Blowing the whistle in South Africa

17 January 2014

Whistleblowing is attracting high-profile media attention across the world and is proving to be a key concern for South African multinational employers, especially in relation to the cultural attitudes, regulations and differing levels of protections across the globe, says global law firm DLA Piper.

‘Whistleblowing: An employer’s guide to global compliance’, published by DLA Piper on November 29, 2013, revealed that employers needed to be aware of the issues surrounding wrongdoing in the workplace and outlined the challenges for global employers seeking to reduce the risks to their business.

The report said whistleblowers played an important, though often risky, role in exposing corruption. Balanced against this was the need for employers not to have business interests hampered by malicious accusations. This delicate balancing act was a trend the law firm expected to see continue in the global workplace, as significant cultural differences could lead to multinational companies underestimating the notable compliance hurdles to implementing uniform whistleblowing policies across their global business.

The report identified that international employers needed to take a global approach to managing whistleblowing effectively and that companies needed to be aware of the sharp contrasts in culture between jurisdictions so that they could tailor their approach to meet the demands of their global business.

DLA Piper partner and international head of employment Tim Marshall said: “The cultural differences are often embedded in history, meaning imposing universal policies and procedures is unlikely to succeed in the effective management of whistleblowing.

“Companies operating in a global business environment with subsidiaries across a large number of jurisdictions face a daunting challenge. However, employers which have a comprehensive policy that meets the needs of differing regimes and educates staff about their obligations will reap the rewards.”

DLA Piper Africa Group member Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr employment partner Aadil Patel said recent laws had been established in South Africa on the back of a growing recognition among South African businesses of the need for whistleblower protection. “Whistleblowing should be considered healthy for organisations because it usually means a safer option than silence.”

By: Creamer Media Reporter

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