Alertline - where employees avoid the stigma of 'snitching'

June 2004 News

Malpractice in the workplace is still taking place all over South Africa with very few employees actually reporting fraud, theft or other offences for fear of the consequences. In South Africa The Protected Disclosures Act was implemented to protect employees from occupational detriment. This might include being subject to disciplinary hearings, dismissal, suspension, demotion, harassment intimidation and much more.

"Although this Act is contributing to protecting the employee, malpractice is still not being reported, mainly because the honest employee does not know how to go about it and whether they will compromise their values or get themselves into personal trouble by doing it," says Kirsten Ashman, manager, Employers' Mutual Protection Services (EMPS).

According to Ashman it is management's responsibility to have a formal policy in place, as well as to educate and encourage employees to report dishonest behaviour through the specific means. Ashman says that third-party involvement is crucial and employees seem to feel safer dealing directly with an objective outsider. "In many instances employees feel unable to report malpractice such as physical and emotional abuse or theft, when committed by senior personnel and therefore anonymous reporting creates a 'safer' option," she says.

EMPS has implemented the ALERTLINE system, which provides staff with a toll-free, anonymous, third-party line to report abuse or dishonesty without fear of victimisation. "The anonymous ALERTLINE avoids the stigma of 'snitching' which is so often connected to a person who reports malpractice. The ALERTLINE will however only be effective when the following is in place:

* It is fully supported by management.

* A clear message is portrayed that all employees are affected by the programme and that no employee including top management is exempt from being reported.

* All reports receive immediate attention in the form of an investigation.

* The input of every employee's comment is personally acknowledged.

According to Ashman, when carefully implemented, the programme will not only create a feeling of protection with the company employees, but also serve as an invaluable tool to identify situations which might undermine a business.

"The third party line is also a means of avoiding a lawsuit being filed by an unhappy employee or to avoid bad publicity in the press. Therefore the process should be clearly communicated through brochures, posters in the staff canteen as well as other ongoing forms of communication," continues Ashman.

For more information contact Kirsten Ashman, EMPS, 011 475 1300, [email protected],

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