This Policy is founded on the principle that NowSkills Limited (NowSkills) and its employees carry out their business and personal conduct in an ethical manner and in line with the values and objectives of NowSkills.
From time to time, a situation may arise where a member of staff has serious concerns about perceived irregularities in the running of NowSkills or the activities of staff within NowSkills. The concern may be that they are unlawful, or against Company policies and/or established standards of practice. Such concerns might relate to, for example, financial malpractice, breach of trust, or departures from statutory or other requirements for good governance.
In their second report, the Committee on Standards in Public Life (the ‘Nolan Committee’) recommended that local public spending bodies should have appropriate channels through which staff can express such concerns (referred to as “Whistleblowing”) and that the position in the institution of the individual expressing such concerns should not be jeopardised, provided that they are made lawfully, without malice and in the public interest.
NowSkills is committed to a policy which minimises the risk of fraud and corruption in the organisation. It encourages the reporting of any information which might lead to the discovery of a fraudulent or corrupt practice but at the same time it wishes to reassure staff that they will be protected if, as part of the policy, they raise a concern in good faith. This policy aims to encourage and enable staff to raise serious concerns through avenues within the institution through approved channels rather than overlooking a problem or raising the issue outside the institution through unapproved channels. The Whistleblowing Policy reinforces existing procedures and clarifies and secures the position of employees.
This Policy is for use by staff employed by NowSkills and all learners/employers involved in any activities.
Existing Controls within NowSkills
The Board of Directors have overall responsibility for ensuring the Policies, Procedures and ways of operating within the Company are free from fraud and corruption.
Procedures exist to enable staff to work in an environment free from harassment and to raise grievances if they are not being treated correctly. The Whistleblowing policy has a wider application and is intended to cover any form of malpractice, including fraud, theft and corruption. Whistleblowing is not a substitute for NowSkills’s Grievance Procedure and is not a channel for staff to raise grievances in relation to their conditions of service and personal circumstances. Staff are encouraged to raise with the Board of Directors any weaknesses in Company systems which could lead to abuse.
Acceptance of Gifts and Hospitality
It is important to distinguish between fraud and corruption. Both are serious matters but fraud tends to be characterised by complicity. Corruption is often more difficult to prove. Accepting money or hospitality is the most obvious form of corruption in public life. Under no circumstances should a gift or concession of any sort be accepted where this could be construed as a reward for special or unwarranted favours. In the event of any doubt, the Board of Directors should be consulted regarding the acceptance of any gifts.
NowSkills recognises that a decision to “blow the whistle” can be a difficult one to make, not least because of the fear of reprisal from those who may be guilty of the malpractice that is the source of the concern or from the organisation as a whole. NowSkills will not tolerate any victimisation and will take every appropriate action to protect any person who raises a concern in good faith including any necessary disciplinary action. If a member of staff has a concern they can seek information and guidance with anonymity from the Human Resources department.
NowSkills will strive to protect the identity of any member of staff who raises a concern anonymously and who does not want his/her name disclosed. However, this may not always be possible, as any investigation process may reveal the source of information and a statement by the whistleblower may be a necessary part of the evidence.
NowSkills will protect individuals from false, malicious or vexatious expressions of concern. Disciplinary action may be taken against any member of staff who is discovered to have made allegations maliciously. In addition, NowSkills will try and ensure that the negative impact of either a false or unfounded allegation on any “accused” person is minimised where possible. Such allegations will not be kept on the personal file of the “accused” person.
Concerns expressed anonymously will be considered at the discretion of NowSkills, considering the seriousness and the credibility of the concern.
Procedure for Reporting Concerns
Concerns should normally be raised with the line manager of the member of staff, however, the most appropriate person to contact to report a concern will depend on the seriousness and sensitivity of the issues involved and who is suspected of the malpractice. Staff may therefore contact any of the following, who will be trained to deal with the procedure for handling concerns:
- their Line Manager
- a member of the Senior Management Team
- a Director
If a member of staff believes that the Senior Management of NowSkills are involved in the issues that are a matter of concern, contact should be made with the Director.
Staff may contact their trade union or professional association to raise an issue on their behalf.
Whilst staff will not be expected to prove the truth of an allegation that is made, it will be necessary to demonstrate to the person contacted that there are reasonable grounds for concern.
Issues may be raised in person or in writing but the full extent of the allegations should be made clear.
Procedure for dealing with issues raised
It is important that all matters are handled in confidence and not discussed outside those directly involved as far as possible.
Concerns or allegations raised which fall within the scope of specific established procedures may be referred for consideration under those procedures. Concerns should not be brought under this procedure where NowSkills already has guidelines/procedures in place to deal with the issue e.g. purchase of I.T. equipment.
A referral of a concern will be acknowledged by the person having received the concern, within five working days and an indication given of how NowSkills proposes to deal with the issue within 10 working days of the initial concern.
As detailed a written record as possible of all salient points and dates should be kept by the person to whom the allegations were made.
Some concerns may be capable of resolution by agreed action without the need for investigation.
However, usually the matters raised will be investigated by management, by internal audit or through disciplinary procedures. Alternatively they may be subject to independent enquiry. Relevant matters may also be subject to investigation by police.
Therefore, any person who receives a concern should contact the Director so that an appropriate course of action can be agreed. If appropriate, initial enquiries would be made to assist in determining the most appropriate process for the consideration of the concern. Alternatively, a senior manager maybe requested to undertake further work to establish the facts or NowSkills’s Internal Auditors may be asked to assist.
Due note must be taken of Company Disciplinary Procedures particularly where the matter might involve the suspension of a member of staff. The relevant sections of the disciplinary procedure would be used to determine whether a member of staff suspected of fraud or corruption would be suspended on full pay by the Director. The suspended person would be required to hand over items such as key, documents and Company property. The suspended individual will be denied access to Company premises.
In the early stages of the investigation, it is not an automatic requirement that the police are informed. The particular circumstances of the case will determine whether and at which stage the police are notified. The Director will be responsible for notifying the Police. It may be necessary for the Director to discuss the evidence with the Police informally initially. Where documents are handed over to the Police, the Director should ensure that the police sign for them. Circumstances will determine whether it is necessary to wait for the results of police enquiries before internal procedures are followed.
With regard to allegations where the Police are involved, NowSkills will be guided by the Police as to when the person can be informed.
NowSkills will take appropriate steps to minimise any difficulties that a member of staff may experience as a result of using this procedure.
The person raising the concern will be given as much information as possible on the outcome of the investigation, subject to the constraints of NowSkills’s duty of confidentiality or any other legal constraint.
The person against whom the concern is raised will be informed of the allegations as early as possible in the process. They will have the right to be represented by a trade union representative or work colleague.
Although it is difficult to be prescriptive about time scales it is in the best interests of all parties for any investigations to be undertaken as speedily as possible.
Taking matters further
It is the intention of the policy that issues are raised within NowSkills. However, if a member of staff is dissatisfied with the response provided by NowSkills he/she could raise the issue with the Bodies identified in Appendix A as stated in the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014.
Members of staff should not disclose confidential, false or misleading information to an unapproved external organisation. In considering taking a concern outside NowSkills, staff should be aware of their duty of confidentiality and ensure that no confidential information is divulged.