Application of Policy
Project 6 has a range of policies which may apply to different categories of people.
- An employee is any person under a current contract of employment with Project 6 including temporary, sessional and fixed-term contracts.
- An agency worker is any person supplied to work with Project 6 through an employment agency.
- A secondee is any person working with Project 6 under a formal secondment agreement between Project 6 and another organisation.
- A trainee is any person working with Project 6 on the basis of a formal agreement between Project 6 and his/her university, college or other course provider.
- A volunteer is any person working with Project 6 under Project 6’s Volunteers’ Policy.
- A partnership worker is any person working with Project 6 on the basis of a formal partnership agreement between Project 6 and another organisation.
In addition to Project 6 employees, these ‘Whistleblowing Policy and Procedures’ apply to all the categories given above, as well as the Board of Trustees. Except where the context otherwise requires, references in this policy to an employee should be read as referring also to the other categories to whom the policy applies.
The application of this policy to any of the categories above who are not employees of Project 6 does not in any way confer on them employee status.
This policy has been written in the context of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1996.
Whistleblowing is an informal expression for raising concerns about malpractice within an organisation. It is in effect an early warning system.
The Public Interest Disclosure legislation offers protection to employees who ‘blow the whistle’ on malpractices within their organisation. This policy and procedure explains how Project 6 will enable employees to raise concerns and protect them when they do so. The policy also applies to Project 6 Trustees (who are not protected by the legislation).
This policy sits alongside other Project 6 policies such as the Procedures on Complaints (Working with Service Users Handbook), Disciplinary and Grievance; Equality and Diversity (Working for Project 6 Handbook) which deal with a variety of problems and set out processes for dealing with them. This is a brief summary of the distinctions between them:
- Complaints – when a member of the public has a complaint about the failure to provide a service, a poor standard of service, inappropriate action or behaviour.
- Disciplinary – covers any action or behaviour by the employee which can on reasonable consideration be regarded as falling below the standard which the employer has the right to expect (in many cases directly related to the employee’s work but this is not an exclusive test).
- Code of Conduct – outlines expected values/behaviour of staff and volunteers. Concerns are raised with Manager through Support and Supervision.
- Equality and Diversity – discrimination on the grounds of protected characteristics.
- Grievance – arises when an employee is aggrieved on any matter relating to his/her employment.
Whistleblowing is an informal expression for raising concerns about malpractice within an organisation.
When whistleblowing concerns are raised:
Vicki Beere, CEO Project 6: Vicki.Beere@project6.org.uk
All of us at one time or another have concerns about what is happening at work. Usually these concerns are easily resolved by talking to management or other colleagues. However, when they are about malpractice it can be difficult to know what to do or who best to speak to.
Employees are often the first to realise that there may be something seriously wrong but they may not express their concerns because they feel that speaking up would be disloyal or they may fear harassment or victimisation. In these circumstances it may be easier to ignore the concern rather than report what may just be a suspicion of malpractice.
Individuals may be worried about raising such issues or may want to keep the concerns to themselves, perhaps feeling it is none of their business or that it is only a suspicion. They may decide to say something but find that they have spoken to the wrong person or raised the issue in the wrong way and are not sure what to do next.
Project 6 is committed to the highest possible standards of openness, probity and accountability. In line with that commitment it expects employees and Trustees, who have serious concerns about malpractice to come forward and voice those concerns. It is recognised that most cases will have to proceed on a confidential basis.
Project 6 has introduced this procedure to enable individuals to raise their concerns at an early stage and in the right way. It would prefer that they raise the matter when it is just a concern rather than wait for proof. This document makes it clear that they can do so without fear of victimisation or harassment.
If something is troubling employees, which they think the organisation should know about or look into, this procedure should be used. If, however, employees are aggrieved about their personal position, they should use the Grievance Procedure (Working for Project 6 Handbook). This Whistleblowing Procedure is primarily for situations where the concerns are about the interests of others or of the organisation itself.
The aim of this policy is to implement Project 6’s obligations under the Public Interest Disclosure legislation by providing an effective system for employees and Trustees to raise concerns about malpractice within Project 6.
Project 6 actively wants and expects employees and Trustees to raise concerns about malpractice; and will not tolerate the victimisation of anyone who uses the whistleblower procedure.
Project 6, its Chief Executive and Board of Trustees are committed to this policy. Employees who raise a genuine concern under this policy will not be at risk of losing their job or suffering any form of retribution as a result. Provided they are acting in good faith, it does not matter if they are mistaken. Of course, this assurance is not extended to someone who maliciously raises a matter they know is untrue (see Disciplinary Offences).
Project 6 will not tolerate the harassment or victimisation of anyone raising a genuine concern. However, it is recognised that individuals may nonetheless want to raise a concern in confidence under this policy. If anyone asks for their identity to be kept confidential, it will not be disclosed without consent unless Project 6 is specifically required to do so, for example by a court or tribunal. If in other circumstances the concern cannot be resolved without revealing the person’s identity, the designated officer will discuss with them whether and how to proceed.
Concerns expressed anonymously are much less powerful but will be considered, taking into account factors such as:
- The seriousness of the issues raised.
- The credibility of the concern.
- The likelihood of confirming the allegation from attributable sources.
If individuals do not identify themselves, it will be much more difficult to look into the matter or to protect their position or to give them feedback. Accordingly, while anonymous reports will be considered, this policy is geared towards situations where individuals identify themselves.
Who can use the policy
All employees, the categories set out in ‘The Application of this Policy’ and the Board of Trustees are entitled to use this policy and procedure.
What is covered by the policy
This policy and procedure will apply in cases where individuals genuinely and in good faith believe that one of the following sets of circumstances is occurring, has occurred or may occur within the organisation whether at employee or Governance level:
- A criminal offence.
- A failure to comply with any legal obligation.
- A miscarriage of justice.
- Health and safety risks, including risks to the public as well as other employees.
- Damage to the environment.
- Damaging breaches and abuses of Project 6’s own Code of Conduct.
- 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.
However, employees will not be protected from the consequences of making such a disclosure if, by doing so, they commit a criminal offence.
If any disclosure by an employee is made in bad faith (for instance in order to cause disruption within Project 6), 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 and may constitute gross misconduct for which summary dismissal may be the sanction.
Project 6’s Disciplinary Procedure includes the following offences related to this policy:
- Deterring anyone from using the Whistleblowing Procedure.
- Bullying, isolating or otherwise victimising anyone who uses the whistleblowing policy in good faith.
- Maliciously raising false concerns.
- Concealing or destroying information about malpractice.
How the matter will be handled
Once a concern has been notified, the designated officer will look into it to assess initially what action should be taken. This may involve an internal inquiry or a more formal investigation. The designated officer will explain who is handling the matter, how to contact them and whether further assistance may be needed. If the individual requests, the designated officer will summarise the concern in writing and set out how it is proposed to handle it.
An employee who raises a concern may be asked to suggest how the matter might best be resolved. If the employee has any personal interest in the matter, this should be stated at the outset. If the concern falls more properly within the Grievance Procedure the employee will be informed of this.
While the purpose of this policy is to enable the organisation to investigate possible malpractice and take appropriate steps to deal with it, as much feedback as can properly be given will be passed on to the individual who raises a concern. If requested, SASS’s response will be confirmed in writing. Please note, however, that it may not be possible to give the precise action taken where this would infringe a duty of confidence owed to someone else.
How to raise a concern internally
If employees have a concern about malpractice, it is hoped that they will feel able to raise it first with the designated officer, orally or in writing. If the matter concerns the designated officer, it should be raised with the CEO or the Chairperson orally or in writing.
- The Designated Officer or the Chief Executive may refer to Project 6’s Chairperson any matter which they are unable to resolve satisfactorily.
- It does not restrict either the right of employees to raise concerns externally under the legislation.
- Individuals are encouraged to raise their concerns in writing, setting out the background and history of their concerns (giving Project 6 dates and places where possible) and indicating the reasons for their concerns. Employees may invite a trade union representative or friend to be present during any meetings or interviews about the concerns they have raised.
If this procedure has been followed and the individual still has concerns or feels that the matter is so serious that it cannot be discussed with any of the above, it may be raised directly:
Anyone who is unsure whether to use this procedure or who wants independent advice at any stage, may contact:
- If applicable, their union, or
- The independent charity Public Concern at Work on 020 74046609 or visit http://www.pcaw.org.uk/ . Their lawyers can give free confidential advice at any stage about how to raise a concern about serious malpractice at work.
How to raise a concern externally
While Project 6 intends this policy to give individuals the reassurance needed to raise such matters internally, it recognises that there may be circumstances where they can properly report matters to outside bodies, such as regulators or the police.
- Guidance on the role of the Charity Commission: http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/supportingcharities/ogs/g079a001.asp#a4
- The health and Safety Executive protects people against health and safety risks at work: http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/contact.htm
Public Concern at Work (see above for contact details) or, if applicable, a union, will be able to advise on such an option and on the circumstances in which an outside body may be contacted safely.
If the individual reasonably believes that the matter relates wholly or mainly to the conduct of a person or body other than Project 6 or to any other matter for which a person or body other than Project 6 has legal responsibility, the disclosure should be made to that other person.
Such a disclosure may also be made to a legal adviser in the course of obtaining legal advice.
- If a concern is raised which appears to threaten the financial propriety of Project 6, (e.g. the Treasurer) Vicki Beere, CEO, must be informed by the designated officer.
- If a concern is raised which appears to affect the financial propriety of the Chief Executive, the designated officer must inform Project 6 Chair or a member of the board of trustees.
If employees are dissatisfied
An individual who is unhappy with Project 6’s response may go to the other levels and bodies mentioned in this policy. While Project 6 cannot guarantee to respond to all matters in the way that individuals might wish, it will try to handle the matter fairly and properly. By using this policy everyone will help to achieve this.