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Protected Disclosure Policy (Whistleblowing)

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 places a legal responsibility on everyone to ensure matters of serious public concern can be addressed.

The Council is committed to the highest possible standards of openness, probity and accountability and these have been incorporated into the Council's Key Values. In line with that commitment the Council has drawn up this Protected Disclosure Policy to ensure that employees with serious concerns about any aspect of the organisation's performance, management, standards or conduct should be able to voice those concerns.

1. General Principles

1.1. The Council recognises that you are often the first to realise that there may be something seriously wrong within the organisation. This policy seeks to encourage you to raise your concerns internally within the organisation rather than overlooking a problem. We are committed to enabling you to raise your concerns in an environment where there is no fear of harassment, victimisation or reprisals.

1.2 If your concern relates to a grievance about your personal position you should use our internal Grievance Procedure.

1.3 The Council realises that in certain circumstances some cases may have to proceed on a confidential basis.

1.4 This policy applies to all employees however the Public Disclosure Act also covers those contractors working for the Council on Council premises, for example, voluntary helpers, agency staff, builders, etc. It also covers suppliers and those providing services under a contract with the Council in their own premises. The term 'employee' used throughout this document is used to include all the above.

1.5 This procedure is in addition to the Council's complaints procedure and other statutory reporting procedures. The Council is responsible for making staff aware of the existence of this policy and related procedure.

1.6 To assist the implementation of this policy, the Council have commissioned the services of Expolink. Expolink provide an anonymous, confidential and free telephone service.

1.7 All employees will be given a leaflet and card with contact telephone numbers for Expolink.

1.8 If you are unsure whether or not to use this policy/procedure or if you need independent advice at any stage you can contact Public Concern at Work on 0207 404 6609 ( This independent charity can give free confidential advice at any stage about how to raise a concern about serious malpractice at work.

2. Aims and Scope

2.1 The aims of this policy are:

2.2 This policy does not replace the Council's Complaints Procedure (which is primarily so that people other than employees can raise concerns about their treatment by the Council) but should help where you need to raise matters of concern.

2.3 The Council has procedures in place to deal with your grievances relating to your employment or a complaint of harassment. This Protected Disclosure Policy is intended to cover concerns that may fall outside the scope of other procedures. These concerns may fall within the following list but it must be noted that this list is not exhaustive:

2.4 Under this Protected Disclosure Policy, you can report any concern you have about any aspect of the Council's service provision or conduct of others acting on behalf of the Council. This may be something that:

3. Safeguards

3.1 The Council recognises that your decision to report a concern can be a difficult one to make, not least because of the fear of reprisal from those responsible for the malpractice.

3.2 The Council will not tolerate harassment or victimisation (including informal pressure) and will take action to protect you when you raise a concern in good faith.

4. Confidentiality

4.1 When you raise a concern but do not want your name to be disclosed, the Council will do its best to protect your identity. However it is important that you are aware that a formal investigation process may require a statement by you to form part of the evidence.

4.2 One of the aims of this policy is to encourage you to put your name, with confidence, to any allegation whenever possible.

4.3 Concerns expressed anonymously will be considered but are much less powerful.

4.4 When considering anonymous allegations, a number of factors would be taken into account and may include:

5. Untrue Allegations

5.1 The Council recognises that there may be circumstances where you raise an allegation in good faith, which is not confirmed by an investigation.

5.2 The Council will take disciplinary action against an employee when it is proven that the allegation is malicious or vexatious.

6. Raising a Concern

6.1 The earlier you express your concern; the easier it is to take action.

6.2 As a first step, you should normally raise the concern with your manager. However, this depends on the seriousness and sensitivity of the issues and who is thought to be involved in the malpractice. For example, if you believe that a Director or others in management are involved, you should approach one of the following.

6.3 The Council has secured the services of Expolink, who will provide you with a confidential service dealing with 'protected disclosure' issues. You will be provided with information about Expolink together with contact telephone numbers.

6.4 Expolink will take measures to ensure that any allegation or claim made using their service is made in good faith and will report the allegation to specified officers within the Council. These officers will treat this information confidentially and will take appropriate action to investigate the allegations made.

6.5 When you raise a concern with your manager or other officer within the Council, you should be invited to set out the background and history of the concern in writing. Where possible this should include names, dates and places and the reason why you are particularly concerned about the situation. Where you feel unable to put the concern in writing, then a meeting should be arranged with an appropriate officer. You may invite your trade union representative or staff representative or friend/colleague

6.6 When raising a concern, you will need to demonstrate to the person contacted that there are sufficient grounds for concern. You are not expected to prove beyond all reasonable doubt the truth of an allegation.

6.7 If you would like independent advice on how to raise serious concerns constructively then you should contact Public Concern at Work. Their Helpline Number is 020 7404 6609. Public Concern has a number of years experience in providing independent confidential advice to individuals.

7. How the Council will respond

7.1 The action taken by the Council will depend on the nature of the concern. The matters raised may be:

7.2 To protect individuals, we will make initial enquiries to enable us to decide whether an investigation is appropriate and, if so, what form it should take. If an allegation or concern falls within the scope of other specific procedures it will be referred for consideration under those procedures.

7.3 Some concerns may be resolved by agreed action without the need for investigation. If urgent action is required, this will be taken before any investigation is commenced e.g. health and safety issues.

7.4 Where the concern/allegation is raised internally, the Council will acknowledge receipt within ten working days giving the following information:

7.5 The amount of contact between the manager, considering the issues, and you will depend on the matters raised, potential difficulties involved and the clarity of information provided. If there is a need for the manager to seek further clarity, you will be approached for further information.

7.6 If the manager wishes to meet with you, you may be accompanied by a union or professional association representative. Alternatively this may be a workplace colleague who is not involved in the area of work to which the concern relates.

7.7 If the need arises for you to give evidence in any proceedings, advice will be available to you from the Council.

7.8 The Council recognises the importance of assuring you that the issue has been properly addressed and, subject to legal constraints, you will be provided with information about the outcomes of any investigations.

8. Responsible Officer

8.1 The Director of Corporate Services, Governance & Scrutiny as Monitoring Officer has overall responsibility for the maintenance and operation of this policy. This officer maintains a record of concerns raised and the outcomes (but in a form that does not endanger your confidentiality) and will report as necessary to the Council.

9. How the matter can be taken further

9.1 This policy is intended to provide you with a mechanism to raise concerns within the Council or alternatively to use the impartial external provider Expolink.

9.2 If you are not satisfied, and feel it is right to take the matter outside the Council, some alternative contact points are:

9.3 If you decide to take the matter outside the Council, you need to ensure that you do not unnecessarily disclose confidential or privileged information. If in doubt you may need to seek legal advice before progressing.

9.4 Matters raised outside the Council may still ultimately have to be addressed within its normal procedures.

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