Canadian HR Reporter

November 2019 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 1 of 23

CANADIAN HR REPORTER NOVEMBER 2019 2 NEWS Two years after #MeToo: is HR doing enough? HR needs to move from a passive approach to a more proactive, open-door one You can't go home again, or can you? If an employer offers to reinstate an employee claiming wrongful dismissal, is it fair to expect the employee to accept? Conflict or cohesion? In election time, talking politics at work can be problematic, but it can also help relationships Appreciating immigrants Immigrants "equilibriate" local labour markets by leaving low-wage/low-opportunity locations for high-wage/ high-opportunity ones CEOs learn about next generation with mentorship program BC Hydro, Toronto Zoo among participants Nearly 9 in 10 workers come to work sick Too much work, employer pressure cited as main reasons: survey Temporary foreign workers abused by Quebec company: labour board Job placement agency mistreated workers; each worker awarded between $25,000 and $35,000 in damages Recruiters struggling to fill positions 71 per cent say they are challenged by skills gaps: survey Eight per cent of employers report cannabis-related incident in last year But 22 per cent of larger employers report the same: survey Manitoba government backs off plan to seek delay in wage freeze court battle Bill mandates 2-year wage freeze with each new collective agreement BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS VIDEO BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS VIDEO Recent videos, stories and blogs posted on Check the website daily for updates from Canada and around the world. Whistleblowers fear job loss, disclosure, retaliation: survey Trump's complaints about anonymous tip highlight challenges BY SARAH DOBSON THE PERILS of whistleblow- ing were in the spotlight recently when U.S. President Donald Trump lambasted the anony- mous accuser who suggested the leader acted inappropriately when it came to the country's dealings with the Ukraine. Calling the complaint "fake," Trump said on Twitter that the whistleblower "knew almost nothing" and his description of the call "is a fraud." e president said he deserved to meet his ac- cuser, who "represented a per- fect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way." is kind of reaction by a leader may explain why 42 per cent of Canadian employees say they fear being "outed" as a whistleblower, while 39 per cent fear retaliation and 38 per cent fear losing their job, according to a recent survey by Whistleblower Security, pro- vider of ethics reporting services. While limited, the survey's findings are consistent with what everybody in the field knows, says James Turk, director of the Centre for Free Expression at the Faculty of Communications and Design at Ryerson University in Toronto. "ere's a widespread recogni- tion about the ethical and the right thing to do is to report wrongdo- ing when you see it, but there are so many major impediments to actually doing so that most people don't do it," he says. "And the impediments can be psychological, going back to no- tions that we learned as kids about not being a tattle tale — I mean, there's all these traditions in our society of not ratting out people." Most people don't set out to be whistleblowers, says Turk. "ey're just honest people do- ing their jobs and something bad happens and they naively think they'll fix it by just drawing it to their superior's or whoever's at- tention. And then it doesn't hap- pen and they start getting treated badly. And because they're quite honest, they persist and get into more trouble and often get fired or whatever and get labelled as a whistleblower or a crusader — and, in most cases, they're not," he says. "Often, the retaliation isn't from senior management or your supervisor, it's retaliation from some of your peers who are un- happy that you've outed them or embarrassed them." Speaking up Forty per cent of workers have witnessed wrongdoing in the workplace, according to the sur- vey of 516 Canadian workers. Encouragingly, almost all (94 per cent) feel it is their responsi- bility to speak up when they see wrongdoing in the workplace, although the number drops to 77 per cent when it comes to people being likely to report it. ere's a psychological effect to whistleblowing, and while people may feel a responsibility and that management will support them, often nothing happens, says Shan- non Walker, founder and presi- dent of WhistleBlower Security in Vancouver. "To get that person over the hurdle, where they actually re- port, is part of the challenge." For the most part, employees want to see their company suc- ceed and they're concerned if they see potential harm, says Andrew Shaw, a partner at Baker McKen- zie in Toronto. "As long as the complaint is not frivolous, it's really a positive thing — as long as it's investigated ap- propriately and with the appropri- ate confidentiality." What's happening with Trump may be helping, says Turk. "On the one hand, it may be scaring people, but, on the other hand, it may be giving whistle- blowers a good name, it might be having the effect of taking away some of that pejorative connota- tion of whistleblowers as trouble- makers or snitches and helping it be understood as people who [are] trying to do the right thing." In talking to CEOs, most ac- knowledge the importance of a good whistleblowing program, says Turk. "ey understand that they'd much rather learn about a po- tential disaster before it happens and when it can be prevented than after the fact. But, in prac- tice, there's often much more ambivalence about those kinds of programs among middle manage- ment, and the experience of most whistleblowers is uniformly bad — they end up being penalized, dismissed, isolated. It's rare that a whistleblower comes out OK." Providing protection Ninety-six per cent of Canadian employees believe safeguards should be in place to protect em- ployees who blow the whistle, and 71 per cent say it should be manda- tory for all companies of a signifi- cant size to have a whistleblower hotline, according to the survey. Canada doesn't have a whistle- blower act, but there are pieces of legislation that provide some protection, such as the Criminal Code, the Human Rights Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, says Shaw. "With a lot of the employment laws in Canada, the public sector has better whistleblower pro- tections than the private sector. And could it be better? I think you certainly could say it could be because… for me to say to you that there are whistleblower laws, you really have to delve into the legislation. So, if it's something that actually is a significant issue, why not have specific legislation that applies?" It's a really fluid environment, says Walker. "From the protection point of view in Canada, we don't have concrete whistleblower protec- tion for private employees. ere is some protection at the federal level for federal employees, but they're not really well defined. So, Canada, I think, has a lot of work to do legislatively to ensure the protections of employees." ere's limited protection for whistleblowers in any workplace, says Turk. "ere's very little for- mal protection, and that which there is, for the most part, doesn't work very well." Back in 2006, the federal gov- ernment looked to bring in a public service protection act, but it afforded almost no protection and nobody has made it through the process, he says. e Trudeau government then did a review of the program and a report was created — but nothing has been done since. e justification for effective whistleblowing protection is unambiguous — just go back to the Phoenix payroll disaster in Ottawa where some individuals at the very outset tried to report potential flaws, says Turk. "We spent billions of dollars we didn't need to spend, and [now] you have tens of thousands of civil servants who paid a huge price in their personal lives because they didn't get paid properly," he says. "e business case for having a way to know about problems before they blow up in your face is quite clear-cut. And that's why, when you talk to most CEOs about a good whistleblower pro- gram, they're quite enthusiastic. But it's [about] the details of how you have it and how you make it work and how you deal with hu- man emotions." Tips for employers When a whistleblower hotline is not available, employees first share their concerns with their boss (71 per cent) and then col- leagues (29 per cent), followed by friends or family (19 per cent) and industry officials (16 per cent), found the survey. One of the most important points would be to really try and create a supportive and empa- thetic environment, says Walker. A lot more organizations are also hiring chief ethics officers. "ere has been this movement toward really being transparent U.S. President Donald Trump's criticism of an anonymous whistleblower highlight the challenges of the process. Credit: Evan El-Amin (Shutterstock) ANONYMITY > pg. 10 "It's about how you make it work and how you deal with human emotions."

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Canadian HR Reporter - November 2019 CAN