Press release

NAVEX Global’s 2021 Incident Management Benchmark Report Reveals Dramatic Shift as a Result of COVID-19 Disruptions

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NAVEX Global®, the leader in integrated risk and compliance management solutions, announces the results of its 2021 Incident Management Benchmark Report. The annual report tracked and analyzed corporate compliance trends based on data from more than 1.3 million global incident management reports from over 54 million employees in 2020.

The total report volume in this year’s annual incident management benchmark analysis decreased from the previous year; from 1.4 reports per 100 employees in 2019 to 1.3 in 2020. This decline is primarily attributed to pandemic-related events, such as an increase in unemployment rates and many companies’ move to have employees work remotely. While the decrease in reporting was primarily experienced in April and May of 2020 when many businesses were shut down, reporting levels did not return to the pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year.

Conversely, reports delivered directly to regulators, such as the SEC and OSHA, increased in 2020. For example, year-over-year OSHA reports increased by 30% between February and May 2020. Of these, 39% were directly related to COVID-19. Similarly, the SEC received a record number of what the agency refers to as “whistleblower tips” in 2020; more than 6,900.

“The impact of the events of 2020 on workplace culture will be felt for years to come. Our latest report further validates that expectation,” said Carrie Penman, Chief Risk and Compliance Officer, NAVEX Global. “As we emerge from the remote work situation caused by COVID-19 and people begin to return to the workplace, risk and compliance professionals will need to be especially focused on employee health, both physical and mental. And noting the decline in reporting levels, it’s more important than ever that employees report their concerns so management can stay ahead of workplace issues. This may require organizations to take a different approach to employee awareness of their internal reporting options.”

While overall volumes decreased, not surprisingly, the percentage of environment, health and safety (EHS) reports more than doubled at the start of the pandemic. As of December 2020, EHS reporting remains elevated, accounting for 17% of all reporting compared to the 2019 median of 7%. By the summer, COVID-related fraud, waste and abuse drew increasing attention, potentially leading to the 39% increase observed in business integrity reports.

In contrast, internal reports of retaliation, which were already very low, dropped below 1% of all reports received. While reports on harassment and discrimination issues have been decreasing since the height of the #MeToo movement in 2018, this drop is notable when considered against the focus on social justice issues during the past year.

The events of 2020 also accelerated some trends already in motion. For example, online reporting increased by 7% and telephone reporting fell by 9%. In 2020, nearly half of all reports were made via a web-based reporting option. This continuation is likely attributed to generational changes within the workplace, with digital channels increasing among younger employees, but could also be a factor of the remote working environment.

Analysis of the 2020 reporting data also revealed several findings genuinely unique to this past year:

  • The compliance function performed well during a very challenging period. The median number of days to close cases decreased by 13% versus the year before even though organizations shifted to remote investigations, and case substantiation rates remained steady at pre-pandemic levels.
  • The average time gap between when an incident occurred and when reported increased by 33%. This gap was most pronounced in accounting, auditing, and financial reporting, where the gap increased by more than 125% from 16 days to 36 days. This delay suggests organizations may want to do more to ensure employees feel comfortable reporting issues even if working remote.
  • Increased use of internal reporting systems tracked with external world events and social trends. Internal reporting mirrored the COVID-19 infection and mortality rates, both up and down, spiked with the news of COVID-related corruption scandals.

To learn more about the NAVEX Global’s 2021 Incident Management Benchmark Report, register for the webinar, taking place on Monday, April 19 at 10 a.m. PDT/1 p.m. EDT. The full report will be available in May.

About NAVEX Global

NAVEX Global is the worldwide leader in integrated risk and compliance management software and services. Our solutions are trusted by thousands of customers around the globe to help them manage risk, address complex regulatory requirements, build corporate ESG programs and foster ethical workplace cultures. For more information, visit NAVEX Global’s website and our Risk & Compliance Matters blog; follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.