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Why Hong Kong managers need whistleblowing policies

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Hong Kong employees are more eager than the rest of the world to raise the alarm about misconduct or corrupt practices in their organisations – but more than half of local firms don’t have a policy in place to facilitate this.

And if staff aren’t happy with how their whistleblowing is being treated internally, you could risk them going to external sources like media or social media instead.

According to research by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, nearly two-thirds of management-level staff in Hong Kong have previously blown the whistle – or would consider it – which is above the global average of 58%.

Additionally, 28% of employees said they already have blown the whistle, and another 36% said they would consider it.

However, many employees would go directly to regulators (21%), external organisations (9%), media (4%) or social media (3%) without raising the issue internally to begin with.

This figure jumps to 71% if those employees are dissatisfied with an internal response.

“We have seen a number of instances around the world where employees have gone directly to regulators because they felt it would put their jobs in jeopardy if they raised an issue internally,” said Freshfields employment partner, Kathleen Healy.

“According to our data, seven out of every ten management level employees in Hong Kong will take their concerns outside a company if they’re unhappy with their company’s initial response. That alone should place this item squarely on the boardroom agenda.”

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Yet despite this risk, just 6.5% of managers globally consider whistleblowing a current issue within their businesses.

Over half of managers in Hong Kong said their business either didn’t have a whistleblowing policy in place (17%), or if they did, it wasn’t publicised (38.5%).

“It’s not enough to have a whistleblowing policy in place if that policy gathers dust and employees don’t know where to find it,” Healy added. “Worse still are those situations where employees sense a company culture that goes against speaking up about wrongdoing.

“In Hong Kong we are seeing more willingness from businesses to talk about whistleblowing, but it is a slow process and there is still a lot of complacency in the market.”

Global trends suggest managers fear reprisal for blowing the whistle, with 57% saying they believe senior management would either treat them less favourably or look for ways to terminate their employment.

Four in every 10 employees said their organisation discourages or actively discourages whistleblowing.

Image: Shutterstock

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