Ethics hotline whistleblowing

What is an ethics hotline?

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Helena Jezkova

3 min read

An ethics hotline is a way for employees or other company stakeholders to report instances of wrongdoing or offer suggestions for improvements. An ethics hotline used to simply refer to a physical phone line that was used for whistleblowing, whereas now the meaning has expanded to include whistleblowing software more generally.

You may also hear an ethics hotline referred to as a whistleblowing hotline, speak-up line, fraud line plus a number of other names.

How does an ethics hotline work?

When a whistleblower wishes to alert a company’s management of their suspicions, they can do so through an ethics hotline. Traditionally, this would mean calling an ethics hotline on a physical phone, or leaving a note in a trust box. However, these days the most common method is to use an online whistleblowing system, which has the added bonus of anonymity for the whistleblower, plus a range of other helpful features.

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The report is received by the individual in the company who is designated to deal with them (known as the ‘assignee’) and the matter is subsequently looked into. Some whistleblowing systems, such as FaceUp, then allow for follow up communication between whistleblower and assignee.

Who counts as a whistleblower?

A whistleblower is anyone who works in or for an organization with suspicions that some kind of misconduct of wrongdoing is taking place. Wrongdoing can range from bullying and harassment, through to fraud and theft. 

Whistleblowers are most commonly company employees, but can also be suppliers, contractors, freelancers, or anyone else who interacts with an organization.

What are the benefits of an ethics line?

A properly implemented ethics line will:

  • help foster a culture of openness and transparency
  • protect the whistleblower from retaliation
  • reduce money lost to fraud or employee turnover
  • protect your reputation by keeping matters internal
  • improve productivity by removing unprofessional employees
  • unearth areas for improvement
  • ensure your organization remains compliant with the relevant whistleblowing legislation in your region

Is an ethics line required by law?

If your organization is within the EU and has more than 50 employees/members of staff, then a whistleblowing channel is required by law according to the EU Whistleblowing Directive. If you are outside the EU, for example in the US or Africa, the legislation varies, but a lot of organizations are still required to implement some form of whistleblowing hotline either by the law in their territory or in order to remain compliant with any standards or certifications they are signed up to.

In any case, whether or not it is required by law, implementing a trusted, secure ethics hotline has huge benefits for your organization, as outlined in previous paragraphs.

What are the best practices to bear in mind when using a whistleblowing hotline?

The way in which your organization implements and utilizes a whistleblowing hotline is key to its success. You don’t want to introduce a new tool, with the associated costs, only for it not to be used.

It’s important to first communicate the implementation of the ethics hotline, ensuring that all stakeholders know of its existence and how they can go about submitting reports. You should then subsequently remind your teams to use the hotline at a later date if they are not already and provide ongoing training to make sure they are getting the most out of the system.

It is crucial that you set your internal policies, including who is going to be responsible for handing the reports which are submitted through your new whistleblowing hotline and the protocols regarding escalation to senior management and investigation of any issues discovered. Your staff also need to know who these people are.

Which ethics hotline should I choose?

There are a whole host of different ethics lines on the market today, including AllVoices, EQS Integrity Line, Globaleaks and others. Why not take a look at G2’s whistleblowing hotline section for a full comparison? FaceUp is proud to have a 4.9/5 star rating on this well-respected review site. Alternatively, we also put together a list of some of the leading contenders in a recent post, so why not take a look at that too? 

Are you looking for en ethics hotline?

For a reasonably priced, feature-rich ethics line with the highest level of security and usability, why not give FaceUp a try? Book a consultation with our whistleblower specialist today.

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Helena Jezkova

3 min read
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