Last Updated 27 Mar 2019 in Ways of Working
If you hear or see something that makes you uncomfortable, it’s important that you report it. The Whistleblowing Policy explains how you should do this.
Key points covered:
- The sorts of activities that should be reported
- The process for raising your concerns
- How concerns are investigated
If you have a problem and need someone to talk to, call our Employee Assistance Programme hotline on 0843 208 4568 or use our Speak in Confidence service.
The purpose of this Policy is to outline the Society’s process for Whistleblowing. All organisations face the risk of things going wrong or of unknowingly harbouring malpractice. All colleagues have statutory protection if they raise concerns in the right way.
This Policy is designed to give colleagues that opportunity and that protection. This Policy sets out a procedure by which colleagues can report any concerns that they may have.
This Policy applies to all colleagues; full-time and part-time colleagues on a permanent or fixed-term contract, and to associated persons, agency staff, contractors and others employed under a contract of service by the Society.
This Policy does not form part of any contract of employment and the Society may amend it at any time.
Disclose in confidence – the Society’s assurances to colleagues
The Society is committed to maintaining the highest standards of honesty, openness and accountability and we recognise that colleagues have an important role to play in achieving this.
Colleagues will often be the first to know when someone inside or connected with the Society is doing something illegal or improper but often, they may feel apprehensive about voicing their concerns. This may be because they feel that speaking out would be disloyal to their colleagues or the Society itself or it may be because they do not think their concerns will be taken seriously, or they are afraid that they will be bullied or dismissed.
The Society does not believe that it is in anyone’s interests for colleagues with knowledge of wrongdoing to remain silent. The Society takes all malpractice very seriously, whether it is committed by senior managers, colleagues, suppliers or contractors. This Policy sets out a procedure by which colleagues can report any concerns that they may have to the Society.
Individuals reporting concerns through this procedure, where they have reasonable belief of wrongdoing, will not be subject to retribution or detrimental treatment.
In addition, the Society will take every reasonable step to keep the colleague’s identity anonymous, if they so wish. However, there may be circumstances (for example, if the colleague’s report becomes the subject of a criminal investigation) where the colleague may be needed as a witness. Should this be the case, we will discuss the matter with the colleague at the earliest opportunity.
While the Society cannot guarantee that we will respond to concerns in the way that the colleague might wish, we will endeavour to handle the matter fairly and properly in line with this Policy.
The Society will ensures that the use and effectiveness of this procedure is monitored and evaluated on a regular basis. Please note that this procedure has been endorsed by NACO and USDAW.
When to use this Policy
There is a difference between whistleblowing and raising a grievance. Whistleblowing is where the colleague has a concern, for example, about a danger or an illegality that has a public interest aspect to it. A grievance or complaint generally relates to the colleagues own employment and does not have an additional public interest dimension.
Personal grievances and complaints (e.g. bullying, harassment or discrimination) are not generally covered by this Policy. Colleagues should refer to the Society’s Grievance Procedure, which can be found on Colleagues Connect here.
Examples of the type of concerns which are covered by this Policy are:
Criminal offences which have been, is being or is likely to be committed, except those offences which relate to bribery and fraud which should be reported using the procedure set out in the relevant separate Policy;
Failure to comply with any legal, professional obligations or regulatory requirements;
Miscarriages of justice;
Danger to the health or safety of any individual;
Damage to the environment;
The deliberate concealment of any of the above matters.
A whistleblower is a person who raises a genuine concern relating to any of the above. If colleagues have any genuine concerns related to suspected wrongdoing or danger affecting any of the Society's activities (a whistleblowing concern) they should report it under this Policy.
It will not always be clear that a particular action falls within one of these categories and colleagues will need to use their own judgement.
Colleagues will not be liable to disciplinary action for reporting their concerns, provided they have reasonable belief and are acting in the public interest. However, if colleagues make a false report, maliciously or for personal gain, then they may face disciplinary action.
The Society encourages colleagues to raise their concerns in the first instance internally to their Line Manager (or their Line Manager’s superior). However, the Society recognises that this will depend on the circumstances of the situation and who the colleague thinks is involved.
If colleagues do not feel comfortable making a report directly to their Line Manager, then they can instead report this to the Society’s Secretary & Head of Governance. Colleagues can either phone direct, leave a message on the confidential phone line (0800 458 7809) or write to them: email@example.com.
b) Independent Advice
If colleagues are unsure whether to use this procedure, or if they want independent advice at any stage, they can contact the independent charity Public Concern at Work on 0207 404 6609.
c) External Contacts
The aim of this Policy is to provide an internal mechanism for reporting, investigating and remedying any wrongdoing in the workplace. In most cases colleagues should not find it necessary to alert anyone externally. However, the Society recognises that there may be circumstances (for example, if the wrongdoing is extremely serious) where it may be appropriate for colleagues to report their concerns to an outside body, such as the Food Standards Agency, Police, National Crime Agency, HMRC, the Children's Commissioner or any other relevant body.
Public Concern at Work will be able to advise about this, and the ways colleagues can contact an outside body safely.
Colleagues may also approach Co-operatives UK, the network for Britain’s co-operatives businesses, if they wish to raise their concerns: https://www.uk.coop/contact.
Whistleblowing concerns usually relate to the conduct of our staff but they may sometimes relate to the actions of a third party such as a customer, supplier or service provider. In some circumstances the law provides protection if a colleague raises a concern with a third party directly. However the Society encourages colleagues to report such concerns internally first.
The Society hopes that colleagues will be able to raise whistleblowing concerns openly under this Policy. However, if a colleague wishes to raise concerns confidentially, the Society will make every effort to keep the colleague's identity anonymous. If it is necessary for the investigating officer to know the colleague's identity the Society will discuss this with the colleague first.
The Society does not encourage colleagues to make disclosures anonymously. Proper investigation may be more difficult or impossible if the Society cannot obtain further information from the whistleblower. It is also more difficult to establish whether the allegations are credible.
Whistleblowers who are concerned about possible reprisals if their identity is revealed should come forward to the Society's Secretary and Head of Governance, and appropriate measures can then be taken to preserve confidentiality.
If a colleague is in doubt, they can seek advice from the whistleblowing contacts outlined in this Policy.
How will concerns be investigated?
Once a colleague has raised their concern, the Society will need to make enquiries to decide whether a full investigation is necessary. If it is necessary, then depending on the nature of the reported concern, this will either be:
Investigated internally (by the Society Secretary, Internal Audit and Personnel Services Group), or
Referred to the appropriate external organisation (for example our external auditors, or the Police).
Subject to any legal constraints, the Society will let colleagues know the outcome of any action that is taken.
If a colleague has reported their concern in confidence, they may lose this privilege if the investigation is referred to an external body who may need further evidence from them.
What can colleagues do if they are unhappy with the way that the Society deals with their concerns?
The Society would prefer that the colleague raised their concern a second time explaining their reasons for doing so, and the Society will carry out a second investigation, if it is deemed appropriate.
However, it may be that the colleague does not think it is appropriate to report it a second time, in which case they may wish to raise their concern with an external organisation.
Colleagues are, of course, entitled to do so provided they genuinely believe they are acting in the public interest.
The Society strongly recommends that, before reporting a concern externally, colleagues seek advice from Union representatives or Public Concern at Work.
Colleagues may also talk to a lawyer, or to Citizens Advice.
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