Survey shows European employees fear reprisals at work for whistle-blowing

European employees still fear reprisals at work for whistle-blowing, according to a survey published yesterday by Ernst & Young.

According to Fraud Risk Mitigation in Europe, one in five employees working for multinational companies in Europe say they won’t blow the whistle if they suspect a case of fraud, bribery or corruption in their organisation. However, UK employees bucked the trend with 86% saying that they would feel comfortable blowing the whistle at work if they suspected fraud or other wrong doing - the highest percentage across the 13 European countries in the survey.

John Smart, fraud investigation and dispute services partner at Ernst & Young, says that the huge differences are down to culture, legislation and regulation in each country. "The UK has developed a very strong reporting culture, based on an anonymous route to inform wrongdoing, which is supported by law, such as the 1998 Public Interest Disclosure Act, that forbids employees from sacking whistle-blowers who act in good faith," he says.

"But it was only after the Sarbanes Oxley Act was introduced that other European countries, such as France, were forced to review guidelines on anonymous corporate whistle-blowing mechanisms" including the introduction of anonymous whistleblower hotlines.

Overall the survey shows that employers throughout Europe are failing to meet the expectations of their employees when it comes to managing fraud within their organisations, despite overwhelming support from their people for strong anti-fraud measures.

Only half of central and eastern European respondents and two-thirds of western European respondents have or are aware of their company having a code of conduct to address fraud, bribery and corruption. Smart concludes, "If a UK company is considering establishing a presence elsewhere in Europe, it should not automatically expect employees to behave in the same way as those at home. The board needs to consider first the means by which it could fast-track an appropriate and culturally acceptable reporting culture into the new territory"