The Council is committed to providing the highest quality service to residents and visitors to Thurrock. This involves ensuring that the local community can have full trust and confidence in the way the Council manages its services and resources and making sure that all those who are vulnerable such as children, the elderly and people with learning disabilities are provided for safely, effectively and in accordance with best practice.
There are occasions when high standards are not maintained. Normally such problems are dealt with by reporting the matter to the manager responsible for that service who will investigate and rectify the issue. However when employees, volunteers or contractors have concerns about serious malpractice, such as the safety or proper care of clients, or fraudulent or dishonest practice it can be difficult to know what to do.
This policy has been developed so that employees will know how to raise concerns in the right way at an early stage, and managers understand their responsibilities in relation to allegations of misconduct and impropriety.
The policy applies to all employees, partners and those contractors working for the Council on council premises, for example, agency staff, builders, and drivers. It also covers suppliers and those providing services under a contract with the Council in their own premises, for example, care homes.
This policy should be used when employees have concerns that the interests of others or the Council (and therefore its residents) are at risk for example:
This list is not exhaustive
Employees are protected by law (under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998) from any victimisation for having raised any issues where they reasonably believe that:
The overriding concern should be that it would be in the public interest for the malpractice to be corrected and, if appropriate sanctions applied.
This policy should be read in conjunction with the Council's Anti Fraud and Corruption Policy.
This policy does not replace the corporate complaints procedure.
Employees raising issues, and managers investigating them, will suffer no detriment as a result provided they act in good faith i.e. they genuinely believe that there is, or may be, substance in their allegations.
The Council will not tolerate any harassment or victimisation of a whistleblower (including formal pressures), and will treat this as a serious disciplinary offence, which will be dealt with under the Disciplinary Procedure. .An employee whose concerns are raised under this procedure but referred for investigation under another procedure (e.g. the anti-fraud policy) will receive the same protection from victimisation under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.
This policy does not restrict employees rights to raise their concerns outside of the Council (e.g. the Audit Commission, the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive or the police), but is intended to facilitate an internal investigation in order to resolve employees concerns so that they do not feel the need to refer to external agencies.
The Council must:
As a first step, an employee should normally raise concerns with their immediate manager or supervisor. This depends, however, on the seriousness of the issues involved and who is thought to be involved in the malpractice. If in doubt, contact the Head of Legal & Democratic Services (the Council's Monitoring Officer) or where the issue involves the Monitoring Officer please contact the Chief Executive.
Alternatively, an employee can either send an email to email@example.com or leave a message on the 24 hour Whistleblowing answer service (telephone number 01375 366110. The phone is located in a secure area. This service is strictly confidential.
Concerns are better raised in writing. Employees are invited to set out the background and history of their concern, giving names, dates and places where possible, and the reason why they are particularly concerned about the situation. If they do not feel able to put their concern in writing, they can telephone or meet the appropriate officer. The earlier they express the concern, the easier it is to take action.
Although an employee would not be expected to prove the truth of an allegation, they will need to demonstrate that there are sufficient grounds for concern.
An employee may invite a trade union representative or work colleague to raise a matter on their behalf.
The action taken by the Council will depend on the nature of the concern and may:
In order to protect individuals and the Council, initial enquiries will be forwarded to the Monitoring Officer who will consult with the Head of Internal Audit and decide whether an investigation is appropriate and, if so, what form it should take. The Monitoring Officer can decide to take no further action if a complaint appears to be frivolous or malicious, in which case the matter will be referred back to the manager and formal disciplinary action may be taken against the employee (if applicable) who made the frivolous or malicious complaint.
If an investigation is required, the Monitoring Officer will consult with the Internal Audit and designate an appropriate officer to investigate the concern. Following this that officer will, within ten working days, write to the member of staff:
The amount of contact between the officers considering the issues and the employee will depend on the nature of the matters raised, the potential difficulties involved and the clarity of the information provided. If necessary, further information will be sought from the employee who raised the whistleblowing request.
When any meeting is arranged, the employee has the right, if they so wish, to be accompanied by a union representative or work colleague who is not involved in the area of work to which the concern relates.
The Council will take steps to minimise any difficulties that employees may experience as a result of raising a concern. For instance, if they are required to give evidence in criminal or disciplinary proceedings, the Council will advise them about the procedure.
The Monitoring Officer will report on the outcome of any investigation to the Council's Standards & Audit Committee who will monitor the implementation of the recommendation of the investigation.