What Is Mandatory Reporting?

In certain situations, adults must report suspicions of abuse so that children can receive help.
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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 10 July 2014
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Mandatory reporting is a legal requirement that indicates that certain individuals in particular situations are required to report an event or issue to someone else. There are a number of ways this reporting can be handled, which often depends on particular situations and the type of reporting required. Some of the most common forms of mandatory reporting involve laws that require adults to report any signs of abuse with regard to children or the elderly, as well as requirements for hospital employees to report certain events. There are also reporting requirements for other situations, such as workplace reporting that may be mandatory.

In general, the term “mandatory reporting” can refer to any type of situation in which a person has a legal obligation to report an event or issue to authorities. One of the most common forms of this requirement is mandatory reporting laws in the US and other countries dealing with situations of abuse. These laws indicate that an adult, especially one in a position of responsibility such as teachers, doctors, and government employees, must report any situation in which they reasonably believe a child under the legal age of majority is the victim of abuse. In some states in the US this is extended to any adult who has a reasonable suspicion of abuse, or adults living with a child whom they believe to be the victim of abuse.


Mandatory reporting can also be extended beyond situations of abuse involving children. Many of these laws also require reporting by adults or workers in care facilities who have a reasonable suspicion of abuse involving the elderly or the mentally disabled. These types of mandatory reporting laws have met with some conflict, however, from those who have obligations to maintain the secrecy of information they are told by a child, such as religious officials and some medical workers. The reporting laws in many areas do not require that parents are notified of abuse, only law enforcement or government agencies established to protect children.

Other types of mandatory reporting can also be required by law or company policy in other situations. In many areas, for example, doctors and nurses are required to report to police the identity of any person who is treated for a gunshot wound. This is done to provide law enforcement personnel with potential suspects who may have been injured while fleeing police or to help ensure that an assault is properly reported to the police. Similarly, medical professionals are often required to report the suspected presence of a deadly and contagious illness or pathogen to government agencies so quarantine and testing procedures can be utilized.

There are also forms of mandatory reporting that may not be required by law, but are established through other means. Many businesses, for example, require that any employee who is witness to harassment or theft report the event to management immediately. Failure to make such a report may not necessarily result in legal action, but can often be grounds for termination of the employee who witnessed the misconduct without reporting it.


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