Introduction 

Education + Training Skills (ETS) is committed to a free and open culture in dealings with its employees, consultants, learners and customers, with whom the organisation engages in business delivery. 

ETS recognises that effective and honest communication is essential to maintain the organisations ethos and values and to ensure that instances of business malpractice are detected and dealt with. 

The policy is designed to comply with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA). The Act protects you in reporting concerns to your employer, to Prescribed Persons (such as the Inland Revenue, the HSE, Ofsted and the Education and Skills Funding Agency) or some other person is prescribed circumstances. In order to qualify for protection under the Act, you must make disclosures in good faith when reporting matters. This policy and procedure covers raising and dealing with concerns about wrong doing or malpractice relating to the running of ETS or to the work related activities of members of staff. This practice is commonly known as “Whistleblowing”.  

Policy 

As a person working for ETS you may be the first to realise that there could be something seriously wrong within the activity that we are delivering. However, you may feel that speaking up would be disloyal to your colleagues. You may also fear harassment or victimisation. In these circumstances, it may be easier to ignore the concern rather than report what may just be a suspicion of malpractice. 

ETS is committed to the highest standards of openness and accountability; malpractice within ETS is taken very seriously. It is your duty as an employee, consultant, learner or customer to speak up about genuine concerns in relation to the above, if you see them happening in the workplace. A disclosure to ETS will be protected if you have an honest and reasonable suspicion that the malpractice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur. Individuals who raise concerns reasonably and responsibly will not be penalised in any way. 

This procedure does not relate to concerns submitted by members of the general public about the activities or interests of ETS. 

This policy and procedure allows you to report in confidence genuine concerns you may have about any wrongdoing in ETS without fear of reprisal. This policy and procedure provides safeguards under which genuine concerns can be raised internally , in good faith, without fear of repercussions to the individual whilst seeking to balance this and the need to protect ETS and other employees against uninformed or malicious allegations, which can cause serious difficulties for innocent individuals. This policy and procedure will help us all to safeguard our standards of public service. 

Purpose 

The purpose of this policy is to encourage everyone whether they are employees, consultants, learners or customers to report any business misconduct without risk to themselves.  

Aims and scope of the Policy 

This policy aims to: 

  • Encourage individuals to feel confident in raising serious concerns and to question and act upon concerns; 
  • Provide a process for you to raise those concerns and receive feedback on any action taken; 
  • Ensure that individuals receive a response to their concerns and that they are aware of how to pursue them if they are not satisfied; 
  • Reassure individuals that they will be protected from possible reprisals or victimisation if they have a reasonable belief that they have raised any concern in good faith. 

There are existing procedures in place to enable employees to lodge grievances relating to their employment. The Whistleblowing Policy is intended to cover concerns that fall outside the scope of other procedures, including ETS’s complaints procedure. This policy therefore includes any concerns about: 

  • Conduct which is an offence or a breach of law; 
  • Harassment of others; 
  • Discrimination, as covered by the Equality Act, against others; 
  • Disclosures related to miscarriages of justice; 
  • Health and safety risks, including risks to the public as well as other employees; 
  • Damage to the environment; 
  • The unauthorised use of public funds (ie funding from the Skills Funding Agency); 
  • Possible fraud and corruption; 
  • Any Safeguarding issues in relation to other members of staff or learners 
  • Serious breaches of ETS’s Policies, procedures and codes of conduct; 
  • Anything that makes an individual feel uncomfortable in terms of known standards, their experience or the standards believed to be in line with the ethos and values of the organisation; 
  • Any other unethical or improper conduct (not otherwise covered in this list);  
  • Concealment of information relating to any of the above. 

If the concern falls within the areas of Grievance, Equality and Diversity, Harassment or Bullying or Customer complaints then these would be dealt with under the relevant policy and procedure relating to the specific concern. 

This policy applies to ETS’s provision, conduct to employees, consultants and Council of Trustees. 

It should be emphasised that this policy is intended to assist individuals who have discovered malpractice or serious wrongdoing, provided they make the disclosure in accordance with the Policy. It is not designed to question financial or business decisions taken by ETS’s Senior Management Team and/or Council of Trustees nor may it be used to reconsider any matters that have already been addressed under the harassment, equality and diversity, disciplinary, safeguarding or complaints procedures. Individuals who make disclosures outside the arrangements set out in this policy will not be protected under the policy and may not be protected under the Act. 

ETS will take issues raised through the Whistleblowing procedure seriously and will ensure that allegations are investigated properly. As this will result in significant use of SMT time it is the individual’s responsibility to ensure that the issue is genuine and material, and that it is correct and proper to use the Whistleblowing procedure. The disclosure must be made in good faith and not motivated by personal antagonism. 

The procedure applies to the individual’s disclosure if they have reasonable grounds to believe that malpractice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur in ETS (whether on the part of another employee or any other person or persons). Reasonable grounds for belief mean more than just a possibility or risk that malpractice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur. 

Reporting Procedure 

Stage 1 

  1. Individuals should raise their concern with their line manager or with someone in the line management chain ie team leader, coordinator. 
  1. Line managers will take all concerns seriously, make a fair evaluation of its merits and deal with it in confidence. If the concern relates to the operation of a policy or procedure then they will seek advice from the General Manager or the Quality Improvement and Performance Manager. 
  1. Individuals are encouraged to put their name to any allegation. Concerns expressed anonymously are much less powerful and more difficult to investigate. However, they will be considered against the seriousness of the issues raised, the likelihood of confirming the allegation from attributable sources. ETS best interests and the protection of ETS assets and reputation. 
  1. Concerns can be raised orally but it will be more effective for the concern to be in writing at an early stage to ensure that all the details are correctly understood. A written allegation should set out the background and history of the concern, providing names, dates and places where possible, and the reason for the concern about the situation. 

Stage 2 

  1. If an individual feels unable to raise their concern with their coordinator, for whatever reason they should contact the General Manager or the Quality Improvement and Performance Manager. 
  1. On receipt of the disclosure concerns will be dealt with fairly and correctly and without bias. If contact is made to Senior Management, list above, then a formal acknowledgement within 10 working days of the concern being raised will be sent. This will inform who is dealing with the matter, how ETS intends to deal with it and the timing of any action. However if the issues raised require criminal investigation then ETS would not be able to advise the reporting individual of any action or progress until the matter is concluded unless contact with you is required during the course of the investigation. 
  1. A member of Senior Management will offer to interview the reporting individual, in confidence, as soon as practicable after the initial disclosure. A work colleague may accompany them at the interview. In addition to the Manager who is holding the interview, ETS will normally have another person present to keep a record of the meeting. 
  1. Individuals who have reported malpractice will need to demonstrate that there are sufficient grounds for concern and provide enough information to enable the matter to be taken forwards. This will include: the background to the concern including dates; names and places and the reason for the particular concern being raised. The individual will also be required to state whether they also wish to submit a separate grievance if the matter affects them directly. All concerns will be dealt with in confidence. Individuals may if they wish contact one of the SMT anonymously. However, concerns will be more difficult to address if reported anonymously and ETS may not be able to preserve confidentiality or keep the individual who raised the concern informed of progress. 
  1. If the allegation is not submitted in writing the Manager dealing with the concern will record the concerns and a copy will be sent to the individual’s home address or via their Trade Union Representative to allow for agreement to be reached that it is a correct record.  

Reporting Stage 3 

  1. If an individual does not feel it is appropriate to discuss the matter with a member of Senior Management then they can contact the Chief Executive Officer for further advice. 

Assurances 

  • All concerns will be treated in confidence and ETS will attempt to protect the individual’s identity if asked to do so. If investigation of a concern discloses a situation, which is sufficiently serious to warrant disciplinary action or police investigation then the individual may have to give evidence. This will be fully discussed with the individual, giving reasons for the disclosure of identity, before releasing their name as a possible witness. If the individual asks for anonymity ETS will endeavour to respect those wishes. However if the problem involves a criminal or safeguarding matter which cannot be resolved without revealing the source of the complaint for example because the individual is required to give evidence in court, ETS will discuss the procedure with the individual concerned. If the contact is made anonymously ETS will not be able to inform the complainant of the action taken. 
  • If a concern is raised in good faith, it does not matter if it becomes apparent that it is a mistake; the individual who raised the concern will not be penalised. The concern will be investigated in confidence and the reporting individual will be protected from any victimisation or harassment, which could occur as a result. However this protection does not extend to someone who maliciously raises a matter they know to be untrue, or who raises the matter outside the organisation without good reason. This may lead to disciplinary action being taken. A good reason to reveal the matter outside the organisation can only be where the employee reasonably believes they will be victimised, or that the organisation will destroy or conceal evidence of the malpractice if the matter is raised internally. If an individual deliberately lies they will not be protected. 
  • Any documentation (including electronic files) kept in relation to the matter will be kept secure; ETS will ensure that, as far as reasonably practicable, any documentation prepared will not reveal the identity of the complainant. Where the individual involves a work colleague or trade union representative they will be under an obligation to use all reasonable endeavours to ensure that the representative or work colleague keeps the matter strictly confidential except, as permitted under this procedure, as required by law or until such time as it comes into the public domain. 
  • Where a disclosure is made, the person or persons against whom the disclosure has been made may receive the support and advice, which is appropriate in the circumstances. 

How the Matter will be handled   

Initial enquires will be made into the concern raised, to find out the facts of the matter. This may lead to a more formal investigation. If the concern can be dealt with more appropriately under another set of procedures eg personal matters under the grievance procedure, the complainant will be informed as soon as possible. 

The individual raising the concern will be asked whether or not they have a personal interest in the matter. They may also be asked what the solution to the matter raised should be. 

An anonymised record of the concern will be made containing the date the concern was received, the details of the concern and how it was dealt with. These records could be used to help monitor the effectiveness of this Whistleblowing policy as well as to further any investigation, which may be necessary. As soon as possible the investigating manager will recommend what further steps are to be taken. Such recommendations may include: 

  • The matter be reported to the police 
  • The matter be reported to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) 
  • The matter be reported to the Inland Revenue, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or other appropriate public authority 
  • The matter to be further investigated by ETS or referred to external investigation. 

A recommendation that no further action be taken may be made if the investigating manager is: 

  • Satisfied after investigation that the malpractice has not occurred or is not likely to occur 
  • Aware that the matter is already (or has already been the subject of proceedings) under one of ETS’s other procedures 
  • Aware that the matter is already subject to legal proceeding or has already been referred to the police, DBS or Inland Revenue, the HSE or other public authority 
  • Satisfied that the individual does not have reasonable grounds to believe that malpractice within the meaning of this procedure has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur 
  • Or they are of the belief that the reporting  individual is not acting in good faith 

The investigating manager will make recommendations under this procedure to the Chief Executive Officer or the Chairman of the Council Board. The allegations will be made without identifying the complainant except as outlined in this policy. The recipient of the recommendations will implement the recommendation unless there are good reasons for not doing so. The complainant will be informed of the steps taken or if no steps are taken with the reason for this course of action. 

External Contacts and Disclosure 

Individuals may also wish to contact their Trade Union representative (if applicable) for advice. A representative will be able to accompany individuals at any interviews, which may be conducted as part of an investigation. If an individual is unsure whether to use this procedure, or if they require advice at any stage and feel that they can only get the answers they need by disclosing information externally they may wish to consider obtaining legal advice: 

  • Independently from a lawyer (at their own expense) 
  • From a lawyer at Public Concern at Work (PCaW) http://www.pcaw.co.uk/  
  • From a lawyer who is referred by a Trade Union representative. A Trade Union representative will be able to advise on how to proceed in general terms but will be unable to give legal advice. 

Safeguards 

Any whistleblowing employee is protected against adverse employment actions (ie dismissal, demotion, suspension, harassment or other forms of discrimination) for raising allegations of business misconduct. A whistleblowing employee is also protected even if the allegations prove to be incorrect or unsubstantiated, provided the disclosure is made in good faith and where it is believed the information and any allegation in it are true. 

If as a result of whistleblowing an individual feels that they are being victimised or harassed they should use the anti-bullying and harassment procedure. ETS will take action to protect the individual disclosing the concern when it is raised in good faith. ETS will not tolerate any resulting harassment or victimisation and will treat this as a serious disciplinary offence, which will be dealt with under the appropriate procedures. 

Disciplinary Action 

In any allegation of business malpractice is substantiated, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against the responsible individual(s), up to and including termination of employment. 

Furthermore, any act of retaliation or victimisation against a whistle-blower employee will result in disciplinary action being taken against the perpetrator, up to and including termination of employment. 

The malicious use of the whistleblowing policy will result in disciplinary action against the whistle-blowing employee, up to and including termination of employment. 

Associated Policies include: 

Safeguarding Policy 
Single Equality Scheme Policy 
Disciplinary Procedure 
Grievance Procedure 
Anti-harassment and Bullying Policy and Procedure 
Customer Complaints