Responsible Sourcing Guidance: Early Warnings, Grievances and Whistle-Blowing2021-04-21T17:30:02+00:00


Introduction to Grievance and Whistle-Blowing Mechanisms

Members of the jewellery and gemstone industries should have in place a company-level and/or an industry-level grievance mechanism, as an early-warning risk-awareness system in their own or other supply chains.

All grievances or reporting of identified risks should be treated in strict confidence by the company that receives it. Each business should have written grievance and whistle-blowing procedures. These need not be long or complicated, but must clearly outline the process to lodge and resolve grievances or to “blow the whistle.”

To successfully create a business system that incorporates early warnings, grievance and whistleblowing procedures, one should follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Write a grievance and/or whistle-blowing procedure
  • Step 2: Communicate the procedure(s) to workers and other relevant stakeholders. For example; the procedure can be posted on company notice boards, workshops, changing rooms, and other areas where workers gather. To reach external stakeholders, the procedure(s) can be posted on the company website where available or can be communicated through newsletters or emails
  • Step 3: Train relevant management and staff. Training should be given to managers, supervisors, and workers and their representatives, particularly those that will have a more active role in investigation, facilitation, and decision-making
  • Step 4: Track all grievances and reports of wrongdoing lodged by workers or community members
  • Step 5: Launch an internal investigation into the lodged grievances, hold a grievance hearing process, and communicate the outcome
  • Step 6: Remedy. Where grievances are found to be based on legitimate complaints, take appropriate remediation action, meaning, take appropriate action to resolve or find a solution to the complaints.

Grievance Mechanisms

A grievance mechanism is a system which provides employees and other stakeholders a clear, standardised, reliable and safe way to report grievances, which are complaints of unfair treatment. This system is set up to not only record grievances but also to provide remedy for them.

A grievance mechanism typically takes the form of an internal procedure that addresses any of a broad range of employee concerns and potential causes of complaints that can arise over the course of employment, such as unethical recruitment, workplace discrimination and sexual harassment, among other issues.

Grievance mechanisms can also be externally facing and provide an opportunity for customers and other stakeholders (such as labour organisations, civil society organisations and local communities) to lodge concerns about the business, its activities and products.

A grievance mechanism works effectively when employees and external stakeholders are given the platform to raise their grievances through a confidential channel without fear of victimisation and retaliation, and when those grievances are resolved transparently, fairly and promptly.

In order to be developed, maintained and handled effectively, a grievance mechanism should reflect the principles of legitimacy, accessibility, transparency, equitability and predictability. In addition, a grievance mechanism should be rights-compatible, based on dialogue, and a source of continuous learning.

It should be stressed that the grievance mechanism should not impede access to judicial or administrative remedies.


Whistle-Blowing Mechanisms

A whistle-blowing mechanism is an early warning system for workers to report concerns of wrongdoing within a business. Wrongdoing refers to any unlawful or unethical activity or malpractice in a business. These include:

  • Criminal offences (this may include, for example, types of financial impropriety such as fraud, bribery and corruption)
  • Failure to comply with an obligation set out in law
  • Endangering of health and safety of individuals
  • Damage to the environment
  • Covering up wrongdoing in the above categories.

An effective whistleblowing mechanism enables employers to be aware of irregularities in the business and to take necessary corrective action, thus helping the business prevent potential negative escalations.

A key hindrance that businesses face in the fight against malpractices, such as bribery and corruption, is that employees are often too intimidated to blow the whistle although they may be obliged to do so as part of their employee contracts. Among the forms of retaliation feared by employees are dismissal, probation, punitive transfers, withholding of promotions, loss of status and benefits, reduction of pay and work hours, isolation, blacklisting and threats of such actions.

To protect whistle-blowers, companies should consider a whistle-blower’s right to confidentiality. This may include choosing to enable anonymous reporting.

When employees believe they will be supported by top management and do not fear retaliation, they are more likely to report wrongdoings.