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Survey: 82% of SME staff would shop boss

More than four-fifths of employees at SMEs would shop their boss for illegal or unethical practices in the workplace, according to new research.

The survey by BSA the Software Alliance said one in 10 staff claimed to be aware of illegal or unethical behaviour happing in their organisations right now.

The issues people are most likely to blow the whistle on are bullying (73 per cent), fraud (70 per cent), theft of company property (61 per cent), embezzlement (58 per cent), tax evasion (45 per cent) and failure to meet industry standards (44 per cent).

Another 38 per cent of employees said they would report their company for illegal or unethical IT practices, such as using or downloading unlicensed or counterfeit software

The report urged firms to review their business practices, as whistleblowing reports increased by 58 per cent in the past year, costing firms an average of £42,000.

Yet the survey found that despite growing publicity over whistleblowing, many businesses remain apathetic. More than half of respondents - 55 per cent - did not think their company has become more concerned about whistleblowing, despite the potential consequences being severe - last year, one SME had to pay £200,000 in damages for using unlicensed software.

Illegal or unethical behaviour can also affect recruitment, with 56 per cent of those surveyed saying they would be less willing to apply for a job with a business accused or found guilty of such 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 shows 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 or basic operational issues, such as using software that isn’t properly licensed, it's clear that businesses are flouting the rules and one in 10 UK SME employees admit to knowing that bad practices are going on in their organisations.

"Regardless of whether you're a small or large business, it's critical to ensure you are operating in a legal and ethical way day in, day out."

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