Whistleblowing policy

1. Overview

HOS is committed to ensuring high standards of conduct in all that it does. It is important that employees know what to do if they come across something that they think is fundamentally wrong, illegal or endangers others within HOS or the public. The whistleblowing procedures will guide employees through the process of raising a concern, which is sometimes referred to as ‘blowing the whistle’.

The reporting of wrongdoing under the whistle blowing procedure may be covered by the law concerning protected disclosure of information. The procedure has therefore been written with reference to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), which offers protection to those in both the private and public sectors who ‘blow the whistle’ in certain circumstances. All staff, at any time, have a statutory right to express concerns under the (PIDA).

It is important that the whistle blowing procedure is followed when raising any concerns, to ensure that the matter is dealt with correctly. Where a concern is properly raised under this procedure, the individual will be protected from any unfair or negative treatment. As set out in this procedure, employees can raise concerns through a number of internal routes and can also approach the Chair of HOS’s Audit and Risk Assurance Committee directly.

2. Policy principles

The following principles underpin this policy:

• employees are encouraged to raise any concerns they may have about wrongdoing as soon as they notice it;
• employees raising a concern will be afforded protection as detailed in the procedure;
• all genuine concerns will be handled responsibly, professionally and in a positive manner; and
• help and support will be available to employees where concerns are raised under the Whistleblowing Procedure.

If you have any queries about this policy please contact the Director of Finance & Corporate Performance.

Annex A – Whistle blowing procedure

This procedure outlines what THO employees should do when reporting perceived wrongdoing within the organisation e.g. fraud or mishandling casework.

If an employee is asked to do something, or is aware of the actions of another, which they consider to be wrongdoing, they can raise the matter using this procedure. The employee must have a reasonable belief that raising the concern is in the public interest.

Employees should not act in bad faith or raise malicious, vexatious or knowingly untrue concerns. Those who raise concerns with a reasonable belief that raising the concern is in the public interest, will be given protection under this procedure.

This procedure should not be used to raise concerns of a personal nature, for example, complaints relating to a management decision or terms and conditions of employment. These matters should be dealt with using relevant alternative procedures. Equally, this policy would not apply to matters of individual conscience where there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by HOS but an employee is, for example, required to act in a way which conflicts with a deeply held personal belief.

If you are unsure whether a concern should be raised using the whistleblowing procedure, please speak to your line manager or the Director of Finance & Corporate Performance.

Whistle blowing procedure flow chart

Raising a concern

If an employee experiences something in the workplace which they perceive to be a wrongdoing, it is important that the concern is raised straight away. Proof is not required as this is HOS’s responsibility. The employee must, however, have a reasonable belief that disclosing the information is in the public interest before raising a concern.

It is important to follow the correct procedure when raising a whistleblowing concern. The following steps should be adhered to:

  • the concern should, in most instances, be raised with the Line Manager
  • there may be certain rare occasions, however, when this would be inappropriate because, for example, the concern:
    • may implicate the Line Manager in some way;
    • is particularly serious and needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency; or
    • is about a senior manager within the line management chain or somewhere else in HOS.

In these cases refer to the flowchart for the appropriate course of action. Colleague may also wish to raise matters outside of the line management chain with a male rather than a female. In these instances, they should contact the Finance Manager.

Where a concern has already been raised within the line management chain, but the employee feels that is has not been adequately addressed, they can raise the concern with the Director of Finance & Corporate Performance or the Ombudsman.

If an employee has used this procedure to raise a concern within HOS and does not receive what they consider to be a reasonable response, they may raise the concern with the Chair of the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee. If an employee is still not happy they can contact a prescribed person (see contact list in Annex B).

External disclosures

It is important that concerns are raised internally at the earliest time possible. This will enable HOS to address and resolve any concerns quickly and by the most appropriate means. HOS is confident that there are sufficient internal avenues available to deal with any concerns raised.

Raising a concern outside the prescribed routes listed in this procedure, for example, with the media, campaign groups, on social media or with political parties, is protected by PIDA only in very limited circumstances and could, if it amounts to an unauthorised disclosure, result in disciplinary action.

Information needed to raise a concern

When raising a concern under the procedure an employee should try to provide the following information:
• the background and reason behind the concern;
• whether they have already raised a concern with anyone and the response; and
• any relevant dates.

This information should demonstrate that there are reasonable grounds for the concern to be acted upon. It is important that matters are not investigated by employees themselves. Remember, proof is not needed, just a reasonable, honest belief that wrongdoing, has or is likely to occur.

If applicable, personal interests must be declared from the outset.

HOS appreciates that this might be a difficult time for employees, who may feel uncertain about how to progress a concern. Support is available at all stages of the process is available from Public Concern at Work.

How the concern will be handled

All investigations will be conducted sensitively and as quickly as possible. While HOS cannot guarantee that the outcome will be as the employee may wish, it will handle the matter fairly and in accordance with this procedure.

Once a concern has been raised, a meeting may be arranged to determine how the concern should be taken forward. This may involve an internal inquiry or a formal investigation. HOS will establish who will be dealing with the matter and a written confirmation will be sent to the employee within 5 working days of the concern being raised.

If a meeting is arranged, the employee may wish to be accompanied by a trade union representative or a colleague who is not involved in the area of work to which the concern relates. The meeting can be conducted over the telephone rather than face-to-face.

HOS will aim to update the employee on the progress of the concern within 28 days where possible. However, in the event of a formal investigation or the involvement of police/security, it may not be possible or appropriate to provide full details.

HOS will confirm when the matter is concluded and, if appropriate, the outcome of the investigation, maintaining security and confidentiality for all parties as far as possible.

Throughout any investigation, the employee will still be expected to continue their duties/role as normal unless deemed inappropriate.

Confidentiality and anonymity

Normally, the best way to raise a concern is to do so openly, as this makes it easier for HOS to investigate and provide feedback.

Any disclosures made under this procedure will be treated in a sensitive manner. HOS recognises that the employee may want to raise a concern in confidence, i.e. they may want to raise a concern on the basis that their name it is not revealed without their consent.

HOS will respect any request for confidentiality as far as possible, restricting it to a ‘need to know basis’. However, if the situation arises where it is not possible to resolve the concern without revealing the employee’s identity (for example in matters of criminal law), HOS will advise the employee before proceeding. The same considerations of confidentiality should be afforded to the employee(s) at the centre of the concern, as far as appropriate.

Employees may choose to raise concerns anonymously, i.e. without providing their name at all. If this is the case, the investigation itself may serve to reveal the source of information.

Employees are therefore encouraged, where possible to put their names to concerns raised. However, raising a concern anonymously is preferred to silence about potential serious wrongdoing.

When anonymous concerns are raised they will be treated as credible, unless they are obviously a hoax, and investigated so far as possible. Where concerns cannot be validated, the Director of Finance & Corporate Performance must be informed for future reference.

Protection

If an employee follows the correct procedures when raising a concern they will not be penalised. If a concern is raised in the reasonable belief that it is in the public interest and procedures have been followed correctly, the employee raising the concern will be protected. Where an employee has been victimised for raising a concern, HOS will take appropriate action against those responsible.

Annex B – Prescribed Persons

The Comptroller and Auditor General of the National Audit Office

The Comptroller and Auditor General
National Audit Office
157-197 Buckingham Palace Road
Victoria
London SW1W 9SP

Tel: 020 7798 7999