The government regularly announce that whistleblowing is welcomed in the public sector. They say that workers are often best placed to identify problems or deficiencies before damage is done and that it is their duty to highlight serious risks, potential fraud or corruption. Public Concern at Work said “Whistleblowing can inform those who need to know about health and safety risks, potential environmental problems, fraud, corruption, deficiencies in the care of vulnerable people, cover-ups and many other problems. Often it is only through whistleblowing that this information comes to light and can be addressed before damage is done. Whistleblowing is a valuable activity which can positively influence all of our lives.”
That said, many are still afraid of the consequences of whistleblowing or find it difficult to know what information they should be whistleblowing and how to go about the whole process.
What should you be whistleblowing?
Issues you should raise will usually depend on the particular area of the public sector you work in. For example, if you work in procurement, perhaps you’re aware of favouritism towards one provider over another? Or perhaps you work within adult care and are aware of a serious safe guarding issue? Below are a variety of circumstances where you should definitely be raising the alarm.
- Favouritism towards certain contractors in recruitment contracts
- Unusual accounting transactions being processed
- Work practices which could seriously damage the environment
- The abuse of children and /or vulnerable adults (physical or psychological)
- Health and safety risks, either to the public or other employees
- Any unlawful act (e.g. theft)
- The unauthorised use of public funds (e.g. expenditure for improper purpose)
- A breach of the Employee Code of Conduct
- Maladministration (e.g. not adhering to procedures, negligence)
- Failing to safeguard personal and/or sensitive information (data protection)
- Damage to the environment (e.g. pollution)
- Fraud and corruption (e.g. to give or receive any gift/reward as a bribe)
- Abuse of power
- Poor value for money
- Other unethical conduct
- Any deliberate concealment of information tending to show any of the above.
How should you go about raising your concern?
- Speak to your manager or team leader, either verbally or in writing.
- If you don’t feel like you can speak candidly with your manager, raise your concern directly with your organisation’s dedicated whistleblowing officer.
- If you feel that your disclosure is so serious you cannot speak to those listed in 1 and 2, you should contact the head of your organisation or board member.
What if you want to speak to someone outside your organisation?
If you feel unable to raise your concern internally, or feel your concern hasn’t been addressed adequately there are external organisations you can approach. Visit the GOV.UK website for a full list of prescribed people or bodies you can make your disclosure to. Alternatively contact Public Concern at Work at www.pcaw.org.uk for advice on raising concerns externally.
Will your confidentiality be ensured?
When you raise your concern to someone within your organisation there should be procedures in place for maintaining your confidentiality to the maximum extent possible. You should be consulted with and have given your consent prior to any action that could identify you. There should also be strategies in place for supporting you and ensuring you suffer no detriment or harassment when confidentiality is not possible or cannot be maintained.
What if you want to make your disclosure anonymously?
It may be more difficult to progress your disclosure if you remain anonymous and you cannot be contacted for further information. If an investigation is required, you will not be able to provide evidence or clarification without your anonymity being compromised. It will also be more difficult to demonstrate to a tribunal that you have been treated unfairly as a result of your whistleblowing if there is no evidence of you doing so.
Who should you contact for help and advice?