Launching an Ethics Hotline

Once you’ve made your decision that it’s time to launch an employee ethics hotline, you need a checklist of steps to take to get it operational.  The essential flow from the point of decision-making is adoption of policies, vendor selection, employee training, and creating a culture of ethics and compliance.

The first step in creating an employee compliance hotline is drafting policies and standard operating procedures.  If your organization already has a library of these documents, a review of them will help you to identify appropriate amendments.  For example, if there is an existing HIPAA privacy policy, which directs employee complaints and questions to the human resources department, information could be added to the policy about an employee’s option to utilize an anonymous compliance hotline.  Once you have selected the vendor, you can add further specificity on hotline data collection and analysis processes, as well.

If your organization hasn’t yet adopted programs or policies having to do with compliance, now would be the time to generate a comprehensive list of applicable statutes, along with minimum policy and reporting requirements.  For employers without a designated compliance officer or committee, resources can be found with a hotline provider, such as Ethical Advocate, or an outside consultant.  It will be important to know which statutes apply to your organization and which policies should be in place, particularly so you can itemize scenarios for hotline reporting.

The next step – and it is one that can be done in tandem with the first step – is to select a hotline provider.  The information gathering and selection process can include vendor features offered, customer service, system customization, data security measures, references, and pricing.  Ask to see a demonstration of the system and reports.  Learn how quickly the hotline provider notifies the employer of an employee hotline tip.

Best practices tell us that the step of employee training is the next key to a successful employee hotline.  The launch of the hotline can be announced to all employees across multiple platforms, and included in written pieces like breakroom posters.  The employee hotline can also be added to all compliance training, from PowerPoint decks to live presentations.  A hotline provider, such as Ethical Advocate, can also assist with employee training on the existence and use of the hotline.  The addition of a confidential hotline in addition to human relations staff and supervisor access can create a powerful message both to those who could provide valuable information and those who might otherwise violate laws and policies.

Following these steps will help you bring your organization into compliance with statutes that mandate employee hotlines, like Sarbanes-Oxley, while helping you reduce exposure to breach of a host of statutes, like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  And, as an added bonus, the very process you use to get ready to launch a confidential employee hotline for the reporting of breach or suspected breach of compliance requirements can improve company-wide compliance measures.