Many of us at one time or another will have concerns about what may be happening at work. Usually, these concerns are easily resolved. However, when they are about serious malpractice like financial irregularities, dangerous working conditions, discrimination or fraud, it can be difficult to know what to do.
You may be worried about raising such issues or may want to keep the concerns to yourself, perhaps feeling it's none of your business or that it's only a suspicion. You may feel that raising the matter would be disloyal to colleagues, managers or the University or give you concern about the response you may receive. You may want to say something but find that you have spoken to the wrong person or raised the issue in the wrong way. The fact is, if you do have genuine concerns about aspects of the University’s business, then your concerns must be our concerns also.
This procedure is therefore designed to enable you to raise your concerns about serious malpractice at an early stage and in a safe manner. We want you to raise the matter when it becomes a concern rather than wait for proof.
If in doubt - raise it!
This procedure applies to all employees, workers, contractors and students.
It should not be confused with other University policies and procedures, e.g. Grievance, Discipline, Equal Opportunities, Academic Appeals, and Complaints. This procedure should not be used to disclose a breach in an employee’s contract of employment. The Clerk to the Governing Council firstname.lastname@example.org will advise you of the appropriate procedure if required.
As this policy assures protection for those declaring a genuine concern, anonymous disclosures are discouraged as this makes it harder to fully investigate and follow up on the issues raised.
The law provides protection for those who raise legitimate concerns about specified matters. These are called "qualifying disclosures". A qualifying disclosure is one made in the public interest by a worker who has a reasonable belief that:
- a criminal offence;
- a miscarriage of justice;
- an act creating risk to health and safety;
- an act causing damage to the environment;
- a breach of any other legal obligation; or
- concealment of any of the above;
is being, has been, or is likely to be, committed. 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.
Examples of disclosures which may fall within these categories and so be covered by this Policy might include:
- financial malpractice, impropriety, fraud, bribery or corruption
- matters which require the University to liaise with the Police
- failure to comply with the requirements of Articles, Ordinances or Regulations of the University
- academic or professional malpractice
The Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) 1998 provides protection against being dismissed or penalised by employers as a result of disclosing information which is in the public interest where malpractice, wrongdoings or danger has been identified.
It is intended also to support employment agency workers and those with work experience, to come forward and report any concerns that they may have without fear of pressure of persecution. The PIDA applies only where the concerns expressed relate to the public interest only.
Guide to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-public-interest-disclosure-act.
How to proceed
Where you have a concern, we hope you will feel able to raise it with your line manager or through heads of colleges/departments, at official committees or through staff/student representatives including recognised trade unions as part of our normal business activities. If you feel unable to follow that route, for whatever reason, you should raise the matter in writing with the Clerk to the Governing Council. Where you feel that the Clerk may have a conflict of interest in the matter, then the issue should be raised in writing with the Vice-Chancellor or the Chair of the Governing Council. 'In writing' can include emails. The Clerk's and the general Governance email addresses are both set out at the end of this document.
Receipt of concern will be acknowledged by the University within 14 days.
What happens next?
Having alerted us to the concern, it is our responsibility to investigate the matter. The initial stage will be to discuss the matter with you and then assess what further action should be taken. We will ask you how you wish to see the concern resolved, and whether you would want to be told about how we will conduct the investigation. If the person approached feels that the concern can be resolved quickly, or in a straightforward manner, it will be brought to the attention of the appropriate manager. The procedure may lead to other processes being implemented such as the disciplinary procedure or investigations by the internal auditors. All steps taken will be documented in writing and retained for a period of three years.
Concerns raised under the procedure will be treated seriously and sensitively. Where it is practicable, immediate steps will be taken to remedy the situation. However, the final outcome may take longer depending on the issue that is raised.
We will make every effort to keep your identity confidential if you wish this to be the case. If this is not possible, for example, if you are asked to give evidence, you will be told and we will discuss the action with you. The earlier and more open the expression of a concern, the easier it will be to take action.
The University takes malpractice seriously. Staff have a responsibility to raise genuine concerns about dangers to public health and safety, fraud, maladministration or other serious malpractice. This is consistent with the duty of universities to conduct their affairs in a responsible and transparent way and to take into account the requirements of the Funding Councils and other regulatory bodies, together with the standards of public life enunciated in the reports of the Committee of Standards in Public Life (Neill Committee).
The Council will not tolerate harassment or victimisation of anyone raising a concern under the procedure in good faith, regardless of whether or not it proves well-founded. You also have the right not to be dismissed for making a protected disclosure.
What the Governing Council asks of you
The purpose of this procedure is to enable you to raise your concerns within the University in confidence without any fear of reprisal. We, therefore, ask that you bring your concern to us in the first instance to allow us to investigate the matter properly.
You may raise your concerns accompanied by a friend, who should be another member of the University (employee or student).
When raising your concern you must declare any personal interest you have in the matter.
Your employment with the University shall be fully protected unless the subsequent investigation indicates, that an allegation was made for malicious reasons and was without foundation. In these cases, separate disciplinary proceedings may be invoked against you.
At the end of the process
Where concerns have been raised, the person receiving them shall make a record of its receipt and the action subsequently taken. The results of the investigation will be reported to the Audit and Risk Committee and yourself. Sometimes, however, it may not be possible to reveal the full extent of the investigation.
You will be given an explanation where action is not taken.
The names of the officers at the present time are as follows:
- The Vice-Chancellor: Professor Kathryn Mitchell
- Chair of the Governing Council: Gurpreet Dehal*
- Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee: Simon Bolton*
*Contacted through the Clerk to Council, June Hughes: email@example.com or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you reasonably believe that the University has not addressed your complaint properly, you are able to report the matter to one of the authorities detailed below. Qualifying disclosures can be made to:
- HM Revenue & Customs
- The Financial Conduct Authority
- The Office of Fair Trading
- The Health and Safety Executive
- The Environment Agency
- The Director of Public Prosecutions
- The Serious Fraud Office
- Regulatory/Funding bodies, e.g. Office for Students (OfS)
- The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA)
For further advice, you can contact the independent organisation Protect on 0203 117 2520 or email using the online form at protect-advice.org.uk. There are a number of case studies on their website for examples of what whistleblowing is.