Image: David Goehring Image: David Goehring

More than four in five (82%) of people working for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK would whistleblow on their bosses over illegal or unethical practices in the workplace, according to new research.

BSA | The Software Alliance found that workers were most likely to blow the whistle on bullying (73%), fraud (70%), theft of company property (61%), embezzlement (58%), tax evasion (45%) and failure to meet industry standards (44%).

One in ten also revealed that they are currently aware of illegal or unethical practices happening in their organisations.

In addition, over a third of workers (38%) state that they would report illegal or unethical IT practices, such as using or downloading unlicensed or counterfeit software. BSA, which encourages people to blow the whistle on unlicensed software use in the workplace offers rewards which results in a legal settlement. Last year it saw a 58% increase in whistleblower reports from disgruntled employees in the UK, which led to cost UK companies, on average £42,000.

When asked what would prompt them to blow the whistle on their employers, 42% of survey respondents claim they would do it due to moral obligations while only 7% openly say for a financial reward.

Apathy towards whistleblowers

Whistleblowing has grabbed headlines internationally over the last few years, whether in politics, government or the private sector. More and more people appear to be prepared to blow the whistle on illegal and unethical behaviour. But despite the growing publicity, over half of respondents (55%) didn't think their business was more concerned about good business practice, even though the consequences of whistleblowing can be severe.
According to BSA | The Software Alliance, one UK SME last year paid £200,000 in damages for using copies of unlicensed software.
Illegal or unethical behaviour in the workplace can have a wider impact too, in areas such as recruitment. Fifty-six per cent of respondents say they would be less willing to apply for a job somewhere if the business had been accused or found guilty of illegal or unethical practices.
Sarah Coombes, managing director at BSA EMEA, said: "With more than four-fifths of workers willing to blow the whistle, SMEs need to review all of their business practices before it's too late.
"Our research that employees aren't willing to put up with any practices that break laws or put their ethics into question. Whether it's company fraud of basic operational issues, such as using software that isn't properly licensed, it's clear that businesses are flouting the rules and one-in-ten employees admit to knowing that bad practices are going on in their organisation."