Speak Up (Whistleblowing)
policy and procedure

Contents

  1. Policy statement
  2. Scope
  3. Aims
  4. Principles
  5. Procedure
  6. Investigation
  7. Outcome of formal investigation
  8. Reports
  9. Appeals
  10. Confidentiality
  11. Anonymous disclosures
  12. False allegations
  13. Disclosure to the appropriate external authorities/prescribed persons

1. Policy statement

1.1: The University is committed to the highest standards of honesty, openness and accountability in the pursuit of its strategic aims and ambitions. 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.

1.2: The University recognises that, from time to time, individuals may have genuine concerns about an actual or potential risk, fraud or other illegal or unethical conduct.

1.3: This policy seeks to reassure individuals that it is acceptable and safe for them 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.

1.4: This policy incorporates the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which was introduced to encourage employees 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.

1.5: The Act provides legal protection to prevent individuals from being penalised - for example by dismissal or victimisation - as a result of making a qualifying disclosure; a dismissal for making such a disclosure is automatically unfair. A qualifying disclosure is one made in the public interest by an individual who has a reasonable belief that one of the following has been (in the recent past), is being, or is likely to be committed:

  • A criminal offence
  • A failure to comply with a legal obligation
  • A miscarriage of justice
  • An act creating risk to health and safety
  • An act causing damage to the environment
  • Deliberate concealment of any of the above

This would include less favourable treatment because of any of the "protected characteristics" specified in the Equality Act 2010 in respect of which discrimination in employment is unlawful, namely: sex, being married or in a civil partnership, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, race, religion or belief, age and disability.

The purpose of the legislation is to encourage employees to raise their concerns through appropriate channels rather than, for example, publishing them in the media.

1.6:  It is expected that any disclosures will be raised internally under this policy in the first instance.

1.7: A disclosure is protected if made to the employer or to a person in the organisation whom the worker believes to be responsible for the wrongdoing, to a legal adviser, or to a prescribed person or body.


2. Scope

2.1: This policy applies to all members of staff and those who are engaged to work in the University and includes apprentices, interns, casual and temporary staff, agency workers, self-employed workers, contractors and suppliers, those with honorary contracts, work placements, 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.

2.2: 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 within under the University’s Code of Practice on Harassment.
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.

2.3: This policy and associated procedure does not cover research misconduct, which is dealt with specifically under the University’s Research Misconduct Policy and Procedure.

2.4 Material adverse events: In accordance with the HEFCE memorandum of assurance and accountability, the Vice Chancellor as the University's Accountable Officer must report any material adverse event without delay such as a significant and immediate threat to the University's financial position, significant fraud (defined as fraud of £25,000 or higher) or impropriety or major accounting breakdown to all of the following:

  • Chair of the University's audit commitee
  • Chair of the University's governing body
  • Unitersity's head of internal audit
  • External auditor
  • HEFCE chief executive

3. Aims

3.1: The aim of this policy is to enable and encourage individuals to raise matters of concern (referred to hereafter as ‘disclosures’) that are 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 will suffer any detriment for raising concerns under this policy.


4. Principles

4.1: 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. The Registrar and Secretary is the University’s Designated Officer. Where a concern relates to the Vice Chancellor, an individual should raise it with the Chair of Council who then becomes the Designated Officer.

4.2: 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 the appropriate HR Partner or Adviser. Any concerns should be raised promptly so that they may be resolved as soon as possible.

4.3: The University would generally expect individuals to initially consider whether an informal route would be sufficient to deal with any concerns.

4.4: Individuals who make protected disclosures will be kept informed of the progress of any investigations at appropriate stages throughout the course of an investigation.


5. Procedure

5.1: Making a disclosure

5.1.1: 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
  • the department or
  • the concern 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.

5.1.2: 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 University Registrar. If the disclosure is made verbally, the Registrar will make a file note of it. The Registrar 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. The Registrar or alternative senior officer considering a disclosure is referred to as the Designated Officer.

5.1.3: 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.

5.2: The University’s response to a disclosure

5.2.1: 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 the Vice Chancellor, one of the Faculty Deans, the Director of Finance and/or the Director of Human Resources.

5.2.2: 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.

5.2.3: 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.

5.2.4: 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 an appropriate body external to the University, for example, the Health and Safety Executive, the Commissioners for HM Revenue and Customs, the Environment Agency and the Serious Fraud Office
  • Determine that no further action should be taken and the Designated Officer will inform the individual of this decision.

6. Investigation

6.1: If the Designated Officer considers that the disclosure should be investigated (excluding any preliminary enquiry) they may appoint a manager to conduct an investigation – the Investigating Officer.

6.2: 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.

6.3: The scope of the investigation will be determined by the Investigating Officer who may be supported by an HR Partner.

6.4: Investigations will be conducted as sensitively and speedily as possible, while having regard to the nature and complexity of the disclosure.

6.5: 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.

6.6: The Designated Officer will inform the individual making the disclosure of what action, if any, is to be taken. This information will be regarded as strictly confidential and may not be disclosed to third parties unless with the express consent of the Designated Officer.

6.7: 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.

6.8: 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.

6.9: 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. A refusal to participate in an investigatory interview may lead to disciplinary action.

6.10: 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.

6.11: Where a disclosure leads to the institution of formal disciplinary proceedings, if necessary, there shall be full disclosure of the name of the discloser - on the basis of who needs to know and in the overall context of confidentiality - the nature of the allegation(s) and the available evidence to the individual against whom the allegation has been made to enable them to have the opportunity to respond to the allegation.

6.12: 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

7.1: 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 the relevant HR Partner 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.

7.2: In accordance with the Disciplinary Procedure “Point 5. Investigation”, 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.

7.3: Where a disclosure leads to the institution of formal disciplinary proceedings, if necessary, there shall be full disclosure of the name of the discloser – on the basis of who needs to know and in the overall context of confidentiality - the nature of the allegation(s) and the available evidence to the individual against whom the allegation has been made to enable them to have the opportunity to respond to the allegation.

7.4: 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 “Point 6. Disciplinary Hearing”.

7.5: 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.


8. Reports

8.1: 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 three 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.


9. Appeals

9.1: If the individual making the disclosure is dissatisfied with the response to the disclosure, appeals may be made in writing to the Vice Chancellor, stating the grounds for dissatisfaction which may cover the following and providing supporting evidence:

  • 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.

10. Confidentiality

10.1: 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.


11. Anonymous disclosures

11.1: 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.

11.2: 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.


12. False allegations

12.1: Individuals who, on the basis of the evidence available, it is believed on reasonable grounds, knowingly make malicious, vexatious or false allegations may be subject to disciplinary or other appropriate action.

12.2: However, employees who make allegations that turn out to be unfounded will not be penalised for being genuinely mistaken.


13. Disclosure to the appropriate external authorities/prescribed persons

13.1: It is anticipated that the University’s Speak Up policy and procedure will, in providing a route for employees to report any genuine concerns about possible malpractice internally, decrease the likelihood of allegations of possible malpractice being taken outside the University.

13.2: However, employees 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. Employees may also disclose to an MP any matter that is disclosable to one of these bodies.

13.3: An employee 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 employee can make a protected disclosure can be found in the guidance published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills:

Blowing the whistle to a prescribed person: list of prescribed people and bodies

13.4: An employee can make a disclosure (and still retain protection under the Act) to a non-prescribed person if certain conditions are met, namely:

  • the employee reasonably believes the information is substantially true;
  • the employee is not making the disclosure for personal gain; and, in all the circumstances
  • it is reasonable for the employee to make the disclosure

The employee must also:

  • reasonably believe that he or she would be subject to a detriment by the employer if he or she 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.

 

Document Control

Title:
Speak Up policy and procedure
Applicable to:
All staff groups
Last reviewed:
November 2015
Procedure owner:
Human Resources