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Why are UK Employees more likely to Whistleblow?

In a survey carried out by the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) employees were asked a series of questions which revealed that whilst UK employees were found to be more lenient in their approach to questionable workplace behaviour or attitudes compared to the European average; however, they were more likely to blow the whistle if they are aware of any form of misconduct or questionable behaviour occurring in the workplace.

Although results from the survey carried out by the IBE revealed that UK employees were more likely to blow the whistle, it also (surprisingly) revealed that UK employees were less likely to be aware of misconduct than the European average. 24% of UK employees said they have been aware of misconduct below the European average of 30%. 67% of UK employees who have witnessed misconduct in the workplace were quick to raise their concerns compared with the European average of 54%. Compared to the 2015 UK figure, there was a 12 percentage point increase in figures which shows an increase in the zero level of tolerance by UK employees provided they are aware of misconducts taking place in the workplace.

Examples of workplace practices that are found both acceptable and unacceptable by UK employees which are more likely to make UK employees blow the whistle when compared to the European average are;

  • Making personal phone calls from work; 53% of UK employees found this acceptable while 47% found it acceptable in Europe whereas 45% of UK employees found it unacceptable while 51% of European employees found it unacceptable.
  • Using the internet for personal use during work hours; 47% of UK employees found it acceptable while 41% found it acceptable in Europe. 52% of UK employees found it unacceptable while 57% European employees also found it unacceptable.
  • Taking pencils and pens from work; 39% of UK employees found it acceptable, while 29% found it acceptable in Europe while 60% of UK employees found it unacceptable while 70% of UK employees found it unacceptable.
  • Favouring family or friends when recruiting or awarding contracts; 17% of UK employees supported this while 19% supported from Europe. 80% and 78% of UK employees and European employees found it unacceptable respectively.
  • Using company petrol for personal mileage; 16% and 14% of UK employees and European employees found this act acceptable respectively while 82% and 84% of UK employees and European employees found this act unacceptable.
  • Pretending to be sick to take the day off; 14% and 9% of UK employees and European employees agree to this being acceptable while 85% and 90% of UK employees and European find it unacceptable.
  • It ws noted that employees are under more stress to deliver in time, or to deliver quicker than usual, or to meet deadlines at the appointed time, and as such, this increases the pressure to take shortcuts, or cut corners in the workplace. The ethical line becomes blurry under the stress and pressure UK employees are facing.

    The uncertainty of Brexit creates an economic impact on UK which is destabilizing. It could affect imports and exports between the UK and Europe. This increases the workload of employees as employers and businesses are pressured to soften the blow of a potential Brexit. An alarming 26% of UK employees have cited being under pressure by colleagues and employers to take shortcuts while across Europe the statistics show 17%.

    When asked which type of misconduct they were aware of, the following were mentioned;

    • People being treated inappropriately or unethically (48% in the UK; 46% for Europe)
    • Bullying or Harassment (40% UK; 26% Europe)
    • Safety violations (35% UK; 30% Europe)
    • Misreporting hours worked (30% UK; 35% Europe)
    • Abusive behaviour (26% UK; 29% Europe)


    Speaking up against misconduct at the workplace is important as doing so reduces the frequency that acts of misconduct are carried out in the workplace. The higher tendency found in UK employees is a step in the right direction as it supports the notion that misconduct in the workplace will not be tolerated by employees.

    Research shows that 82% of UK employees with regards to unethical behaviour and acts by employees and employers have either made reports in the past or would consider making one (almost 10% higher than the European average of 74%).

    All forms of unethical behaviour or misconduct in the workplace should be reported immediately. There are numerous consequences to unethical behaviors and the repercussions far outweigh the acts themselves. Employees, who are aware of the unethical behaviour taking place at the workplace but refuse to report such acts, can be seen as contributing to the problem.

    Consequences include;
    • Defamation of the workplace or company name.
    • Loss of a job.
    • Fine to be paid.
    • Possibility of being sued and other legal implications


    If you are aware of misconduct in your workplace then our no win no fee Employment Law Solicitors can assist with all types of claims. Naturally, we pride ourselves on providing the best possible service to the highest standards, we offer free employment law advice on all problems. Call us on 0800 756 6605 or020 3923 4777

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