or legal system.
The report draws the following conclusions:
The increased attention on encouraging employees to report wrongdoing does seem to be having an impact on employees, although not in the way that many feared. More are reported to be willing to come forward, either through the company hotline or in person, when they see something they perceive to be wrong.
Fears of a stampede of whistleblowers running to the government appear to be overblown, at least so far. The data indicates that companies are not seeing a dramatic spike in qui tam lawsuits, although it should be noted that those suits may have been filed but are still under seal. Nevertheless, it appears, at least to date, that employees are trusting their employers to respond to issues when they are formally reported.
It will now be critical for organizations to respond effectively and expeditiously to the increased employee reports of wrongdoing. If responses languish, if allegations are not reviewed, if those making allegations are not communicated with effectively, employees may quickly lose faith in their employer and turn to outsiders, including qui tam attorneys and the government, when they see wrongdoing.
The last point above is a very important one. Effective ethics and compliance programs ensure timely investigation and response to reported wrongdoing. Such programs also incorporate ways to communicate appropriately with people who have made such reports. By doing so, companies and other institutions will maintain the trust of employees and contractors, who in turn will be more likely to continue using company-provided hotlines and other internal reporting options.
Ethical Advocate offers assistance in setting up and managing ethics and compliance hotlines and programs. How can we help you?
Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and Health Care Compliance Association. Helpline Calls and Incident Reports, April 2014.