Speak up (public interest disclosure)
- Policy statement
- Outcome of formal investigation - referral for consideration under the University's Disciplinary Procedure
- Data Protection
- Anonymous Disclosures
- False Allegations
- Disclosure to the appropriate external authorities/prescribed persons
- Monitoring and review of policy
- Review by date
- Related documents
- Key Contacts and Support
1. Policy statement
- The University exists for the public good and is committed to its principles of inclusion, collaboration, internationalism and environmental sustainability. It seeks to conduct its activities in a responsible way, taking into account the proper use of public funds, the requirements of funding bodies and the standards required in public life.
- The University recognises that, from time to time, individuals may have genuine concerns about an actual or potential danger, fraud or other illegal or unethical conduct.
- This policy seeks to encourage individuals to raise such concerns without fear of detriment and to provide a clear procedure for doing so. All disclosures (ie. the sharing of information relating to potential wrongdoing) will be acted upon promptly, sensitively, fairly and properly. All disclosures will be treated confidentially to the extent that this is compatible with a thorough investigation, where that is deemed to be necessary.
- This policy incorporates the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which was introduced to encourage individuals to raise concerns in a responsible way where they believe there is malpractice or wrongdoing and when they do so, to protect them from detriment.
- The Act sets out a framework for an individual to make disclosures about the following categories of suspected wrongdoing, provided that they reasonably believe it to be in the public interest to do so:
- criminal offences;
- failure to comply with legal obligations;
- miscarriages of justice;
- dangers to health or safety;
- dangers to the environment;
- deliberate concealment of any of the above categories
- It is expected that any disclosures will be raised internally under this policy in the first instance.
- This disclosure will be protected if the individual discloses it:
- to the University;
- in the course of obtaining legal advice;
- in certain circumstances, to a Minister of the Crown;
- to a 'prescribed person' (see section 14), provided they reasonably believe that the information and any allegation contained within it are substantially true and that the matter falls within that person's area of responsibility.
- to any person or body provided that a number of detailed conditions are satisfied (see section 14). Those conditions include a requirement that the individual does not make the disclosure for purposes of personal gain and a requirement that it is reasonable to make the disclosure in the circumstances.
- The Act provides legal protection to prevent individuals from suffering any detriment (including dismissal, disciplinary action, threats, unfavourable treatment or victimisation) for having made a 'protected disclosure' of information. The protection provided by the Act is not subject to any qualifying period of employment and so is referred to as a 'day one' right in employment law. Dismissal for making a protected disclosure will automatically be unfair.
- Any person victimising a member of staff for raising concerns under this policy will be subject to disciplinary action.
- This policy applies to all members of staff and those who are engaged to work in the University (referred to hereafter as individuals) and includes apprentices, interns, casual and temporary staff, agency workers, self-employed workers, contractors and suppliers, those with honorary contracts, work placements and visiting (but unpaid) researchers. The policy also applies to any students undertaking work in the University and to members of University bodies such as Council and committees.
- Council as the governing body and trustee board of the University is the approving body for this Policy and:
- seeks assurance from Audit and Risk Committee (which in turn takes such assurance from University Executive Board via the Chief Operating Officer) that the Policy is effectively communicated and enforced;
- specific lessons learned, systemic control weaknesses or litigation or court action which arise from concerns raised under this Policy will be reviewed by UEB to give assurance to the Audit and Risk Committee and, where required, the internal auditors or the OfS or other external regulator or authority.
- This policy and associated procedure are distinct from other internal policies and procedures specifically for dealing with complaints by staff connected with their terms of employment - these are dealt with under the University's Grievance Procedure. Some complaints may be more appropriately dealt with under the University's Dignity at work and study policy.
It is not intended to be used to re-open or review a matter already dealt with under other policies or procedures or to question or reconsider financial or business decisions taken by the University. The purpose of this policy and procedure is to assist individuals who believe they have discovered serious wrongdoing in the University.
- This policy and associated procedure does not cover Research Misconduct, which is dealt with specifically under the University's Research Misconduct Policy and Procedure
- Where an employee has a concern in relation to a breach of any of the following policies, they may use the Speak Up policy to raise these concerns: Anti-Bribery Policy, anti-money laundering policy, Health Safety and Welfare Policy Statement, Dignity at Work and Study Policy, Slavery and human trafficking statement
- In line with the Office for Students (OfS) Regulatory Framework and Condition of registration F3: Provision of information to the OfS, it is possible that a concern raised and investigated under this Policy may constitute a Reportable Event to the OfS. The Designated Officer should seek the advice of the University Secretary and the internal protocol on assessing Reportable Events.
- The aim of this policy is to enable and encourage individuals to raise matters of concern (referred to hereafter as "disclosures") that an individual reasonably believes is in the public interest at a high level within the University, so that they may be investigated and, where appropriate, acted upon.
- All concerns raised by an individual will be treated fairly and properly and no individual raising such concerns will suffer any detriment, including unfavourable treatment such as harassment or bullying from their employers or fellow employees.
- It is expected that individuals associated with the University will not disclose confidential information about its activities. Where an individual discovers evidence of wrongdoing, the University will ensure that they may speak freely to the Designated Officer to report the matter. Where a concern relates to the Vice-Chancellor and President, an individual should raise it with the Chair of Audit and Risk Committee, and the Chair of Council (copying in the University Secretary as Secretary to Council). The Chair of Council then becomes the Designated Officer, but may delegate any detailed enquiry or investigation.
- An individual may seek to resolve any issues of concern informally by bringing these to the attention of their line manager or another senior colleague either within or outside their department to enable swift, appropriate action as part of the day-to-day good practice of the University. Alternatively, an individual may seek to resolve an issue of concern by raising this with HR Operations. Any concerns should be raised promptly so that they may be resolved as soon as possible.
- The University would generally expect individuals to initially consider whether an informal route would be sufficient to deal with any concerns.
- Process flowchart
- Making a Disclosure
- When an individual considers that their concerns (which meet the criteria in 1.5 above) have not been appropriately dealt with informally or their concern:
- is about their line manager
- is about the department or
- is so serious that it should be considered at a more senior level in the University, that concern should be raised under this policy and procedure.
- Where an individual considers that it may be necessary to make a disclosure under this policy and procedure, and that disclosure fulfils one of the criteria in 1.5 above, the disclosure should be made either verbally in a telephone call or face-to-face discussion or in writing to the Designated Officer (as detailed below). If the disclosure is made verbally, the Designated Officer will make a file note of it and may - depending on the nature of the disclosure - designate an alternative senior officer in the University to deal with any disclosures made under this policy and procedure.
- An individual raising a concern under this policy and procedure should make this clear and should provide sufficient information and detail to enable the concern to be meaningfully considered by the Designated Officer.
- When an individual considers that their concerns (which meet the criteria in 1.5 above) have not been appropriately dealt with informally or their concern:
- The University's Response to a Disclosure
- The Designated Officer will acknowledge receipt of the disclosure and will consider whether the matter disclosed provides sufficient grounds for proceeding further. The Designated Officer may bring the disclosure to the attention of and/or seek advice from the Vice-Chancellor, one of the Faculty Deans, the Finance Director, the Director of Human Resources, the Director of Health and Safety, the Director of Planning and Risk and/or such other relevant person as the Designated Officer deems necessary for the proper consideration of the disclosure.
- Any individual named or implicated in a disclosure will not be involved in investigating or deciding on a resolution to it. For example, if a disclosure involves or implicates the Designated Officer, the disclosure should be made to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor. The general principle will be that such a disclosure will be dealt with by an alternative manager of at least equivalent seniority to the individual implicated in the disclosure where possible.
- If the Designated Officer does not have sufficient information to determine whether or how the matter should proceed, they may appoint an Investigating Officer to undertake a brief preliminary enquiry to ascertain whether there is a prima facie case to be considered further. The outcome of the preliminary enquiry will be reported to the Designated Officer (normally within 10 working days) who will then decide on appropriate next steps.
- Following consideration of the disclosure (and any preliminary enquiry that may have been conducted) the Designated Officer may:
- Determine that a full investigation should be conducted in accordance with the procedure detailed below.
- Decide that the matter should be considered under a different University policy and procedure. The discloser will be advised of this decision and the disclosure will be referred to the appropriate manager to take any further relevant action.
- Refer the matter to appropriate external authorities/prescribed persons.
- Determine that no further action should be taken and the Designated Officer will inform the individual of this decision.
- If the Designated Officer considers that the disclosure should be investigated (excluding any preliminary enquiry) they may appoint a manager to conduct the investigation - the Investigating Officer.
- The Investigating Officer will be selected based on the nature of the disclosure. The Investigating Officer will not be involved in other procedures which may be invoked as an outcome of any investigation under this policy and procedure.
- The scope of the investigation will be determined by the Investigating Officer who may be supported by an HR Adviser.
- Investigations will be conducted as sensitively and efficiently as possible, whilst having regard to the nature and complexity of the disclosure and any additional accessibility needs of the parties involved.
- The intended timetable for the investigation will be notified to the individual making the disclosure. In order to seek to protect the identity of the parties concerned, those participating in the investigation will be reminded of the need to maintain strict confidentiality at all stages of the procedure.
- The individual making the disclosure will be assured that strict confidentiality of their disclosure will be maintained and told what action, if any, is to be taken. Feedback will also be given during the course of any investigation arising as a result of the disclosure. However, it may not be possible to disclose the precise action to be taken where this would infringe a duty of confidentiality owed to another person.
- Where an allegation is made against a named individual, they will normally be informed of the allegation and any supporting evidence, and they will be given a right to respond to any allegations. The point at which this will occur will depend on the specific nature of the case. Where such disclosure would jeopardise the ability of the University, the police or other independent investigator to conduct a proper investigation, the individual(s) against whom the disclosure is made may not be told prior to an initial investigation.
- If an allegation is made under the Speak Up policy which it is considered to be so serious as to warrant suspension, this should be invoked in line with the University's Disciplinary Policy.
- The Investigating Officer may interview and/or seek a written statement from the individual who made the disclosure and any other individuals who they consider to be relevant to the investigation including anyone named in the disclosure. Any individual being interviewed under this policy and procedure may be accompanied to an investigatory interview by a colleague or trade union representative, who will also be bound by a duty of confidentiality.
- When the Investigating Officer has concluded the investigation, they will provide a report with their findings to the Designated Officer. The Designated Officer will determine what action, if any, should be taken in the circumstances. This may include the initiation of other University procedures, reference to an external third party or no further action.
- No individual involved in the conduct of an investigation, or in deciding action following a disclosure under this policy and procedure, will form part of any subsequent disciplinary panel.
7. Outcome of formal investigation - referral for consideration under the University's Disciplinary Procedure
- On consideration of the Investigating Officer's report, if the Designated Officer considers that any individual against whom allegations have been made has a disciplinary case to answer, they will discuss this with HR Operations and a senior member of the University who has not previously been involved will be appointed to consider the case under the University's Disciplinary Procedure.
- In accordance with the Disciplinary Procedure the formal investigation report will be provided to the senior member of staff who will consider whether they have sufficient information and evidence to proceed straight to a disciplinary hearing or whether additional information is needed.
- If more information is needed, this will be sought prior to a hearing taking place. Once all the evidence is available, the senior member of staff will convene a Disciplinary Hearing in accordance with the Disciplinary Procedure.
- When the disciplinary procedure has been completed including - if appropriate - the issue of a formal sanction, the outcome will be notified to the Designated Officer who may consider if any further actions are necessary.
- The individual who made the disclosure may be informed of the outcome of the investigation and any planned remedial action, noting that it may not be possible in all cases, for example where there are data protection considerations.
- A report of all disclosures made under this policy and procedure, and any subsequent action taken, will be prepared by the Designated Officer who will retain such reports for a period of 6 years. In all cases, a report of the outcomes of any investigation will be made to the Vice-Chancellor in such terms as are deemed appropriate.
- Appeals may be made in writing to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, stating the grounds for the appeal and providing supporting evidence.
Grounds for appeal may include where:
- There is evidence of procedural irregularity, or
- There is evidence of prejudice or bias, and/or
- There is further evidence that was not available at the time the original disclosure was made.
- All disclosures made under this policy and procedure will be treated in a sensitive and, where possible, confidential manner. If necessary, the identity of the individual making the disclosure will be kept confidential for as long as possible, provided that this is compatible with an effective investigation. The investigatory process may have to reveal the identity of the individual making the disclosure and they may be requested to make a statement and/or attend an investigatory interview as part of the process.
10. Data Protection
- When an individual makes a disclosure, the University will process any personal data collected in accordance with its data protection policy. Data collected from the point at which the individual makes the report is held securely and accessed by, and disclosed to, individuals only for the purposes of dealing with the disclosure.
10. Anonymous Disclosures
- Individuals making a disclosure are expected to identify themselves, as disclosures raised anonymously can be significantly more difficult to address. The University may investigate anonymous disclosures depending on the seriousness of the issue, the credibility of the concern, any prejudice to those named in an anonymous disclosure and the likelihood of being able to investigate the matter and confirm the allegation from alternative sources.
- It should be noted that the ability to provide appropriate feedback and protect against detriment will depend on the University knowing the identity of the individual making a disclosure.
10. False Allegations
- Individuals who - it is believed on reasonable grounds - knowingly make malicious, vexatious or false allegations may be subject to disciplinary or other appropriate action.
- However, individuals who make allegations that turn out to be unfounded, will not be penalised for being genuinely mistaken.
10. Disclosure to the appropriate external authorities/prescribed persons
- It is anticipated that the University's Speak Up policy and procedure will, in providing a route for individuals to report any genuine concerns about possible malpractice internally, decrease the likelihood of allegations of possible malpractice being taken outside the University.
- However, individuals may disclose alleged wrongdoing or malpractice to certain specified bodies in circumstances where the alleged wrongdoing or malpractice falls within that body's remit. A number of bodies have been prescribed for this purpose, including HM Revenue and Customs, the Health and Safety Executive, the Serious Fraud Office, the Environment Agency, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Information Commissioner and the Food Standards Agency. Individuals may also disclose to a Member of Parliament any matter that is disclosable to one of these bodies.
- An individual who makes a qualifying disclosure to a prescribed person or body will be protected by the legislation so long as they reasonably believe that the allegations of wrongdoing are substantially true. A list of prescribed persons and bodies to whom an individual can make a protected disclosure can be found in the government guidance Blowing the whistle to a prescribed person: list of prescribed people and bodies; the independent whistleblowing charity, Protect, also operates a confidential helpline and has a list of prescribed regulators for reporting certain types of concern; their contact details are at the end of this policy. The OfS also has a notification mechanism by which concerns about teaching quality, academic support and university management can be raised directly with the OfS.
- An individual can make a disclosure (and still retain protection under the Act) to a non-prescribed person if certain conditions are met, namely:
- they reasonably believe the information is substantially true;
- they are not making the disclosure for personal gain;
- and it is in the public interest in order for it to be a protected disclosure as per the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act
- and, in all the circumstances, it is reasonable for the individual to make the disclosure
The individual must also:
- reasonably believe that they would be subject to a detriment by the employer if they made the disclosure directly to the employer or a prescribed person;
- reasonably believe that the employer would conceal or destroy evidence if the disclosure were put directly; or
- have previously made the same disclosure to the employer or a prescribed person to no avail.
A brief table of the key areas of activity and the role-holder with overall responsibility.
|Chief Operating Officer||The Chief Operating Officer or alternative senior officer considering a disclosure is referred to as the Designated Officer.|
|University Council Chair
|Acts as the Designated Officer where a concern relates to the Vice-Chancellor and President, but may delegate any detailed enquiry or investigation|
|Deputy Vice-Chancellor||Will hear appeals|
|Prescribed person||Specified bodies or people, external to the University, to whom individuals may disclose alleged wrongdoing or malpractice|
Endorsed by: UEB 21 June 2022 and ARC (expected) 14 July 2022
Approved by Council: 27 July 2022
Implementation: 01 October 2022
17. Monitoring and review of policy
This policy will be reviewed every three years from the implementation date.
18. Review by date
19. Related documents
- Employment Rights Act 1996
- Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998
- Data Protection Act 2018
- General Data Protection Regulation (2016/679 EU)
- Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013
- OfS Reportable Events - Internal Review and Referral Requirement
- Grievance Procedure
- Research misconduct policy
- Dignity at work and study policy
20. Key contacts
|Designated Officer||Chief Operating Officer - Dr Joss Ivory
|Government Advice||Government advice on whistleblowers|
|Employee Assistance Programme||Access Health Assured
0800 028 0199
|Protect (Independent whistleblowing charity)||Helpline: 0203 117 2520
Protect Website an independent whistleblowing charity
- Approved on: 27 July 2022
- Last reviewed and updated: 1 October 2022