LGA whistleblowing policy

The Local Government Association (LGA) aims to provide a safe and effective working environment, which enables individuals to raise genuine concerns about malpractice or unlawful conduct in the workplace. This policy is intended to empower employees to disclose serious wrongdoing or unlawful conduct without fear of victimisation.

1. Purpose

1.1 The Local Government Association (LGA) aims to provide a safe and effective working environment, which enables individuals to raise genuine concerns about malpractice or unlawful conduct in the workplace. This policy is intended to empower employees to disclose serious wrongdoing or unlawful conduct without fear of victimisation.

1.2 This policy is intended to:

  • promote a culture of openness in order to protect the ethical reputation of the LGA;
  • provide safeguards to enable individuals to raise genuine concerns about malpractice in confidence and without fear of repercussions;
  • ensure that all individuals working for the LGA organisation have a clear and effective means of raising concerns and may be accompanied by his/her Trade Union representative or work colleague of his/her choice;
  • ensure that individuals who raise concerns receive feedback on any action taken.

2. Principles

2.1 The LGA will ensure that any genuine concerns raised about misconduct or malpractice are fully investigated and appropriate steps taken to deal with any resultant issues. Feedback will be provided to the individual who has raised the concern to the extent that is proper without infringing other dutiesof confidence.

2.2 Employees are expected to use the Policy rather than air outside the LGA any concerns which they may have. Any employee who chooses to make a disclosure outside the LGA (including e.g. to the press) without applying this policy would not be protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Actunless the disclosure meets the specific preconditions set out in the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

2.3 It should be emphasised that the Policy, in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act, is concerned with alleged malpractice, impropriety or wrongdoing in the workplace. It is not designed to provide a route through which individuals can publicly question financial or business decisions taken by the LGA, and it offers no protection to such individuals. Neither may the Policy be used to obtain a rehearing of matters which have already been addressed under other policies/procedures such as Disciplinary, Capability or Grievance procedures.

3. Scope

3.1 The Whistleblowing Policy specifically applies to all staff who are employed by the LGA. However, the policy should also be followed by those employed on a contract for service or through an agency who become aware of malpractice or unlawful conduct in the workplace.

3.2 This policy does not apply to concerns of a personal or professional nature that relate to the individual treatment of an employee, or the application of an employment policy to him or her as an individual. These should be handled through the Grievance Procedure.

4. Context and Statutory Protection

4.1 The  Public  Interest  Disclosure  Act  1998  gives  legal  protection  to  employees  against  being dismissed  or  penalised  by  their  employers  for  publicly  disclosing  serious  concerns  falling  into certain specified categories. This policy is designed to be used to raise serious concerns which are in the public interest. Examples of serious misconduct, impropriety or malpractice which may prompt such a disclosure, are:

  • Criminal activity.
  • Failure to comply with a legal obligation.
  • Miscarriage of justice.
  • Endangering of health or safety.
  • Damage to the environment.
  • Financial or non-financial maladministration, malpractice or fraud.
  • Professional malpractice.
  • Failure of an individual/s to disclose a serious conflict of interest.
  • Attempts to suppress or conceal information relating to any of the above.

4.2  Protection is provided under the Policy provided that the disclosure is made in good faith and in the  reasonable  belief  of  the  person  making  the  disclosure  that  the  information  made  available tends to show malpractice

5. Disclosure Process

5.1 Initial Step

5.1.1 Employees  should  only  make  a  disclosure  (‘Whistleblow’)  under  this  policy  after  carefully considering whether the concern is so serious it cannot be raised through normal management arrangements e.g. in a 1:1 session with their immediate manager.

5.1.2  Any disclosure should initially be made in writing to the relevant Director (the “designated person” as  described  in  the  Public  Interest  Disclosure  Act  1998).  If  the  disclosure  contains  allegations against  the  relevant  Director,  then  the  disclosure  should  be  made  to  the  Chief  Executive. Concerns should include:-reference to the fact that it is a whistleblowing disclosure;-the background and history of the concerns; -names, dates and places (where possible); and-the reasons why the employee is particularly concerned about the situation.

5.1.3 Employees  who  feel  unable  to  put  the  concern  in  writing  should  arrange  a  meeting  with  the relevant  Director/Chief  Executive  to  make  the  disclosure  and  may  be  accompanied  by  his/her Trade Union representative or work colleague of his/her choice.

5.2 Investigation and evaluation of the Disclosure

5.2.1 The  relevant  Director/Chief  Executive  will  consider  the  information  made  available  by  the discloser and will decide how the disclosure will be investigated i.e. decide whether there will be an internal investigation, referral to the Police or an independent inquiry.

5.2.2. The relevant Director/Chief Executive may ask a Senior Manager or independent external investigator to undertake an investigation to establish all the relevant facts and to report his/her findings. The investigation will be conducted speedily, ideally reporting within three weeks of receipt of the disclosure. On the basis of the findings of the investigation, the relevant Director/Chief Executive will decide what action should be taken.

5.2.3. If the relevant Director/Chief Executive considers that there is no case to take any further, the discloser will be informed and given the reasons for not taking any further action (see feedback below).

5.2.4 Alternatively, the relevant Director/Chief Executive may consider that the disclosure requires further action to be taken under an appropriate procedure (e.g. disciplinary procedure). If no suitable procedure is available, an ad hoc process may be needed using for example an external authority to help resolve the situation.

5.2.5. In any investigation undertaken directly under this policy the discloser and the person against whom the disclosure has been made will be entitled to be accompanied by his/her Trade Union representative or work colleague of his/her choice.

5.3 Feedback

The relevant Director/Chief Executive will inform the discloser in writing of what action, if any, is to be taken. If the relevant Director/Chief Executive decides no action should be taken -either because he/she considers there is no prima facie caseto be investigated or after an internal investigation -the discloser will be informed of the reason and be allowed a second and final opportunity to remake the disclosure to the Chief Executive if he/she has not been the person considering the original disclosure. The Chief Executive will have absolute discretion to decide on an appropriate form of action based on the circumstances of the case.

5.4 Reporting of Outcomes

A record of all disclosures and any subsequent action will be maintained by the LGA for a period of three years. A report of the outcomes of any investigation will be made to the Committee overseeing the Audit of the LGA in detail where the issue falls within its purview, and in summary in other cases as a means of allowing the Committee to monitor the effectiveness of the policy.

6. Support and Protection of the Person making the Disclosure

6.1 ‘Blowing the whistle’ can be difficult and stressful. All disclosures under this Policy will be treated in a confidential and sensitive manner and the identity of the person making the disclosure will be kept confidential provided that this is compatible with an effective investigation. The investigation process may however at some stage have to reveal the source of the information and the individual making the disclosure may need to make a formal statement.

6.2 Every effort will be made to ensure that the person making the disclosure is protected from suffering harassment, victimisation or any other detriment. Employees will be given the contact details of people who can offer support and advice, e.g. HR Advisers, trade union representatives.

6.3 An employee will not lose their employment for making a complaint or disclosing information in good faith under this policy.

6.4 Employees (including managers) will not engage in retaliation, retribution, or any form of harassment or bullying directed at an individual who has reported or is considering making a disclosure. The action of an employee engaging in such behaviour may be subject to disciplinary action. For contractors, including self-employed workers, such actions may lead to the termination of the contract under which their services are provided.6.5Immunity cannot be given for an individual reporting a concern in which he or she is engaged, but prompt and forthright disclosure and co-operation will generally be considered a mitigating factor in determining any consequences to that individual.

7. External disclosures

To avoid possible prejudice to any internal investigation process, a disclosure should not normally be made to external bodies before it is raised through the internal mechanisms set out in this Policy. However, under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, in certain limited circumstances an individual making a disclosure to an external body relating to one of the matters covered by the Act, may be protected from detriment or dismissal.

8. Anonymous disclosures

Employees are encouraged to put their name to any disclosure they make since part of the purpose of this policy is to promote openness and discourage a fear of victimisation. Disclosures raised anonymously are far less capable of being addressed effectively but may be considered after taking into account the seriousness of the issue, the credibility of the disclosure, the likelihood of being able to investigate the matter and confirm the allegation from alternative sources, and fairness to any individual mentioned in the disclosure.

9. Unfounded disclosures/ Untrue Allegations

A disclosure made in good faith which is not confirmed by subsequent investigation will not lead to any action against the person making the disclosure. Individuals making disclosures which are found by subsequent investigation to be malicious and/or vexatious may be subject to disciplinary or other appropriate action.