1.1 Purpose of Policy
1.1.1. The University has developed this Policy and Procedure to encourage openness, promote transparency, underpin the University’s risk management arrangements, deter malpractice and help protect the reputation of the University.
1.1.2. The University of Bath is committed to maintaining the highest standards of honesty, openness and accountability and to conducting its business in a responsible way, meeting the requirements of funding bodies and reflecting the standards in public life as set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The University will take seriously any concerns related to malpractice and uphold relevant legislation. In particular, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 applies to this policy.
1.1.3. The Public Interest Disclosure Act was introduced to encourage employees to raise their concerns in a responsible way where there is, or may be, malpractice (that is, illegal, improper or negligent behaviour) or wrongdoing within an organisation and, where they do so, to protect those employees from reprisal.
1.2. Scope of Policy and Key Principles
1.2.1. This policy applies to genuine concerns which are in the public interest, as defined in section 2 below.
1.2.2. The University recognises that, from time to time, genuine concerns may be raised about serious malpractice. Members of staff are likely to be the first to know if someone inside or connected with the University is acting illegally or improperly, although it is emphasised that this policy is not limited to staff. The University will take action in all instances of wrongdoing. All disclosures (that is, the sharing of information related to potential wrongdoing) will be acted upon promptly, sensitively, fairly and properly.
1.2.3. The University reassures you that it is acceptable and safe for you to raise such concerns without fear of any form of direct, indirect or “soft” retaliation, such as being seen as a ‘troublemaker’. The University will take all reasonable steps to protect an individual making a disclosure from retaliation, including bullying, harassment, reprisals, victimisation and/or deterring or preventing reporting in both the short and long-term and, if retaliation occurred, the University may make use of the disciplinary procedures applicable to staff and student.
1.2.4. If you have a concern to raise under this policy, you should refer to the Public Interest Disclosure Procedure. This will apply to all University employees, including hourly paid workers and those working for the University in other jurisdictions, agency workers and self-employed workers, consultants, contractors, volunteers and suppliers, as well as members of the University as defined in Statute 2 (which includes lay members and students).
1.2.5. Matters which relate to workplaces other than those of the University of Bath, for example places where staff or students may be on secondment or placement, are not covered by this procedure.
2.2. What is public disclosure or whistleblowing
2.1.1. 2.1.1Public interest disclosure is the act of raising genuine concerns relating to some actual or potential danger, fraud or other illegal or unethical conduct. The Public Interest Disclosure Act provides legal protection to prevent persons being penalised as a result of making a “qualifying” disclosure, that is one which, in the reasonable belief of the person making the disclosure, tends to show one or more of the following:
- a criminal offence
- failure to comply with a legal obligation
- miscarriage of justice
- endangering of health and safety
- damage to the environment
- deliberate concealment of any of the above.
2.1.2. This policy, applies whether or not the information is confidential and whether the malpractice is occurring in the UK or overseas.
2.1.3. This policy is designed to provide protection for an individual raising a concern in the public interest, meaning that the wrongdoing disclosed affects others. The allegation must not be made in pursuit of personal gain.
2.1.4. The term ‘whistleblowing’ has been used in this policy to describe incidents where an individual discloses some alleged wrongdoing within the organisation.
2.2. Examples of a Whistleblowing concern within HE
2.2.1. Concerns which may be in the public interest and relate to wrongdoing include:
- financial or non-financial maladministration or malpractice; fraud, bribery or corruption; theft or misappropriation; conflicts of interest
- criminal activity whether past, present or future
- dangers to health and safety or the environment
- failure to comply with a legal or regulatory obligation including the Statutes, Ordinances, Regulations, policies and procedures of the University
- academic, professional or management malpractice
- a miscarriage of justice; improper conduct or unethical behaviour; attempts to suppress or conceal any information relating to the above.
2.3. What actions you take
2.3.1. If you discover wrongdoing, you should tell the University promptly. There are a variety of procedures under which you can do this, as set out below.
2.3.2. In the first instance, the University expects you to look to the informal systems that are in place which allow you to bring any issues to the attention of management and permit swift, appropriate action to be taken without the need to invoke these formal procedures. You should consider whether an informal route, for example raising a concern with a line manager or other more senior person, would be sufficient to prevent malpractice or alleviate any concerns.
2.3.3. There are informal systems in place which allow you to bring any issues to the attention of management and permit swift, appropriate action to be taken without the need to invoke these formal procedures. The University would normally expect you to consider whether an informal route for example raising a concern with a line manager or other more senior person would be sufficient to prevent malpractice or alleviate any concerns. This document sets out a formal procedure which you can use if these informal routes are not appropriate for the circumstances you have identified.
2.3.4. Existing internal procedures include:
- disciplinary procedures for academic staff (Statute 25)
- disciplinary policy and procedures for staff other than academic staff
- student disciplinary procedures (Regulations 7 and 8)
- student complaints procedures (Appendix 1 to the Regulations)
- procedures for student academic appeals and reviews (Regulation 17)
- grievance procedures
- Equality and Diversity policies
- procedures for reporting suspected fraud (Financial Regulation G14)
- Anti-Bribery Policy
- health and safety procedures
- procedure for inquiring into allegations of misconduct in research and scholarship.
2.3.5. The Public Interest Disclosure procedure below is distinct from existing internal procedures and is intended to supplement, rather than to replace, them. It is not intended to be used to re-open or review a matter already decided in such procedures or to question or reconsider financial or business decisions taken by the University.
2.3.6. Where it is unclear in any set of circumstances which is the appropriate procedure to apply, the decision of the designated officer (see 3.3.1) will be final. Where there is any conflict between the public interest disclosure procedure and other internal procedures, this public interest procedure will normally prevail.
2.3.7. If you are considering reporting a concern, you are strongly encouraged to use this internal procedure. However, if you are contemplating making a disclosure directly to a regulator/prescribed person or other external body, your attention is drawn to the independent whistleblowing charity, Public Concern at Work, which operates a confidential helpline. Their contact details are found at www.pcaw.co.uk. Please note that such external disclosures will need to be made to the correct prescribed person or body for the issue and may have additional requirements that will need to be met in order to qualify for the protections provided under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.
2.4. Internal Disclosure Process and Confidentiality
2.4.1. It is expected that an employee, student or other person associated with the University will be loyal to it and not disclose confidential information about its affairs: where you discover evidence of wrongdoing, the University will ensure that you may speak freely to a designated officer to report the matter and will treat all concerns raised fairly and properly. The procedure below enables you to bring such issues to the attention of a senior member of the University in a confidential and transparent way, and it is reasonable to expect the procedure to be followed rather than for concerns to be raised outside the University. It may be noted that the Act makes it relatively easy for a worker to disclose information to their employer and gain protection from dismissal or detriment, but more difficult for a worker to disclose information to a third party and gain protection.
3. Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblowing) Procedure
3.1. Purpose of Procedure
3.1.1. The purpose of this procedure is to provide an internal mechanism for reporting, investigating and addressing any potential malpractice - see Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblowing) Procedure Flowchart
3.2.1. This procedure is designed to offer protection to employees or other members of the University (see section 1.2.4 above) who disclose such concerns provided that:
- the individual making the disclosure reasonably believes that it is a matter of public interest (see section 2.1.1 above); and
- the disclosure is made to an appropriate person (see section 3.31 below).
3.2.2. Similarly, a contractor or supplier of the University who raises a concern will not be subject to sanctions or discrimination against their business.
3.2.3. Subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act, the University will treat all disclosures in a confidential and sensitive manner.
3.2.4. The University aims to promote a culture in which individuals feel confident to raise their concerns appropriately. Consequently, anyone reporting a disclosure is encouraged to identify him/herself.
3.2.5. Concerns which are expressed anonymously will be considered at the discretion of the University taking into account
- the seriousness of the issues raised
- the credibility of the information disclosed
- the likelihood of confirming the allegation from alternative verifiable sources.
3.2.6. In the event that it is deemed necessary to reveal the identity of the individual making the disclosure, s/he will be advised prior to the release of their identity. The investigation process may require that the source of the information and the individual making the disclosure provide a statement as part of the evidence required or to assist in further investigations. All reasonable steps will be taken to ensure that the ‘whistle blower’ suffers no detriment as a result of their identity becoming known. Detriment includes unwarranted disciplinary action and victimisation.
3.2.7. If an individual makes an allegation to the University in accordance with the terms of this policy but which is not confirmed by the subsequent investigation, no action will be taken against that individual.
3.2.8. If a student or member of staff is believed on reasonable grounds to have made a malicious or vexatious allegation and particularly where they persist in making them, disciplinary action may be taken against the individual concerned.
3.2.9. Employees may be personally liable if they subject a worker to any kind of detriment on the grounds that s/he has made a protected disclosure and the University will take all reasonable steps to protect employees from any form of harassment for making a disclosure.
3.3. How to make a Public Interest Disclosure
3.3.1. Initial disclosure should be made verbally or in writing to a designated person who will be the Director of Finance, with a copy sent to the Head of Strategic Governance in their capacity as Secretary to Council. Information on how to contact the designated officers is appended to this procedure. In the event that the disclosure concerns one of the designated officers, you should contact the other in the first instance.
3.3.2. he disclosure should provide as much supporting evidence as possible about the grounds on which the disclosure is being made and about the grounds for believing that apparent wrongdoing has occurred. It should include the names of individuals and significant dates, locations and events, where applicable. The individual making the disclosure may talk in confidence and seek support from, as appropriate, the Director of Student Services, the Head of Procurement or other senior member of staff and, where they make the disclosure in person, may be accompanied by a line manager, a colleague who is a University employee, a Trades Union representative, or a representative of the Students' Union.
3.3.3. The designated person to whom disclosure is made will consult as appropriate and will then determine (a) whether there is a case for formal investigation under the terms of this public interest disclosure (whistleblowing) procedure and (b) if so, what form it should take.
3.4.1. The form of the investigation will depend on the nature of the matter raised. The designated person will determine whether the matter should
- be dealt with under an existing internal procedure (see section 2.3.3 above)
- be the subject of an internal investigation
- be referred to the police
- be investigated by an external authority.
3.4.2. Except as may be otherwise provided in internal procedures, referral to the police will not prohibit parallel internal investigation, if considered appropriate.
3.4.3. Where the matter is to be the subject of an internal investigation, the designated officer may request the Head of Internal Audit or other appropriate individual to conduct an investigation to establish all relevant facts. Investigations will not be conducted by the designated person or by any other person who will have to reach a decision on the matter.
3.4.4. Any investigation will be conducted as sensitively and speedily as possible. The intended timetable for the investigation will be notified to the individual making the disclosure. The investigation may involve the person making the disclosure giving a statement. In order to seek to protect the identity of the parties concerned, those participating in the investigation will be reminded of the need to maintain strict confidentiality in appropriate cases at all stages of the process.
3.4.5. The findings of the investigation will be set out in a written report to the designated officer who will decide with appropriate consultation what action should be taken and will initiate such action. Where the investigation provides reasonable grounds for suspecting a member or members of staff of wrongdoing, the investigating officer will advise the designated officer as soon as practically possible and s/he will determine how to prevent any further loss, danger or damage.
3.4.6. In some instances it may be necessary to conduct further internal investigations or to refer the matter to an external authority for further investigation (eg Police, Office for Students, UK Research and Innovation, Financial Conduct Authority, Health and Safety Executive).
3.4.7. The person or persons against whom the disclosure is made will normally be told of it and of the evidence supporting it and will be given the opportunity to respond before any investigation, or further action, is concluded. However, where such disclosure would jeopardise the ability of the University, the police or other independent investigator to conduct a proper investigation, the person or persons against whom the disclosure is made may not be told prior to an initial investigation.
3.4.8. The designated officer will inform the individual making the disclosure of what action, if any, is to be taken. This information will be regarded as strictly confidential and may not be disclosed to third parties except with the express consent of the designated officer.
3.5 Disclosure to the Chair of Risk Assurance Committee
3.5.1. If either the designated officer determines that there is no case to answer or an investigation is carried out as a result of which the designated officer determines that no action is to be taken, this decision will be explained as fully as possible to the individual making the disclosure who may within 14 days submit a written request to the Chair of Audit and Risk Assurance Committee (who is on the list of designated officers appended to this procedure) to review the decision. The safeguard against malicious or vexatious allegations is detailed in section 3.2.8 above.
3.5.2. Where the disclosure is made to the Chair of Audit and Risk Assurance Committee, this person will decide on an appropriate course of action to review the decision based on the information available. In determining the procedure, the Chair of Audit and Risk Assurance Committee may consult members of Audit and Risk Assurance Committee and will agree a timetable for action. They will normally allow the person(s) against whom the disclosure is made an opportunity to respond (see paragraph 3.4.7 above). The Chair of Audit and Risk Assurance Committee will inform members of Audit and Risk Assurance Committee and the person making the disclosure of the outcome in writing
3.6.1. A written report of all disclosures made under this procedure, and any subsequent action taken, will be prepared by the designated officer who will retain such reports for a minimum period of three years. In all cases, a report of the outcomes of any investigation will be made to the Chair of Audit and Risk Assurance Committee who may make a report to the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee and/or to Council in such terms as are deemed appropriate. Any report to the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee will set out in detail of the outcomes of any investigation where the concern falls within its purview, and in summary in other cases.
3.6.2. The Executive Board, Audit and Risk Assurance Committee and Council will receive an annual report on any cases of whistleblowing, or confirmation that no such cases have arisen.
3.7.1. An individual against whom action is proposed following an investigation under this public interest disclosure procedure, and who wishes to appeal against such action, may submit an appeal unless the staff or student disciplinary procedure is to be involved (which themselves provide for appeals). Any appeal must be submitted in writing within 14 days to the Director of Finance, with a copy to the Head of Strategic Governance, who will arrange for it to be heard by an appropriate senior member of staff.
4. Roles and Responsibilities
4.1. The University Council has overall responsibility for the implementation, monitoring and review of the Public Interest Disclosure Policy and Procedure. In so doing, Council is supported by the Office of Strategic Governance, and Executive Board as appropriate.
5. Related Policies and Procedures and list of contacts
5.1. The list of relevant policies and procedures is set out at 2.3.4 above.
5.1.1. Public Interest Disclosures may be submitted in writing, and/or by meeting, to a Designated Officer of the University. Correspondence should be clearly addressed and marked ‘Confidential’.
5.1.2. Director of Finance, Mr Martin Williams (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Telephone: 01225 383593) 4 West 3.24, University of Bath Bath BA2 7AY
5.1.3. Head of Strategic Governance, Emily Commander (E-mail: email@example.com, Telephone: 01225 386212) Wessex House 3.12, University of Bath Bath BA2 7AY
5.1.4. Or, where it is not deemed that a case exists or is not proven in an initial investigation, the disclosure may be referred to:
Chair of Audit and Risk Assurance Committee, Mr Tim Ford c/o Office of Strategic Governance 4 West 3.12 University of Bath Bath BA2 7AY
6 Document Control Information
|Owner:||Head of Strategic Governance|
|Approval date:||28 November 2019|
|Date of last review:||July 2018|
|Date of next review:||July 2020|