Whistleblowing Policy

This policy is also available as a PDF here

1. Introduction

1.1 Altus Education Partnership (the trust) are committed to the highest possible standards of honesty and integrity, and we expect all staff to maintain these standards in accordance with our Staff Code of Conduct. However, all organisations face the risk of things going wrong from time to time, or of unknowingly harbouring illegal or unethical conduct. A culture of openness and accountability is essential in order to prevent such situations occurring or to address them when they do occur.

2. Scope and purpose

2.1 The aims of this policy are:

(a) To encourage staff to report suspected wrongdoing as soon as possible, in the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated as
appropriate, and that their confidentiality will be respected.
(b) To provide staff with guidance on how to raise concerns.
(c) To reassure staff that they should be able to raise genuine concerns without fear of reprisals, even if they turn out to be mistaken.

2.2 This policy applies to all employees of the trust, trustees, governors, consultants, contractors, casual and agency staff and volunteers (collectively referred to as staff in this policy).

3. What is whistleblowing?

3.1 Whistleblowing is the disclosure of information which relates to suspected wrongdoing or dangers at work. The law provides protection for workers who raise legitimate concerns about specified matters or "qualifying disclosures". A qualifying disclosure is one made in the public interest by a worker who has a reasonable belief that there are wrongdoing or dangers at work. This may include:

(a) criminal activity;
(b) miscarriages of justice;
(c) danger to health and safety;
(d) damage to the environment;
(e) failure to comply with any legal or professional obligation or regulatory requirements;
(f) bribery;
(g) financial fraud or mismanagement;
(h) negligence;
(i) breach of our internal policies and procedures [including our Code of Conduct];
(j) conduct likely to damage our reputation;
(k) unauthorised disclosure of confidential information;
(l) unethical behaviour
(m) the deliberate concealment of any of the above matters.

3.2 A whistleblower is a person who raises a genuine concern relating to any of the above. If youhave any genuine concerns related to suspected wrongdoing or danger affecting any of our activities (a whistleblowing concern) you should report it under this policy.

3.3 This policy should not be used for complaints relating to your own personal circumstances, such as the way you have been treated at work. In those cases, you should use the Grievance Procedure.

3.4 If you are uncertain whether something is within the scope of this policy, you should seek advice from a member of the trust’s leadership team.

3.5 If your concern is in relation to safeguarding and the welfare of students, you should consider whether the matter is better raised under the Safeguarding Policy and in accordance with the arrangements for reporting such concerns, i.e. via the Designated Safeguarding Lead, although the principles set out in the is policy may still apply.

4. Raising a whistleblowing concern

4.1 We hope that you will be able to raise any concerns with your line manager. You may tell them in person or put the matter in writing if you prefer. They may be able to agree a way of resolving your concern quickly and effectively.

4.2 However, where the matter is more serious, or you feel that your line manager has not addressed your concern, or you prefer not to raise it with them for any reason, or they are the subject of the complaint, then you can raise the matter with:

(a) The Chief Financial Officer
(b) The Principal/CEO
(c) The Chair of Trustees

4.3 Contact details are set out at the end of this policy.

4.4 We will arrange a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss your concern. You may bring a colleague or union representative to any meetings under this policy. Your companion must respect the confidentiality of your disclosure and any subsequent investigation.

4.5 We will take down a written summary of your concern and provide you with a copy after the meeting. We will also aim to give you an indication of how we propose to deal with the matter.

5. Confidentiality and data protection

5.1 We hope that staff will feel able to voice whistleblowing concerns openly under this policy. However, if you want to raise your concern confidentially, we will make every effort to keep your identity confidential. If it is necessary for anyone investigating your concern to know your identity, we will discuss this with you.

5.2 We do not encourage staff to make disclosures anonymously. Proper investigation may be more difficult or impossible if we cannot obtain further information from you. It is also more difficult to establish whether any allegations are credible. Whistleblowers who are concerned about possible reprisals if their identity is revealed should come forward to one of the other contact points listed in paragraph 4.2 and appropriate measures can then be taken to preserve confidentiality. If you are in any doubt, you can seek advice from Public Concern at Work, the independent whistleblowing charity, who offers a confidential helpline. Their contact details are given at the end of this policy.

5.3 Where we receive anonymous complaints, we will make a determination about whether to investigate based on:

(a) the seriousness of the issue raised
(b) the credibility of the concern; and
(c) the likelihood of confirming the allegation from other sources

5.4 As part of the application of this policy, the trust may collect, process and store personal data in accordance with our data protection policy. We will comply with the requirements of Data Protection Legislation in the collecting, holding and sharing of information in relation to our workforce. Records will be kept in accordance with our Staff Privacy Notice, our Retention Policy and in line with the requirements of Data Protection Legislation.

6. External disclosures

6.1 The aim of this policy is to provide an internal mechanism for reporting, investigating and remedying any wrongdoing in the workplace. In most cases you should not find it necessary to alert anyone externally.

6.2 The law recognises that in some circumstances it may be appropriate for you to report your concerns to an external body such as a regulator. It will very rarely, if ever, be appropriate to alert the media. We strongly encourage you to seek advice before reporting a concern to anyone external. Public Concern at Work holds a list of prescribed regulators for reporting certain types of concern. Their contact details are at the end of this policy. Alternatively the list is available from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Whistleblowing: list of prescribed people and bodies - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

6.3 Whistleblowing concerns usually relate to the conduct of our staff, but they may sometimes relate to the actions of a third party, such as a contractor, supplier or service provider. The law allows you to raise a concern with a third party, where you reasonably believe it relates mainly to their actions or something that is legally their responsibility. However, we encourage you to report such concerns internally first. You should contact your line manager or one of the other individuals set out in paragraph 4.2 for guidance.

7. Investigation and outcome

7.1 Once you have raised a concern, we will carry out an initial assessment to determine the scope of any investigation. We will inform you of the outcome of our assessment. You may be required to attend additional meetings in order to provide further information.

7.2 In some cases we may appoint an investigator or team of investigators including staff with relevant experience of investigations or specialist knowledge of the subject matter. The investigator(s) will collate findings on the matter and may make recommendations for change to enable us to minimise the risk of future wrongdoing. This will be sent to the Principal/CEO or the Chief Financial Officer for them to action.

7.3 We will aim to keep you informed of the progress of the investigation, its likely timescale and outcome. However, sometimes the need for confidentiality may prevent us giving you specific details of the investigation or any disciplinary action taken as a result. You should treat any information about the investigation as confidential.

7.4 If we conclude that a whistleblower has made false allegations maliciously, or with a view to personal gain, the whistleblower may be subject to disciplinary action.

8. If you are not satisfied

8.1 While we cannot always guarantee the outcome you are seeking, we will try to deal with your concern fairly and in an appropriate way. By using this policy you can help us to achieve this.

8.2 If you are not happy with the way in which your concern has been handled, you can raise it with one of the other key contacts in paragraph 4.2. Alternatively you may contact the Chair of Trustees or our external auditors. Contact details are set out at the end of this policy.

9. Protection and support for whistleblowers

9.1 It is understandable that whistleblowers are sometimes worried about possible repercussions. We aim to encourage openness and will support staff who raise genuine concerns under this policy, even if they turn out to be mistaken.

9.2 Staff must not suffer any detrimental treatment as a result of raising a genuine concern. Detrimental treatment includes dismissal, disciplinary action, threats or other unfavourable treatment connected with raising a concern. If you believe that you have suffered any such treatment, you should inform one of the contact people in paragraph 4.2 immediately. If the matter is not remedied you should raise it formally using our Grievance Procedure.

9.3 Staff must not threaten or retaliate against whistleblowers in any way. Anyone involved in such. Confidential counselling is available to whistleblowers who raise concerns under this policy. Please contact your line manager or the HR Manager if you wish to have access to this service.

10. Review of policy

10.1 This policy is reviewed every two years by the trust in consultation with the recognised trade unions. We will monitor the application and outcomes of this policy to ensure it is working effectively

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