DEFINITION OF WHISTLEBLOWING
The word “whistleblowing” in this policy refers to a disclosure made in good faith and in the public interest by Councillors & employees, of malpractice, illegal acts or omissions at work.
A whistle blower is a witness and not a complainant. Whistleblowing is not the same as making a complaint or raising a grievance, where an individual is saying they have been personally poorly treated. A whistle blower is usually not directly or personally affected by the matter concerned.
STATEMENT OF COMMITMENT
St Breock Parish Council is committed to achieving the highest possible standards of service and the highest possible ethical standards in public life and in all of its practices. As such, malpractice and wrongdoing are taken very seriously by the Council. St Breock Parish Council recognises that in many cases, the Council’s employees Councillors will be the people most likely to become aware of wrongdoing or malpractice. In light of this, the Council encourages its employee & Councillors to report Mal practice by Councillors, employee or ex employees mechanisms specified within this policy to report malpractice by its Members, employees or ex‐employees with confidence and without having to worry about being victimised, discriminated against or disadvantaged in any way as a result. Where Councillors/employee or Members are aware of or suspect malpractice, the Council expects them to report their suspicions. The Council will treat failure to report wrongdoing or malpractice as a serious matter.
St Breock Parish Council will not tolerate any harassment or victimisation of a whistle blower (including informal pressures),and will treat this as a serious disciplinary offence. Appropriate disciplinary action may be taken in accordance with the Council’s Disciplinary Procedure.
Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, workers who raise genuine concerns about a range of misconduct or malpractice at work have statutory protection against victimisation and dismissal. An employee who blows the whistle will be protected by the Act if the disclosure is made in good faith about any of the following:
- a criminal act
- failure to comply with a legal obligation
- miscarriages of justice • danger to health and safety
- any damage to the environment
- an attempt to cover up any of the above
A whistle blower will not be protected under the Act if they break the law when making a disclosure.
COVERAGE OF THIS POLICY
St Breock Parish Council has a range of policies and procedures in place to deal with standards of behaviour at work, including a Grievance Policy & Procedure & Disciplinary Policy. Councillors/Employee are encouraged to use the provisions of these procedures when appropriate. Service users should make complaints or raise concerns through the Complaints Procedure. Therefore, the Whistleblowing Policy and Procedure should not be used to deal with complaints that a Councillor, or an employee may have about their employment or position a Councillor. In most circumstances. The aim of the Whistleblowing Policy and Procedure is to enable employees/Councillors to report an issue if they feel that it cannot be done using the existing procedures, particularly if the matter is not about their role. Whistleblowing refers to issues that are of such importance that the public interest is served by reporting the issue. The following is a list of examples when this policy may be used (please note that this list is not exhaustive):
- any unlawful act, whether criminal or a breach of civil law, has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed
- suspected corruption or fraud
- disregard for legislation, particularly that of health & safety at work
- a breach of a code of conduct
- misuse of assets.
- causing damage to the environment
- breach of financial regulations
- showing undue favour over a contractual matter or to a job applicant
- breach of, or failure to implement or comply with any policy determined by the Council
- failure to take reasonable steps to report and rectify any situation which is likely to give rise to a significant avoidable cost, or loss of income, to the Council or would otherwise seriously prejudice the Council
- abuse of power, or the use of the Council's powers and authority for any unauthorised or ulterior purpose
- deliberately concealing information in relation to any of the items on this list. Whilst volunteers are not covered by the Public Interest Disclosure Act, this Council’s policy has been written to encompass Members and volunteers.
WHO A DISCLOSURE CAN BE MADE TO:
1. The Parish Council
The Public Interest Disclosure Act directs workers towards raising matters internally in the first instance, and to use internal whistleblowing policies. For a disclosure to be protected by law, a whistle blower must:
- make the disclosure in good faith
- reasonably believe that the information is substantially true
2. A Legal Advisor
A disclosure of information for the purpose of obtaining legal advice is protected.
3. Prescribed Person
Whilst the Parish Council strongly encourages disclosures to be made internally, if a whistle blower feels unable to use the procedure outlined within this policy, they can make a disclosure to other people/organisations as prescribed by government.
4. Wider Disclosures
A whistle blower would also be protected under the Act if they made wider disclosures, e.g. to a professional body, the Police or an MP, etc., if the whistle blower:
- makes the disclosure in good faith
- reasonably believes that the information is substantially true
- does not act for personal gain
- acts reasonably taking into account the circumstances In order to make a protected wider disclosure, the whistle blower must either:
- reasonably believe that the Council would treat them unfairly if they made a disclosure internally or to a prescribed person
- reasonably believe that an internal disclosure would result in the destruction or cover‐up of evidence.
- have previously disclosed the same or very similar information internally or to a prescribed person.
Confidentiality If the whistle blower requests confidentiality, the Council will not reveal the whistle blower’s name or position without their permission. It is, however, easier to pursue and verify complaints if the whistle blower provides his/her name. Unsupported, anonymous complaints and allegations will be treated with caution. There may be circumstances when the Council is legally obliged to disclose the name of a whistle blower, e.g. when ordered to by court. STBPC2020
Protection for Whistle blowers
If an employee/ Councillor raises a concern which they believe to be true, the Council will take appropriate action to protect the individual from harassment, victimisation and bullying. Employee/Councillors who raise a genuine concern under this policy will not be at risk of losing their position. However, a whistle blower will not be protected from the consequences of making a disclosure if, by doing so, they commit a criminal offence.
The Parish Clerk is the Designated Officer to be a point of contact for concerns raised under this procedure.
1. Raising a Concern
Whilst the whistle blower is not expected to prove the truth of an allegation or to investigate the matter themselves, the whistle blower should have a reasonable belief and some evidence to back it up before raising their concerns. Councillors/employee should contact the Designated Officer. The Designated Officer must take all concerns seriously. Where the concern is about the Designated Officer, the concerns should be reported to the Chairman of the Council to decide how the investigation will proceed. This may include an external investigation.
2. Employer’s /Councillors Response
Within ten working days, the Designated Officer will arrange an initial interview to ascertain the nature of the whistle blower’s concern. The interview will be confidential if requested by the whistle blower. The whistle blower has the right to bring a friend or union representative along with them. The friend must observe confidentiality. At this stage, the whistle blower will be asked whether he/she wishes his/her identity to be disclosed and will be reassured about protection from possible reprisals or victimisation. The whistle blower will be asked if they wish to make a written or verbal statement. In either case, the Designated Officer will write a brief summary (dated) of the interview, which will be agreed by both parties. The Designated Officer will be responsible for the commission of any further investigation.
The investigation may need to be carried out under strict confidentiality, i.e. the subject of the investigation will not be informed until, or if, it becomes necessary to do so. This may be appropriate in cases of suspected fraud. The Designated Officer will offer to keep the whistle blower informed about the investigation and its outcome. If the investigation finds that there is a case to be answered by any employee, St Breock Parish Council’s Disciplinary Procedure will be used. If the investigation identifies that there is no case to answer, but that the whistle blower held a genuine concern and was not acting maliciously, the matter will be closed. The Designated Officer will ensure that the whistle-blower suffers no reprisals or victimisation. If the investigation discovers that an employee has made false accusations with malicious intent, appropriate disciplinary action may be taken in accordance with the Council’s Disciplinary Procedure. If the concern raised is very serious or complex, it may be necessary for an inquiry to be held. The Designated Officer may refer the issue to the police or other agencies in serious cases.
4. Following the Investigation
The Designated Officer will arrange a meeting with the whistle blower within ten working days of the conclusion of the investigation in order to feedback any action taken. This will not include details of any disciplinary action, as this is confidential. If the whistle blower is not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation, the whistle blower may make disclosures to prescribed persons, or wider disclosures, under the conditions outlined in the section “Who a Disclosure Can be Made To”.
POLICY REVIEW The policy will be reviewed every four years. In the event that an incident of whistleblowing takes place, St Breock Parish Council will take the opportunity to examine its policy, procedures and working methods to see if they can be improved.
Adopted at the Parish Council Meeting held on November 11th 2020