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The biggest risks to your business are often the ones you can’t see. But with many people still reluctant to ‘speak up’ about workplace issues, these risks can remain hidden.

Enabling anonymous reporting about workplace concerns can help break down these barriers and reveal crucial information – before it’s too late.

What is anonymous reporting?

Anonymous reporting is a process whereby people can submit a whistleblowing report without revealing their identity.

Anonymous reporting maybe favoured by people who are fearful of the risks of being identified.

Is “anonymous reporting” the same as “confidential reporting”?

Anonymous reporting is not the same as confidential reporting. Confidential reporting means the discloser’s identity is known (by at least one person or entity, such as the report recipient or investigator) but it remains protected.

Is anonymous reporting illegal?

There are legal restrictions on anonymous reporting in certain countries. These restrictions typically relate to:

  • the type of issue that can be reported anonymously
  • the protections afforded to people who make anonymous reports
  • whether anonymous reports are legally valid in specific cases

However, the landscape is shifting. In recent years some countries, like Australia have lifted restrictions on anonymous reporting. And while the new EU Whistleblower Protection Directive does not specify how each member state should treat anonymous reporting from December 2021, states will be free to apply protective measures to anonymous reporters.

Why should you allow anonymous reporting?

1. It builds trust

Fear of retaliation for disclosers can be a huge factor preventing people from speaking up.

Giving people the option to remain anonymous when raising their concerns will help build trust in your whistleblowing process. It tells people that addressing an issue is more important than identifying a discloser.

2. You can still communicate with anonymous reporters

It is a common misconception that it’s impossible to have a dialogue with anonymous disclosers.

Reporting platforms like NAVEX’s whistleblowing solutions enable two-way communication between a discloser and their organisation – regardless of whether they remain anonymous or not.

Take a look at our whistleblowing solutions »

3. Anonymous reporters often reveal their identity later

Over half of the whistleblowing reports received through NAVEX are submitted anonymously. The decision to conceal one’s identity is often driven by the uncertainty that can exist around the speak up process.

Once the organisation responds to the discloser and takes steps to reassure them about the protective measures they have in place, it’s quite common for people reveal their identity and become more deeply engaged.

NAVEX’s whistleblowing benchmark data shows that around one-third of anonymous reporters follow up on their report.

Download the latest Whistleblowing Benchmark data »

4. Anonymous whistleblowing reports are still valuable

The fact that a report has been submitted anonymously should not be a basis for dismissing its validity. Indeed, our data shows that based on an analysis of over 1 million whistleblowing reports, the overall substantiation rate for anonymous reports is comparable with reports from named sources.

Anonymously-submitted reports can shine a light on issues you may otherwise be unaware of. They can highlight areas of risk within your organisation that require attention, or provide a crucial piece of information that relates to an existing investigation.

What are the drawbacks of anonymous reporting?

Aside from potential legal implications (which should be assessed with help from external legal counsel), anonymity can complicate the investigation process. This is particularly true if:

  • the report submitted lacks crucial details pertinent to an investigation
  • further information is required from the discloser
  • the discloser made their report using a one-way communication channel

How to reduce the risks associated with anonymous reporting

  1. Use a structured question set as part of your report capture process to ensure you get the key details every time.
  2. Utilise an incident management platform that enables two-way conversation with anonymous disclosers to aid your investigation.
  3. Offer a range of reporting channels that span web, telephone and mobile to improve accessibility.
  4. Train employees on the anti-retaliation and confidentiality measures you have in place. This may increase the chances of the reporter choosing to identify themselves.

The role of anonymous reporting in your organisation

Offering anonymous reporting is a simple but powerful way to encourage a strong speak up culture.

Removing barriers to reporting will result in a greater volume of reports, and in turn greater insight into the risks within your business. Anonymous disclosers can then be encouraged to reveal their identity and take a more active role in the investigation process.

Implementing a reporting platform that enables secure two-way communication– regardless of a person’s disclosure preferences – will enable you to make greater use of anonymous reports, and better protect your organisation from the risks it faces.