The Public Interest Disclosure Act gives legal protection to employees against being dismissed or penalised, by their employer, for publicly disclosing certain serious concerns. Full details of the Act are available from Personnel Services. The University believes that the following procedures will enable serious concerns to be dealt with internally and staff are strongly encouraged to use the procedure before reporting allegations of misconduct or malpractice to any outside agency
The University, like other public bodies, has a duty to conduct its affairs in a responsible and open way. It is also committed to the principles of academic freedom embodied in the Charter and Statutes and in legislation such as the Education Reform Act 1988.
Members of staff are often the first to know when there is financial or academic malpractice or when other significant departures from agreed procedures for the good governance of the institution occur. Examples of serious concern could include criminal offences, improper use of University funds or abusing authority. Malpractice is viewed very seriously by the University, and needs the co-operation of staff to combat it effectively. Therefore, the University wishes to ensure that staff feel able to raise any concerns they may have in this area, so that these concerns can be properly addressed.
The University will ensure that staff raising issues of malpractice in good faith, and who do so lawfully, and without malice, are not subject to disciplinary sanctions, victimisation, or other penalties for doing so.
The University also recognises that there is a balance to be struck between, on the one hand, protecting the rights of staff to speak freely, openly and honestly about matters of concern and, on the other, the right of individuals and the University to be protected against false or malicious allegations. With this balance in mind, confidentiality in raising concerns will, if requested, be preserved, as far as possible. However, where the scope of a fair investigation would be limited, anonymity will not always be able to be guaranteed.
Various channels exist through which such concerns can normally be raised, for example, through Heads of Schools, the Secretary-Registrar, official committees or through staff representatives including the recognised Trade Unions. However, occasionally, a member of staff may feel that it is not appropriate in the particular case to use such channels or may feel, rightly or wrongly, that his/her position in the University will be jeopardised by raising particular concern through such a channel. In these circumstances, the University wishes to have available an appropriate alternative channel for a member of staff to use, and would recommend that he/she follows the procedure outlined below.
Allegations of injustice or discrimination against individuals should, if at all possible, be dealt with under established grievance procedures. The University also has specific codes to cover sexual and racial harassment, which are intended to be flexible and to have high levels of confidentiality.
Allegations about an individual’s financial conduct should be made either to the Director of Finance or to the Secretary-Registrar. The University Officer, to whom the allegation is made will investigate the allegation and determine the appropriate course of action. The Chairman of the Audit Committee will be consulted throughout. Where, for whatever reason, the person making the allegation considers this mechanism to be inappropriate, the allegation should be made directly to the University Treasurer, who is a Lay Member of the Council.
Allegations about other issues – for example, the behaviour of a senior University Officer or a member of the University Council or about the propriety of Committee or other collective decisions – should be made, as the person making the allegation deems appropriate, to the Vice-Chancellor, the Secretary-Registrar or the Chairman of the Council.
Any allegation under paragraph 2 or paragraph 3 will be made in confidence. The person to whom the allegation is made should record its receipt and explain to the person making the allegation the process, which will now be followed, in investigating it. Advice will also be given on the most appropriate way of detailing the allegations, for example, chronicling the key events. He/she should also discuss confidentiality and anonymity with the person making the allegation, and confirm that the employment position of the person making the allegation will not be disadvantaged unless it is discovered that the allegation was made falsely or maliciously. He/she should also record what subsequent action is taken.
Any allegations made under this procedure will normally be the subject of a preliminary investigation either by the person to whom the allegation is made, or by a person or persons appointed by him/her. Where the person to whom the allegation is made decides to carry out an investigation personally, he/she should have in attendance an individual of appropriate seniority to ensure that a correct process has been followed.
The person making the allegation should be informed of the progress and outcome of the investigation. Wherever an investigation is initiated, the person against whom the allegations are made will be notified and kept informed of the progress and outcome. Where, exceptionally, the allegation is dismissed without an investigation, the person making the allegation shall be informed and given the opportunity to re-make the allegation to some other person or authority within the University.
Any person making an allegation under paragraph 2 or 3 shall receive a guarantee that the allegation shall be regarded as confidential to the recipient until a formal investigation is launched. Thereafter, the identity of the person making the allegation may be kept confidential, if requested, unless this is incompatible with a fair investigation or if there is an overriding reason for disclosure. In such circumstances, the person making the complaint will be consulted before any action is taken to divulge his/her name. Provided the allegation has been make in good faith, lawfully, and without malice, the employment position of the person will not be disadvantaged for reason of making the allegation. If it is established that the allegation has been made maliciously or in bad faith, disciplinary action may be taken against the person making the allegation.
(Approved by 19.5.99 Council)