Public interest disclosure (whistleblower)
All organisations face the risk of things going wrong or of unknowingly harbouring malpractice. The Royal Star & Garter Homes has a duty to identify and remedy the situation.
By encouraging a culture of openness within the Charity the aim is to prevent such malpractice. The Charity wants to encourage all staff to raise issues, which concern them at work.
With the introduction of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 all employees now have legal protection from any form of retribution, victimisation or detriment as a result of publicly disclosing certain serious allegations of malpractice.
This policy is designed to give employees that opportunity and protection.
1. Where the policy will apply
This policy will apply in cases where an employee genuinely and in good faith believes that one of the following sets of circumstances is occurring, has occurred or may occur within the Charity:
- That a criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed
- That a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which he or she is subject
- That a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur
- That the health and safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered
- That the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged
- That information tending to show any matter falling within any one of the preceding paragraphs has been is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed.
The employee does not have to prove the malpractice or misconduct that they are alleging and may simply raise a reasonable suspicion.
An employee will not be protected from the consequences of making such a disclosure if, by doing so, they commit a criminal offence.
Employees will only be entitled to protection if the disclosure is carried out in accordance with the procedure.
2. How the disclosure will be handled
The complaint should be made orally or in writing, describing the incident(s) as fully as possible to the appropriate line manager.
Where the concern involves an employee’s line manager then the concern should be raised with the HR Department.
All complaints will be viewed seriously and treated confidentially. Care will be taken during an investigation to treat all employees involved with consideration.
Appropriate steps will be taken to ensure that the employee’s working environment and/or working relationships are not prejudiced by the fact of any disclosure.
An investigation will be conducted into the disclosure, and the person conducting the investigation will interview the person against whom the allegations are made, the complainant and any relevant witnesses. These interviews will be conducted in confidence. All parties to these proceedings can be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative.
The investigation should be concluded within 4 weeks of the disclosure being received. If this time limit is exceeded, the complainant should be advised of this and given a date when the investigation will end. The investigating person must keep a detailed written record of the investigation and the findings.
The complainant and the person(s) against whom the allegation has been made must be told of the findings by the investigating person and these findings must also be given in writing.
If the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome, or with the way in which the disclosure was handled, then a written request for reconsideration should be made to the Director of HR within 7 days of receiving the investigating person’s decision.
Once the investigation is completed, the manager who has conducted it will decide, on the strength of the findings, the appropriate action to be taken. This may include disciplinary action. If disciplinary action is justified, a disciplinary hearing will be arranged within 10 working days of either the decision of the investigating person, or if the matter was referred for reconsideration the decision of the Director of HR.
The employee against whom the allegation has been made will have the right to be accompanied at this hearing by a fellow employee or trade union representative, and will have the opportunity to challenge the evidence and to state his or her case. The hearing will be conducted in accordance with the Charity disciplinary procedure. Any disciplinary action taken will reflect the severity of the offence and may include dismissal. The employee may appeal against the penalty in accordance with the Charity’s appeals procedure.
3. Raising disclosures externally (exceptional cases)
The main purpose of this policy is to give individuals the opportunity and protection they need to raise their concerns internally. The Charity fully expects that in almost all cases raising concerns internally will be the most appropriate action for employees to take.
If for whatever reason, an employee feels that they cannot raise their concerns internally and honestly reasonably believes the information and any allegations are true, they should consider raising the matter with a prescribed regulatory or independent organisation who has an interest in the matter. Such regulatory organisations include the Care Quality Commission, Health & Safety Executive, the Financial Services Authority, Environment Agency, Inland Revenue and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Disclosures made to the employee’s legal advisor in the course of obtaining legal advice will be protected.
Alternatively, if an employee has good reasons for not using the internal or regulatory disclosure procedures described above, they may consider making wider disclosure by reporting the matter to the police or to the media, for example. However, employees who make wider disclosures of this type will only be protected from victimisation and suffering detriment in certain circumstances. In this situation the Charity strongly recommends that the employee takes legal advice before following this course of action.
4. Disclosures made in bad faith
Employees should be aware that the policy will apply here if the disclosure is made in good faith and where an employee reasonably believes that the information disclosed and any allegation contained in it are substantially true. If any disclosure is made in bad faith (for instance, in order to cause disruption within the Charity), or concerns information which the employee does not substantially believe is true, or indeed if the disclosure is made for personal gain, then such a disclosure will constitute a disciplinary offence for the purposes of the Charity’s Disciplinary Policy and Procedures and may constitute gross misconduct for which summary dismissal is the sanction.
While the Charity hopes that such disclosures will never be necessary, it also recognises that it may find itself in circumstances which are new to it. Each case will be treated on its own facts.