The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published the results of its qualitative survey of whistleblowers undertaken in early 2022. It has also published an action plan in the hopes of improving whistleblower confidence, which we discuss below.
The survey results indicate that respondents felt they did not receive comprehensive feedback from the FCA in response to concerns they had raised. The FCA noted that the confidentiality obligations to which they are bound under law limit its ability to provide such feedback. However, as a result of the survey, the FCA is looking at ways in which it can expand its feedback whilst continuing to abide by these obligations.
It is worth noting that the survey received only 21 fully completed responses. This is an especially small sample group given the number of complaints the FCA receives annually (1,041 whistleblower reports with 2,114 separate allegations between April 2021 and March 2022). That being said, employers should be mindful of the results:
- The most frequent reason that respondents gave for having reported concerns to the FCA was “I made an internal complaint which was ignored”, turning to the FCA as a “listener of last resort”.
- Whilst there was a high degree of dissatisfaction with the FCA’s process in dealing with these complaints, 52% of respondents noted that they were “definitely” or “most likely” to contact the FCA in the future regarding whistleblowing.
In response to the survey, the FCA intends to put in place process improvements and work alongside the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) to review whistleblowing legislation and strengthen the existing statutory framework.
What does this mean for employers?
These results serve as a reminder of the importance of having robust whistleblowing procedures in place so that issues raised can be dealt with internally, swiftly and effectively. Whilst the survey participants were largely employees of FCA-regulated firms, this reminder is relevant to all employers.
In particular, it is important for employers to have whistleblowing policies and procedures in place which clearly specify the options available in terms of reporting whistleblowing concerns, and signpost to whom such concerns should be raised. Once concerns are raised, they should be taken seriously and investigated as appropriate. Dealing with concerns early and thoroughly can often help deal with issues before they become more significant and is an important step in maintaining employee confidence.
It is also worth noting the DBT’s plans to review the law concerning whistleblower protections in the near future. This may bring heightened scrutiny to employers in terms of how they support whistleblowers in the workplace.
If you have questions about any of the points raised in this article, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Dentons team.