“I should be grateful if you would cascade this information to your staff through your team meetings, briefings and so on.” Oh my, how this tickled us.
Just to ensure we do our bit in the cascade (Pour downward rapidly and in large quantities) and to further ensure it gets round all members of staff we have pleasure in serving it to our readers. Please find below the latest instructions from the council’s head of Human Resources:
To: Reporting Managers
Subject: Managers briefing: Reminding staff of the Code of Conduct
You will be aware of the media coverage of the allegations relating to the Council’s Property Care and Property Conservation services.
Please remind your staff of their responsibilities under the Code of Conduct which has been in place for many years and is there to protect all staff and the organisation generally.
In particular, please ask staff to re-familiarise themselves with the section relating to contact with newspapers and other media and to making public statements using private information gained through work.
It is in everyone’s interest – and in the interests of a fair process – that all staff are aware of their responsibilities to respect confidentiality and the protection provided by the Code of Conduct.
I should be grateful if you would cascade this information to your staff through your team meetings, briefings and so on.
Head of Organisational Development
What Mr Barr failed to inform the council staff is that they also have a whistle-blowing policy. However, as regular readers of EdSucks over the years will already know, it is basically a crock of shit as council whistle-blowers are hounded and hounded leaving them no option but to use outside sources. Whilst it is our opinion that using the whistle blowing policy is tantamount to giving the guilty a heads-up and opening yourself up for constant bullying and smearing by senior staff and at times, councillors – it is your right to know about it, so here goes:
POLICY ON PUBLIC INTEREST DISCLOSURE
(Covering all employees)
4 PROTECTION AGAINST VICTIMISATION
5 ANONYMOUS DISCLOSURES
6 DEALING WITH DISCLOSURES
7 EXTERNAL/THIRD PARTY DISCLOSURES
9 LOCAL AGREEMENT
POLICY ON PUBLIC INTEREST DISCLOSURE
(Covering all employees)
1.1 In line with its commitment to uphold the highest standard of conduct and ethics in all areas of the Council’s work, the Council will not tolerate any form of malpractice which compromises this commitment.
1.2 To help ensure that the Council meets this objective, the support of its employees is sought to reveal malpractice which has been, is or may become evident in any area of the Council’s work. Employees who properly disclose malpractice to the Council will be assured of protection against victimisation.
2.1 Although not an exhaustive definition, the following list illustrates those matters which will normally be regarded as malpractice in relation to areas of the Council’s work.
a) a criminal offence or breach of law;
b) a failure to comply with a legal obligation;
c) a miscarriage of justice;
d) damage to the health and safety of any individual, whether employee or member of the public;
e) damage to the environment;
f) the unauthorised use of public funds
g) possible fraud or corruption
h) sexual or physical abuse of clients
i) conduct that may be illegal, improper or unethical, and
j) deliberate concealment of any information relating to areas of malpractice.
3.1 Employees are expected to make a disclosure where they have a reasonable belief, held in good faith, that any of the above instances of malpractice has occurred, is occurring or may occur in the future. Employees are also expected to disclose instances where they feel that they have been required by a colleague, manager, elected member or member of the public to act in a way which is tantamount to malpractice.
3.2 Heads of Departments will have overall responsibility for responding promptly to employee disclosures affecting their area of operational responsibility. This will include keeping the employee informed of progress in relation to how the matter disclosed is being handled/has been concluded. Heads of Departments are also responsible for ensuring that this Policy is communicated to existing employees and new starts on appointment.
3.3 The Director of Corporate Services, as the Council’s Monitoring Officer, has responsibility for overseeing this Policy on a Council-wide basis. In exceptional circumstances, the Council’s Monitoring Officer will have responsibility for responding to disclosures where an employee feels unable to raise a matter for attention in his/her own department. In such cases, the Monitoring Officer will have discretion to decide, either that it is fair and reasonable for the disclosure to be dealt with in the employee’s own department, or to take some other course of action.
4. PROTECTION AGAINST VICTIMISATION
4.1 The Council recognises that employees must be afforded support and protection if they are to feel confident in discharging the disclosure responsibilities placed on them by this Policy.
4.2 Accordingly, where an employee makes a disclosure of malpractice, then the Council will take appropriate action to ensure that its employees are protected from any form of victimisation (including informal pressures in the workplace). The victimisation or bullying of anyone making a disclosure in good faith will be regarded as a disciplinary offence. Similarly, it will be a disciplinary offence to deter someone from making a disclosure in good faith.
4.3 Where a disclosure is not substantiated through investigation, but management is satisfied that the employee who made the disclosure did so in good faith and with a reasonably held belief that malpractice had occurred, then no action will be taken against the employee.
4.4 In the event that management considers that an employee has made an allegation which is false, frivolous, malicious or for personal gain, then disciplinary action may be taken against that employee.
5. ANONYMOUS DISCLOSURES
5.1 The possibility of dealing effectively with malpractice, and thereby serving the public interest, is greatly reduced if disclosures are made anonymously. Employees are therefore strongly encouraged to make themselves known when making disclosures under this procedure.
5.2 Disclosures which are made anonymously will still be considered by the relevant Head of Department or, if appropriate, the Director of Corporate Services, as the Council’s Monitoring Officer, but will take into account factors such as the seriousness, quality and reliability of the disclosure, and the scope for it being substantiated through attributable sources.
5.3 Where an anonymous disclosure cannot be progressed due to lack of information, then a record will be made of that decision. The disclosure will also be held on record, and may form part of a future investigation.
6. DEALING WITH DISCLOSURES
6.1 In recognition of the seriousness and sensitivity of the areas of malpractice covered by this policy, and with due regard to the possible anxieties which an employee may experience in discovering and disclosing such matters, the Council will accord a high level priority in responding timeously to them.
6.2 Disclosures made by employees will be treated with the utmost sensitivity and, as far as is reasonably practicable, the employee’s identity will not be revealed. Employees must be made aware, however, that they may be required to come forward as witnesses where the due process requires their further involvement. In such circumstances, the Council will arrange for the employee to be given advice about the relevant procedures. The employee will also be afforded the opportunity to be accompanied by a trade union representative or other person of his/her choice if he/she has any further active involvement in the process.
6.3 Disclosures may be made in person – orally, or in writing. The disclosure should, wherever possible, contain all relevant available details about the background and history of the matter being disclosed including names, dates and times as well as the reasons or grounds for concern. Employees who are unsure about how to approach this situation may seek advice from their departmental personnel representative or their trade union.
6.4 The process described below will be followed when making and responding to disclosures:
a) the first step in the process will normally be for employees to make a disclosure to their immediate line manager or, if this avenue is unavailable or inappropriate, to the manager occupying the level above the immediate line manager. The manager in receipt of the disclosure will determine whether the matter should be referred for attention either within the department or to another department which has operational responsibility for the area in which the malpractice has occurred. The manager must then immediately acknowledge receipt of the disclosure in writing to the employee and where the disclosure was made orally, the acknowledgement should also form a record of the disclosure. Receipt of a disclosure should always be reported to the Head of Department. Where, exceptionally, the employee feels unable to raise the matter for attention in his/her own department, the disclosure should be made to the Council’s Monitoring Officer (paragraph 3.3 refers).
b) the second step in the process is for management to make an initial assessment of what further action, if any, requires to be taken with regard to the disclosure. Thereafter the employee must be given written notification of the action to be initiated in respect of the disclosure. Normally, the aim should be to complete this stage of the process within five working days of the disclosure being made. In the event that a longer period is required to make the initial assessment, the employee should be advised accordingly. The Director of Corporate Services, as Council Monitoring Officer, should be advised of the action proposed to be taken in respect of the disclosure.
c) the third step in the process will be for management to undertake the programme of action which has been decided upon. This may be done through any, or a combination of a number of routes which could include an investigation by management, internal audit or through the disciplinary procedure; by referring the matter to the Police or through other service specific processes which may apply in particular areas of the Council. In certain serious cases, urgent action to curtail the malpractice may be necessary before an investigation is carried out. The employee may be involved as a witness in an investigatory or other process and any subsequent proceedings which may arise as a result. The outcome of the process which has been undertaken will be notified to the employee who will also be informed of general progress at no later than fortnightly intervals. Where the process is particularly lengthy or complex, it may be appropriate to agree with the employee that progress reports should be provided at less frequent intervals. The Director of Corporate Services, as Monitoring Officer, should be informed of the outcome of the process.
7. EXTERNAL/THIRD PARTY DISCLOSURES
7.1 It is the employee’s responsibility, by using the internal disclosure arrangements, to afford the Council the opportunity to investigate and resolve occurrences of malpractice. Indeed, one of the main aims of this policy is to provide the means, support and protection to enable employees to make disclosures of malpractice through the internal arrangements.
7.2 While the purpose of this Policy is to create the conditions in which employees will feel confident in raising matters internally, it is recognised that there may be circumstances where matters may be properly reported to certain outside bodies such as regulators (eg Health & Safety Executive) or the Police. When considering this option, employees must seek advice prior to taking any action in order to ensure that the disclosure to the outside body is protected. Such advice may be sought from departmental personnel representatives, trade union representatives, an employee’s own legal adviser or other specialist advice agency of the employee’s choice.
8.1 This policy is not intended to replace any other statutory reporting procedures operated by the Council.
8.2 Matters of concern relating to an employee’s own situation which would normally be dealt with under the Council’s Grievance Procedure should continue to be handled in that way.
9. LOCAL AGREEMENT
9.1 This document is a local collective agreement between the Council and the recognised Trade Unions. Every effort will be made by both parties to ensure that this document will be maintained as a local collective agreement, and adjusted by agreement to meet changing future needs. In the event of failure to reach agreement, both parties reserve the right to terminate this local agreement by giving four months notice in writing. In such circumstances, the terms of the local agreement will cease to apply to existing and future employees.