This policy applies to suspected wrongdoing by anyone working or volunteering on behalf of the organisation that is a matter of public interest. This applies to all employees, volunteers, Trustees and sub-contractors involved with the organisation, who will be referred to as ‘individuals’ from here on.
It is important that any fraud, misconduct or wrongdoing by staff or others working on behalf of the charity is reported and properly dealt with. We therefore require all individuals to raise any concerns that they may have about the conduct of others in the charity or the way in which the organisation is run. This policy sets out the way in which individuals may raise any concerns that they have and how those concerns will be dealt with.
1.1 Background: Qualifying Disclosure and protection for workers
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 amended the Employment Rights Act 1996 to provide protection for workers who raise legitimate concerns about specified matters in the public interest. These are called ‘qualifying disclosures’. A qualifying disclosure is one made by an employee who has a reasonable belief that any of the following is being, has been or is likely to be, committed:
- A criminal offence
- A miscarriage of justice
- An act creating risk to health and safety
- An act causing damage to the environment
- Breach of the Fundraising Code of Practice
- A breach of any other legal obligation
- Concealment of any of the above
The protection offered by Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) is available to all workers who work in the United Kingdom. The usual definition of worker has been expanded by PIDA and covers staff:
- Employed on a permanent or fixed term contract of employment;
- On secondment;
- On a temporary contract or employed through an agency to work for the organisation;
- An independent consultant;
- In training, work experience or apprentice;
- A volunteer; and
- Contractors and suppliers of services.
It is not necessary for you to have proof that such an act is being, has been, or is likely to be, committed – a reasonable belief is sufficient. You have no responsibility for investigating the matter – it is the charity’s responsibility to ensure that an investigation takes place.
If you make a protected disclosure you have the right not to be dismissed, subjected to any other detriment or victimised because you have made a disclosure. We encourage you to raise your concerns under this procedure in the first instance.
1.2 Whistle-blowing versus making a grievance or complaint
Whistle-blowing only applies if the matter affects the general public and so is considered to be in the public interest; the individual whistle-blower is not usually directly affected by the malpractice or illegality.
A grievance is usually about some aspect of the employee’s work circumstances that s/he is unhappy about and has no bearing on public interest. In such cases the grievance or disciplinary procedures should be followed.
A complaint is where the individual is not an employee and the matter is not one of public interest but one where the individual is directly affected. For example, a complaint about the way a service is delivered but not necessarily involving any illegal activity.
- Everyone should be aware of the importance of preventing and eliminating wrongdoing at work. Staff and others working on behalf of the charity should be watchful for illegal or unethical conduct and report anything of that nature that they become aware of.
- Any matter raised under this procedure will be investigated thoroughly, promptly and confidentially, and the outcome of the investigation reported back to the person who raised the issue.
- No employee or other person working on behalf of the charity will be victimised for raising a matter under this procedure. This means that the continued employment and opportunities for future promotion or training of the worker will not be prejudiced because they have raised a legitimate concern.
- Victimisation of an individual for raising a qualified disclosure will be a disciplinary offence.
- If misconduct is discovered as a result of any investigation under this procedure, our disciplinary procedure will be used, in addition to any appropriate external measures. Maliciously making a false allegation is a disciplinary offence and may also be subject to appropriate external measures.
- An instruction to cover up wrongdoing is itself a disciplinary offence and may also be subject to appropriate external measures. If told not to raise or pursue any concern, even by a person in authority such as a manager, you should not agree to remain silent. You should report the matter to the chief executive or the chair of the board of trustees.
This procedure is for disclosures about matters other than a breach of your own contract of employment, which should be raised via the grievance procedure.
In the first instance, any concerns should be raised with the chief executive, who will arrange an investigation of the matter. The investigation may involve you and other individuals involved giving a written statement. Any investigation will be carried out in accordance with the principles set out above. Your statement will be taken into account and you will be asked to comment on any additional evidence obtained. The chief executive will take any necessary action, including reporting the matter to the chair of the board of trustees and any appropriate government department or regulatory agency. The chief executive will also invoke any disciplinary action required. On conclusion of any investigation, you will be told the outcome and what the charity has done, or proposes to do, about it. If no action is to be taken, the reason for this will be explained.
If you are concerned that the chief executive is involved in the wrongdoing, has failed to make a proper investigation or has failed to report the outcome of the investigations to the relevant person, you should escalate the matter to the chair of the board of trustees. The chair will arrange for a review of the investigation to be carried out, make any necessary enquiries and make their own report to the board.
If on conclusion of stages 1 and 2 you reasonably believe that the appropriate action has not been taken, you should report the matter to the relevant body. This includes:
- the Disclosure and Barring Service
- the Police
- Local Authority Children’s and/or Social Services
- HM Revenue & Customs
- the Health and Safety Executive
- the Environment Agency
- the Serious Fraud Office
- the Charity Commission
- the Pensions Regulator
- the Information Commissioner
- the Financial Conduct Authority.
You can find the full list in The Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/496899/BIS-16-79-blowing-the-whistle-to-a-prescribed-person.pdf