- The Employer are committed to the highest standards of openness, probity, and accountability.
- An important aspect of accountability and transparency is a mechanism to enable staff and other members of The Employer to voice concerns in a responsible and effective manner. It is a fundamental term of every contract of employment that an employee will faithfully serve his or her employer and not disclose confidential information about the employer’s affairs. Nevertheless, where an individual discovers information which they believe is likely to show serious malpractice or wrongdoing within the organisation then this information should be disclosed internally without fear of reprisal, and there should be arrangements to enable this to be done independently of line management (although in relatively minor instances the line manager would be the appropriate person to be told).
- Legal protection is given to employees against being dismissed or penalised by their employers as a result of publicly disclosing certain serious concerns. The Employer has endorsed the provisions set out below to ensure that no members of staff should feel at a disadvantage in raising legitimate concerns.
- It should be emphasised that this policy is intended to assist individuals who believe they have discovered malpractice or impropriety. It is not designed to question financial, or business decisions taken by theEmployernor should it be used to reconsider any matters which have already been addressed under harassment, complaint, disciplinary or other procedures.
- As a whistleblower,you’re protected from being subjected to a detriment if you are:
- a worker.
- revealing information of the right type by making what is known as a ‘qualifying disclosure’.
- revealing it to the right person and in the right way making it a ‘protected disclosure’.
- ‘Worker’ has a special and wide meaning for these protections. As well as employees it includes agency workers and people who aren’t employed but are in training with employers.
- To be protected, you need to make a qualifying disclosure.
- You need to reasonably believe that the disclosure is being made in the public interest and that malpractice in the workplace is happening, has happened or will happen.
- Disclosures which can be characterised as being of a personal rather than public interest will not be protected.
- The types of malpractice the law covers are:
- criminal offences.
- failure to comply with a legal obligation.
- miscarriages of justice.
- threats to people’s health and safety.
- damage to the environment.
- The law also covers a deliberate attempt to cover-up any of these.
- It’s important to remember, however, that you may not be protected if you break another law in blowing the whistle.
- For your disclosure to be protected by law, you must make it to the right person and in the right way.
- If you make a qualifying disclosure to your employer, or through procedures which your employer has authorised, the law protects you.
- You can also complain to the person who is responsible for the area that is of concern to you. For example, you might raise concerns about health and safety with your health and safety representative.
- For a disclosure to a ‘prescribed person’ to be protected, you must fulfil the following requirements:
- reasonably believe that the information is substantially true.
- reasonably believe you are making the disclosure to the right ‘prescribed person’.
- In certain circumstances you can also make disclosures to others. These include disclosures:
- to your legal adviser
- to a government minister
- ‘in other cases’ to others such as a professional standards body.
- However, there are different sets of rules as to when each of these disclosures will be protected. For example, the rules covering disclosures ‘in other cases’ are extremely strict, among other things, you must not be acting for personal gain.
- If you’re unsure, you should always get professional advice before you go ahead and make a disclosure.
- Anything you say to a legal adviser to get advice is automatically protected.
- As a whistleblower,you’re protected from being subjected to a detriment if you are:
AIMS OF THE POLICY
- This Policy is designed to ensure that you can raise your concerns about wrongdoing or malpractice within our organisation without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination, disadvantage, or dismissal.
- It is also intended to encourage and enable you to raise serious concerns within our organisation rather than ignoring a problem or ‘blowing the whistle’ outside.
- This Policy aims to:
- encourage you to feel confident in raising serious concerns at the earliest opportunity and to question and act upon concerns about practice.
- provide avenues for you to raise those concerns and receive feedback on any action taken.
- ensure that you receive a response to your concerns and that you are aware of how to pursue them if you are not satisfied.
- reassure you that you will be protected from possible reprisals or victimisation if you have made any disclosure in good faith.
RAISING A CONCERN
- There are a number of ways in which an employee can raise a concern within our organisation. This can be done face to face, in writing or by telephone.
- Line managers play an important role in supporting employees and can help with resolving concerns swiftly or escalating through the appropriate channels where necessary. Line managers are aware of the services that The Employerhave to offer and can help employees to access those that may be useful. They can also signpost to other external services that may be appropriate.
- Employees should raise their concern with a more senior manager if they feel unable to approach their line manager, they feel their line manager may be involved or where they have already done so and do not feel appropriate action has been taken to resolve the concern.
RAISING A CONCERN EXTERNALLY
- The Employer recognise there may be matters that cannot be dealt with internally and external authorities will need to become involved. Where this is necessary,The Employer reserve the right to make such a referral without an individual’s consent.
- In the majority of instances, you should use the internal informal or formal procedures outlined below to express your concerns. There may, however, be exceptional or urgent circumstances where you consider it appropriate to contact an external agency. Such agencies could include: the Serious Fraud Office, the Crown Prosecution Service, police forces, the Financial Conduct Authority the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform, Designated Professional Bodies (ICAEW,ICAS,ICAI, IPA, Law Society), Recognised Supervisory Bodies, Recognised Professional Bodies, the Panel on Takeovers and Mergers, the Society of Lloyd’s, the Bank of England, local authorities, the Charity Commission for England and Wales, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator and HM Revenue & Customs.
- If you feel the need to obtain general advice or feel unsure as to whether you should raise an issue under this policy, before doing so, you may contact the independent charity, Public Concern at Work www.pcaw.co.uk (0207 404 6609 or [email protected]). They provide free, confidential legal advice on whistleblowing matters. However, remember you are not permitted to disclose any confidential information to them.
- The identity of the individual raising the disclosure will be kept confidential, if so requested, for as long as possible, provided that this is compatible with a proper investigation.
- In view of the protection afforded to an individual raising a genuine concern, it is considered desirable that they disclose their name. However, there may be special or unusual circumstances where an individual considers it necessary to make an anonymous disclosure.
- Where an anonymous disclosure occurs, the disclosure will be accepted and treated equally with those bearing a name. Anonymous claims can at times be more difficult to investigate as there is not the option to seek further information during investigation, and claimants cannot be contacted to discuss the outcome, however this should not act as a barrier to making an anonymous disclosure if the individual feels that this is the best course of action for them.
HOW WE WILL DEAL WITH YOUR CONCERN
- The Employerwill always respond to your concerns. Do not forget that testing out your concerns is not the same as either accepting or rejecting them.
- Where appropriate, the matters you raise may:
- be investigated by Managers, internal audit or through the disciplinary process;
- be referred to the police;
- be referred to the external auditor;
- form the subject of an independent inquiry.
- In order to protect individuals and those accused of misdeeds or possible malpractice, initial enquiries will be made to decide whether an investigation is appropriate and, if so, what form it should take. The overriding principle is the protection of public interest. Concerns or allegations which fall within the scope of specific procedures (for example grievance or sexual harassment) will normally be referred for consideration under those procedures.
- Some concerns may be resolved by agreed action without the need for investigation. If urgent action is required this will be taken before any investigation is conducted.
- As soon as possible after a concern has been received, the Manager with whom you raise your concern will refer it to a senior staff member and you will be written to (in confidence) within 10 working days:
- acknowledging that your concern has been received;
- indicating how wepropose to deal with the matter;
- giving an estimate of how long it will take to provide a final response;
- telling you whether any initial enquiries have been made;
- supplying you with information on staff support mechanisms; and
- telling you whether further investigations will take place and if not, why not.
- The amount of contact between the Managers/Directors considering the issues and you will depend on the nature of the matters raised, the potential difficulties involved and the clarity of the information provided. If necessary, The Employer will seek further information from you.
- Where any meeting is arranged, which can be away from the offices or your place of work if you so wish, you can be accompanied by a union or professional association representative or a friend.
- The Employer will take steps to minimise any difficulties which you may experience as a result of raising a concern. For instance, if you are required to give evidence in criminal or disciplinary proceedings, The Employerwill arrange for you to receive independent legal advice about the procedure.
- The Employer accept that you need to be assured that the matter has been properly addressed and so subject to legal constraints, will inform you of the outcome of any investigation.
CONFIDENTIALITY AND ANONYMITY
- Normally, the best way to raise a concern is to do so openly, as this makes it easier for us to investigate and provide feedback.
- Any disclosures made under this procedure will be treated in a sensitive manner. The Employerrecognise that the employee may want to raise a concern in confidence, i.e. they may want to raise a concern on the basis that their name it is not revealed without their consent.
- The Employerwill respect any request for confidentiality as far as possible, restricting it to a ‘need to know basis’. However, if the situation arises where it is not possible to resolve the concern without revealing the employee’s identity (for example in matters of criminal law), The Employer will advise the employee before proceeding. The same considerations of confidentiality should be afforded to the employee(s) at the centre of the concern, as far as appropriate.
- Employees may choose to raise concerns anonymously, i.e. without providing their name at all. If this is the case, the investigation itself may serve to reveal the source of information.
- Employees are therefore encouraged, where possible to put their names to concerns raised. However, raising a concern anonymously is preferred to silence about potential serious wrongdoing.
- When anonymous concerns are raised, they will be treated as credible, unless they are obviously a hoax, and investigated so far as possible.
HARASSMENT OR VICTIMISATION
- The Employer are committed to good practice and high standards and to being supportive of you as an employee.
- The Employer recognise that the decision to report a concern can be a difficult one to make. If you honestly and reasonably believe what you are saying is true, you should have nothing to fear because you will be doing your duty to your employer, your colleagues and those for whom you are providing a service.
- The Employer will not tolerate any harassment or victimisation of a whistleblower (including informal pressures) and will take appropriate action to protect you when you raise a concern in good faith and will treat this as a serious disciplinary offence which will be dealt with under the disciplinary rules and procedure.
- If you make an allegation in good faith and reasonably believing it to be true, but it is not confirmed by the investigation, The Employerwill recognise your concern and you have nothing to fear. If however, you make an allegation frivolously, maliciously or for personal gain, appropriate action that could include disciplinary action, may be taken.
REPORTING BY NON-EMPLOYEES
- Whilst the majority of disclosures will be made by employees, there is scope within the legislation for non-employees to raise whistleblowing concerns. This may include customers, partners, volunteers, or other persons. Members of the public may also feel they wish to pursue a matter they feel is in the public interest
- The procedure will not differ from that of an employee.
- It is worthy of mention that non- employees may not follow the procedure as prescribed and may take other routes to disclosure; as such it is important to be vigilant when considering or taking into any account any complaint made by individuals who are not directly employed by or associated with The Employer.