Whistleblowing Policy & Procedure

Policy Statement

In any organisation, employees may be the first to realise when there is something seriously wrong. However, they may not express their concerns because they feel that speaking up would be disloyal to their colleagues or to the organisation.

They may also fear harassment or victimisation. In these circumstances, it may be easier to ignore the concern rather than to report what may just be a suspicion of malpractice. Raising a concern will not necessarily mean that a punitive approach will be taken by the organisation. It could, for example, be identified that poor practice is due to a training need.

BHT Sussex is committed to the highest possible standards of openness, probity and accountability. In line with that commitment, employees and others with serious concerns about any aspect of the organisation's work are encouraged to come forward and voice those concerns. It is recognised that certain cases will have to proceed on a confidential basis. This policy makes it clear that employees can do so without fear of reprisals.

BHT Sussex will protect employees from bullying, harassment or any form of victimisation. Such treatment of any employee will not be tolerated and will lead to disciplinary action, potentially resulting in dismissal. Employees are also protected by law which provides statutory rights to blow the whistle on wrongdoing at work.

This policy is intended to encourage and enable employees to raise serious concerns, whether related to their role or not, and within BHT Sussex or elsewhere, rather than overlooking a problem.

Throughout this policy and procedure, the use of the word ‘employee' refers to paid employees, volunteers, interns, members of the Board, and students on placement. The word is used for purposes of economy and does not imply or confer upon volunteers, interns, members of the Board or students on placement more general rights of employees, nor do they create or infer employee status.

Definition and scope

For the purposes of this policy, whistleblowing is defined as “incidents where an employee discloses an alleged wrongdoing within the organisation”.

This policy is concerned with issues about probity, honesty and accountability in the organisation. It is not intended to address grievances relating to individual employment for which a separate policy exists.

Specific attention is drawn to fundraising activities where, without the proper controls, charities have been known to lose money. Therefore, if any employee becomes aware of, or suspects that cash is being misappropriated, the Chair of the Board or the Chair of the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee must be alerted. Concerns can also be raised with the Fundraising Standards Authority.

Policy Objective

This policy aims to:

  • provide avenues for employees to raise concerns and receive feedback on any action taken
  • allow employees to take the matter further if they are dissatisfied with the response from BHT Sussex
  • reassure employees that they will be protected from reprisals or victimisation for whistleblowing in good faith

There are existing procedures in place to enable employees to lodge a grievance relating to their own employment. This Whistleblowing Policy is intended to cover issues of probity and honesty that fall outside the scope of other procedures.

Whistleblowing may cover a matter that:

  • is unlawful
  • is against the Standing Orders or policies of BHT Sussex;
  • falls below established standards of practice;
  • amounts to improper conduct;
  • concealment of any of the above.

Policy Standards

Harassment or Victimisation

BHT Sussex recognises that the decision to report a concern can be a difficult one to make, not least because of the fear of reprisal from those responsible for the malpractice. BHT Sussex will not tolerate harassment or victimisation, and will take action to protect employees when they raise a concern in good faith (see also the BHT Sussex Dignity and Respect at Work Policy).

This does not mean that, if an employee is already the subject of disciplinary or redundancy procedures, those procedures will be halted as a result of their whistleblowing.

Confidentiality

BHT Sussex will do its best to protect employee identity when a concern is raised and they do not want their name to be disclosed. It must be appreciated, however, that the investigation process may reveal the source of the information and that an employee statement may be required as part of evidence required for disciplinary or other proceedings.

Anonymous Allegations

This policy encourages employees to put their name to their allegation. Concerns expressed anonymously are much less powerful, but they will be considered at the discretion of BHT Sussex.

In exercising the discretion, factors to be considered would include:

  • the seriousness of the issues raised;
  • the credibility of the concern; and
  • the likelihood of confirming the allegation from attributable sources.

Untrue Allegations

If an employee makes an allegation in good faith, but it is not confirmed by the investigation, no action will be taken against the individual. However, if an employee makes malicious or vexatious allegations, disciplinary action may be taken against them. Where applicable, the student, intern or volunteering placement may be terminated.

Procedure

As a first step, employees should normally raise concerns with their immediate line manager. This can be done verbally or in writing. However, who concerns are raised with will depend on the seriousness and sensitivity of the issues involved, and who is thought to be involved in the malpractice. For example, if the employee believes that management is involved, they should approach the Chief Executive or the Director of Finance and Resources.

If the employee is dissatisfied with the response to their concern, they can escalate it to the Chair of the Board or the Chair of the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee, see the ‘Contact Information’ section below for details. Please also see below the ‘Further Steps’ section for additional information.

If the employee believes that either the Chief Executive or the Director of Finance and Resources is involved, the employee should approach the Chair of the Board or the Chair of the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee.

Concerns are better raised in writing. Employees are invited to set out the background and history of the concern, giving names, dates and places, where possible and the reason why they are particularly concerned about the situation. If the employee does not feel able to put their concern in writing, they may telephone or meet the appropriate officer. If this happens, it is normal that a note will be made of the conversation.

The earlier an employee expresses the concern, the easier it is to act.

Although employees are not expected to prove the truth of an allegation, they will need to demonstrate to the individual they have contacted that there are sufficient grounds for their concern.

Advice and guidance on how matters of concern may be pursued can be obtained from:

  • The Chief Executive
  • The Director of Finance and Resources
  • The Head of Human Resources & Learning and Development
  • The Human Resources Manager

Employees may invite their employee representative or professional association to raise a matter on their behalf.

Employees can also approach Protect (formerly Public Concern at Work) for confidential and independent advice. Contact details can be found below.

Response to concerns raised

The action taken by BHT Sussex will depend on the nature of the concern.  The matters raised may:

  • be investigated internally;
  • be referred to the Police or another enforcement agency;
  • form the subject of an independent inquiry, for example, by a regulator.

In order to protect individuals and BHT Sussex, initial enquiries will be made to decide whether an investigation is appropriate and, if so, what form it should take.

Some concerns may be resolved by agreed action without the need for investigation.

Within ten working days of a concern being received, BHT Sussex will write to the employee who raised the concern, if their identity is known:

  • Acknowledging the concern has been received;
  • Indicating how it proposes to deal with the matter;
  • Giving an estimate of how long it will take to provide a final response;
  • Stating whether any initial enquiries have been made; and
  • Advising whether further investigations will take place, and if not, why not.

The amount of contact between the officers considering the matter and the employee who raised the issue will depend on the nature of the issue raised, the potential difficulties involved and the clarity of the information provided. If necessary, further information will be sought.

When any meeting is arranged, an employee has the right, if they so wish, to be accompanied by a union or professional association representative or a friend who is not involved in the area of work to which the concern relates.

BHT Sussex will take steps to minimise any difficulties employees may experience as a result of raising a concern. For instance, if an employee is required to give evidence in criminal or disciplinary proceedings, BHT Sussex will advise them about the procedure.

BHT Sussex accepts that employees need to be assured that the matter has been properly addressed. Thus, subject to legal constraints, employees will receive information about the outcomes of any investigations.

Further Steps

This policy is intended to provide employees with an avenue to raise concerns within BHT Sussex and it is hoped that employees will be satisfied. If they are not, and if they feel it is right to take the matter outside BHT Sussex, the following are possible contact points:

  • BHT Sussex's Internal or External Auditors;
  • relevant professional bodies or regulatory organisations;
  • their solicitor;
  • the Police or another enforcement agency.

If an employee does take the matter outside BHT Sussex, they need to ensure that they do not disclose confidential information and that the disclosure would be privileged. It is advisable to check with the investigating officer about that.

The Responsible Officer

For the purposes of this policy, the responsible officer is the Chief Executive. They will have overall responsibility for the maintenance and operation of this policy. They will maintain a record of concerns raised and the outcomes (but in a form which does not endanger employee confidentiality) and will report as necessary to the Board.

Record Keeping

A record will be kept of each stage of the procedure.  The record will be signed and dated by the Chief Executive.  This will be placed on a Whistleblowing register held by the Chief Executive and will be retained for at least five years.

An annual report on the use of the Whistleblowing Policy will be presented to the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee.

Contact Information

The Chair of the Board is Joan Mortimer ([email protected]). This email address may only be used for whistleblowing purposes.

The Chair of the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee is Peter Freeman ([email protected]). Again, this email address may only be used for whistleblowing purposes.

Protect (formerly Public Concern at Work) can be contacted  at:

The Green House
244-254 Cambridge Heath Road
London
E2 9DA

Protect Advice Line: 020 3117 2520 (* option 1)
Business Support: 020 3117 2520 (*option 2)

Open Monday to Friday 9am-6pm.
The Advice Line is open on Mon, Tue, Thurs: 9:30am – 1pm, 2pm – 5:30pm; Wed, Fri: 9:30am – 1pm. Anyone in need of advice outside of those times can use the contact form.

Website: https://protect-advice.org.uk/