Policies

Whistleblowing
Policy

Aim 

This policy aims to help staff and volunteers to raise any concerns or incidences of  malpractice or omissions about The HelpLine with confidence and without having to worry  about being victimised, discriminated against, or disadvantaged in any way as a result. For  effective risk management, staff and volunteers need to be confident that they can raise  matters of concern without suffering any detriment. 

Whistleblowing can be an early warning system for The HelpLine. If employees or  volunteers voice concerns within the organisation rather than being forced to go to an external body, it means we can often tackle a problem before it becomes a crisis. 

Not dealing with problems early could have a devastating effect on The HelpLine with costly  fines, compensation, higher insurance premiums, damaged reputation, regulatory  investigation and lost jobs. 

This Whistleblowing Policy aims to provide a clear framework for action and constructive  problem solving in a reasonable, appropriate and controllable way for all employees and  volunteers of The HelpLine. 

The legislation 

In the UK, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 protects those who ‘blow the whistle’  about wrongdoing, in the public interest, against unfair dismissal or being subjected to any  other detriment by their employer/organisation (such as denial of promotion, deployment  opportunities, pay rise or training). 

If staff or volunteers are victimised for making a ‘protected disclosure’ they can make a claim  for compensation. Dismissals of staff or volunteers for making a protected disclosure is  automatically unfair.  

The HelpLine is committed to a culture of openness, honesty and accountability, encouraging staff and volunteers to report internally and ensuring that concerns raised are  dealt with speedily and effectively. We champion ethical behaviour, and celebrate a culture  where people feel able to speak up, supported by a clear procedure for dealing with concerns,  if they believe the principles we observe have been compromised. Our pledge is to properly  investigate, identify and resolve any and all concerns raised by staff. 

Whistleblowing is not the same as making a complaint or raising a grievance. Personal  complaints such as harassment or discrimination made by staff and volunteers will be  handled in line with The HelpLine Grievance Policy. 

What is Whistleblowing? 

Whistleblowing, or public interest disclosure, is recognised as an effective means for staff or  volunteers to communicate important messages to the organisation. It occurs when a staff  member or volunteer raises concerns, usually to their organisation or a regulator, about a  workplace danger or illegality that affects others. 

The disclosure may be about the alleged wrongful conduct or omissions of the organisation, a 

colleague, volunteer, or any third party which may cause harm to others or to the  organisation. A whistleblower is usually not directly or personally affected by the danger or  illegality and therefore rarely has a direct personal interest in the outcome of any  investigation into their concerns. 

The disclosure should be made ‘in good faith’ i.e., the disclosure must be made out of real  concern about wrongdoing. The whistleblower should reasonably believe the information and  allegation is substantially true, even if the information later turns out to have been incorrect.  Staff and volunteers should note that they will not be protected from the consequences of  making a disclosure if, by doing so, they commit a criminal offence. Knowingly and  maliciously making false accusations for ulterior motives is not whistleblowing and The  HelpLine will take appropriate action in accordance with the Discipline Policy. 

Types of whistleblowing concerns 

The Act encourages employees to raise concerns about malpractice – dangerous or illegal  activity – in the workplace. It does not matter whether the wrongdoing takes place in the UK  or abroad. In order for it to be a ‘qualifying disclosure’ under the Act, the whistleblower  should reasonably believe that there is: 

  • a criminal offence 
  • a failure to comply with any legal obligation 
  • a miscarriage of justice 
  • a health and safety risk to an individual 
  • damage to the environment or concealment of the above. 

Raising a whistleblowing concern 

Employees and volunteers should in most cases, first report their concern to their supervisor immediately if they become aware of wrongdoing happening (or have happened or are likely  to happen) in the organisation. 

Employees and volunteers are encouraged to raise their concerns in writing where possible, setting out the background and history of their concerns (giving names, dates and places  where possible) and indicating the reasons for their concerns. 

Employees and volunteers can make a claim anonymously, but it may be difficult to take the claim further if there is insufficient information required. Employees and volunteers can ask  for their concerns to be treated in confidence and The HelpLine will respect those wishes. 

The supervisor is expected to respond to all matters reported to them. If the relevant manager  cannot deal with the matter, they will refer the concern to the person designated to handle  whistleblowing concerns. 

Dependent on the seriousness and sensitivity of the matter, and who is suspected of the  wrongdoing, the individual can, if necessary, report directly to a Trustee on the Board, bypassing lower levels of management. 

If the matter is not dealt with internally by The HelpLine, whistleblowers can disclose to  appropriate external bodies.  

Protecting the staff member or volunteer raising the concern 

Once a disclosure has been made in good faith to The HelpLine it will be protected

under the Act. This should normally be the first route for employees or volunteers, rather than having to disclose the concern externally. However, it does mean that the matter should be  dealt with by The HelpLine, quickly and thoroughly. 

If an employee or volunteer raises a concern which they believe to be true, The HelpLine will take appropriate action to protect the individual from any harassment, victimisation or  bullying. Employees or volunteers who raise a genuine concern under this policy will not be  at risk of losing their job/role in the organisation, nor will it influence any unrelated  disciplinary action or redundancy procedures. 

The matter will be treated confidentially if the employee requests it and every effort will be  made to protect their identity, unless The HelpLine has to do so by law. If in other  circumstances the concern cannot be resolved without revealing the individual’s identity, the  Whistleblowing Officer will discuss with the staff or volunteer whether and how to proceed. 

Concerns raised anonymously tend to be far less effective but the Whistleblowing Officer will decide whether or not to consider the matter taking into account the seriousness of the matter; 

  • whether the concern is believable; 
  • whether an investigation can be carried out based on the information provided. 

How The HelpLine will deal with whistleblowing concerns 

How the concern will be dealt with, will depend on what it involves. It is likely that further  enquiries and/or investigation will be necessary. The concern may be investigated by The  HelpLine’s Whistleblowing Officer, the Trustees, through the disciplinary process or it may  be referred to the police, other agencies such as Social Services, or another regulator, an  external auditor or an independent investigator. 

It may be necessary for the employee to give evidence in criminal or disciplinary proceedings. The HelpLine will give the reporting individual feedback on the progress and  outcome of any investigation wherever possible. 

If the suspicions are not confirmed by an investigation, the matter will be closed. Employees  or volunteers will not be treated or regarded any differently for raising the concern, and their  confidentiality will continue to be protected.