Skillcast provides compliance e-learning and compliance management solutions to hundreds of companies in the UK. To support our work, we conduct research gain insights into compliance and workplace practices across companies of all sizes and industry sectors in the UK.
Our UK Corporate Compliance Trends Survey 2020 revisited how well employees in UK workplaces are complying with regulatory standards and compared this to our findings in 2019. This study looks at a wide range of compliance issues from financial crime and HR to health and safety, but special focus on data protection and social media practices.
The results are based on a YouGov survey of 4,005 employees in the UK conducted on behalf of Skillcast in May 2020. This was twice our usual sample size since we've only used the responses from employees who are actively working despite the Covid-19 pandemic and have excluded those who have been furloughed or made redundant.
Compliance confidence mismatch
The results show that employees have a high degree of confidence in how well their companies are complying with regulations as they also did in 2019. However, yet again they report witnessing acts of misconduct that contradict their overall confidence.
The employees agreeing with the statement "I feel confident about my legal responsibilities in my job under data protection laws" went up from 83% to 89%.
The employees agreeing with the statement "I would fully trust my company with my personal data if I were its customer" went up from 78% to 87%.
When presented with examples of poor data protection practices, only 56% were able to categorically say that they had not witnessed any of these poor practices (slightly down from 57% in 2019).
Data protection risks
Some of the poor data protection practices that were witnessed most widely include:
- Sending emails to the wrong recipient – 23% of respondents report witnessing this, up from 17% in 2019
- Talking about customers with friends or family or gossiping or writing personal opinions also rose from 19% to 25%
- Leaving personal data on desks where others may see it or not disposing it in confidential waste bin fell from 28% to 24%, perhaps because of the lack of observability
Responsible use of social media
Next, we asked the employees about some of the poor social media practices in their companies. The figure categorically saying that they had not witnessed any the poor practices grew marginally from 69% to 71%.
Amongst the most prevalent bad practices were:
- Checking of a candidate's social media accounts before hiring - 12% of the respondents witnessing this in 2020 as against 10% in 2019
- A colleague posting inappropriate content on social media (e.g. pictures, offensive comments etc.) fell slightly to 6% from 7% in 2018
- A colleague complaining about my employer or senior managers on social media fell to 4% from 6%
- Monitoring of an employee's personal social media accounts fell to 4% from 7%
- Non-work-related disputes between colleagues online fell to 3% from 4%
General compliance breaches
Next, we asked the employees about compliance breaches that they have witnessed over the past 12 months across a broad spectrum of regulatory/legal obligations.
The number stayed in for categorically stating categorically that they had not witnessed any breaches rose from 67% to 76%. This could be an indication of improved compliance measures, or it may be influenced by employees working remotely.
- Health and safety misconduct fell from 16% in 2019 to 9% in 2020
- Discrimination and harassment decreased from 11% to 7%
- Internal fraud decreased from 3% to 2%
- Bribery incidents became insignificant from 1% in 2019
Finally, we asked employees how they would respond if they had any knowledge or suspicion of unethical acts by their colleagues. As in the previous year, most of the respondents said that they would report to their line manager, or report to compliance/senior manager or report via anonymous whistleblowing line. However, the figures for those reporting to compliance/senior manager and those reporting via anonymous whistleblowing line rose slightly, with corresponding falls in those stay they don't know or won't do anything.
Whilst both knowledge of data protection and trust in companies use of data showed slight improvement, there were reasons for concern. Remote-working has unsurprisingly taken a toll in terms of increased personal communication about customers to colleagues, friends and family. However, the increase in those sending emails to the wrong recipient has potentially the more dire legal and commercial consequences.
In terms of social media, the picture is more rosy with most bad practices declining with the exception of a very slight rise in those checking candidates profiles. Let's face it, a dim view is taken in the office if you are surfing Facebook, but at home - who can see!
In terms of witnessing breaches, again environment and observability appear to come into play. The areas showing a significant spike are health, safety, discrimination and harassment. If I am at home, I can only see my own environment, not colleagues falling off ladders or loose cables. Worse still, there is no-one around to see the allocation of demeaning work, the inappropriate comments and criticism delivered digitally whilst working at home.
To end on an optimistic note. It's encouraging to see that employees are more willing than ever to report their suspicions of unethical behaviour - to counteract a little the risks created during the pandemic.
Who carries out our fieldwork?
Our surveys are conducted by the international polling agency, YouGov. They cover a broad sample of small (under 50 employees), medium (50 to 249 employees) and large (over 250 employees) companies across business sectors, locations in the UK, and demographics.
YouGov panel methodology
YouGov conducts its public opinion surveys online using something called Active Sampling for the overwhelming majority of its commercial work, including all nationally and regionally representative research. The emphasis is always on the quality of the sample, rather than the quantity of respondents.
When using Active Sampling, restrictions are put in place to ensure that only the people contacted are allowed to participate. This means that all the respondents who complete YouGov surveys will have been selected by YouGov, from our panel of registered users, and only those who are selected from this panel are allowed to take part in the survey.
Find out more on the YouGov panel methodology page.
Need more help with working from home compliance?
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You can follow our ongoing YouGov research into compliance issues, attitudes and risk perceptions in the UK workplace through our Compliance Insights blogs.
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