Whistleblowing Policy

25 Sep 2020 Alex Hastings    Last updated: 20 Aug 2021

This article outlines NICVA's policy on whistleblowing.

NICVA is committed to operating to high standards of honesty, integrity and accountability to fulfil its vision, mission and values. In line with that commitment NICVA has put in place this Whistleblowing Policy to cover genuine concerns that a worker may have about suspected wrongdoing within NICVA. The policy therefore describes what whistleblowing is, what can be complained about and what the process is at NICVA for raising such a complaint, without fear of unfair treatment.  

What is Whistleblowing? 

A whistleblower is an employee or worker who reports certain types of wrongdoing which are usually seen at work (but not always). The wrongdoing disclosed must be in the public interest. Whistleblowers are protected by law under the Public Interest Disclosure (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 and should not be treated unfairly or be dismissed because of blowing the whistle.  

To be protected, a worker needs to reasonably believe that malpractice in the workplace is happening, has happened or will happen and the disclosure needs to be made in the right way. Disclosures which can be characterised as being of a personal rather than a public interest will not be covered by whistleblowing law eg. a matter of a personal grievance.  

Whistleblowing complaints 

A qualifying disclosure (under the Public Interest Disclosure (NI) Order 1998) is one made by an employee who has a reasonable belief that any of the following is being, has been or is likely to be, committed: 

  • a criminal offence 
  • an act creating risk to people’s health and safety 
  • risk or actual damage to the environment 
  • a miscarriage of justice 
  • failure to comply with a legal obligation 
  • the law also covers a deliberate attempt to cover-up any of these 

NICVA’s policy is in place to help you raise a concern about malpractice in the right way and explains the routes available for doing this.  NICVA would encourage anyone who has a concern to raise it early using the steps outlined below.  

If at any stage you feel you have experienced reprisal, detriment, harassment or victimisation for raising a genuine concern, please contact whoever you raised your concern with or NICVA’s HR Manager without delay. 

Raising a concern internally  

A qualifying disclosure will be a protected disclosure where it is made to NICVA as the employer or to another person whom you reasonably believe to be solely or mainly responsible for the relevant failure. It is recognised that a disclosure to the employer will, in most cases, ensure that concerns are dealt with quickly and by the person who is well placed to resolve the problem and NICVA would encourage those with a concern to raise it internally in the first instance, where appropriate.  

In NICVA in many circumstances the easiest way to get your concern resolved will be to raise it with your line manager. However, if having raised the concern with your line manager you do not feel the matter has been resolved or where you do not feel it is appropriate to raise it with them, in such circumstances, you may choose to raise the matter with one of the following people within NICVA: 

  • A member of NICVA’s senior management team including NICVA’s Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Executive 
  • Chairperson* of NICVA’s Executive Committee  

These steps are outlined fully in the procedure set out below. You may raise the matter in person, by phone or by email/letter. However you choose to raise the matter, you should be ready to explain fully the information and circumstances giving rise to your concerns. 

Confidentiality 

In most cases the best way to raise a concern is to do so openly. By making your identity known, you are more likely to secure a positive outcome as openness makes it easier for us to address the issue, work out how to investigate the matter, understand the reasons for concerns, obtain full information and report back on the outcome of investigations undertaken.  This policy encourages you to put your name to your whistleblowing disclosure.   
 
We recognise that there may be circumstances when you would prefer to speak to someone in confidence first.  If this is the case, please state this at the outset. 

Raising a concern externally, to a ‘prescribed person’ 

Workers who are concerned about wrongdoing or failures can make disclosures to a person or body which has been prescribed by the Public Interest (Disclosure Prescribed Persons) (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 2014.  It will be a protected disclosure to such persons or bodies provided you reasonably believe the information and allegation is substantially true and that it is being made to the right prescribed person.  

*Contact details for the Chairperson are available on the NICVA website here.

 
A full list of ‘prescribed persons’ may be found within the legislation cited above, however examples of some of those are listed below: 

  • Department of the Environment 
  • Department for Social Development 
  • Financial Conduct Authority 
  • Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland 
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs 
  • Information Commissioner 
  • Northern Ireland District Councils  
  • Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission 
  • Pensions Regulator 
  • The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland 

NICVA’s Whistleblowing procedure 

Stage 1 

A whistleblowing concern raised under stage one will be raised by the employee/worker directly with the line manager. The concern may be raised by phone, in person or in writing by email or letter. Your line manager will acknowledge receipt of the complaint and having lodged the concern, you must be prepared to explain fully the nature of the concern and provide information and circumstances giving rise to it. When you raise the concern, you may be asked how you think the matter might best be resolved.  
 
Your line manager will seek to obtain full information from you to deal with the concern appropriately. This may require investigation whereby the line manager will be required to look into the matter objectively and within timeframes that are reasonably practicable. Depending on the nature of the complaint, the line manager must consider who should be informed of it, and that it may be necessary and appropriate to inform a more senior manager and/or the Chief Executive to ensure the matter is dealt with properly.  Only those persons with a proper interest in the matter will be informed of it and the whistleblower may expect to be kept informed about the progress of the complaint, suffering no detriment as a result of having raised it. 

Stage 2  

Where you feel it is not appropriate to raise the matter with your line manager or feel that the matter has not been adequately addressed under Stage 1, the matter may then be raised internally with a member of the senior management team in NICVA which includes the Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Executive. The subsequent steps followed will be as per Stage 1 with potential investigation, informing the appropriate person/s, dealing with the concern and keeping the whistleblower informed.

Stage 3  

Where you feel it is not appropriate to raise the matter with those named in Stages 1 and 2 or you feel that the matter has not been adequately addressed under same, the matter may then be raised internally with the Chair of NICVA’s Executive Committee. The subsequent steps followed will be as per Stage 1 with potential investigation, informing the appropriate person/s, dealing with the concern and keeping the whistleblower informed. 

Stage 4  

Under Stage 4 if you feel that it is not appropriate to raise the matter internally within NICVA’s management structure or that the whistleblowing concern has not been adequately resolved under Stages 1, 2 or 3 you may then decide to raise the matter externally to one of the ‘prescribed persons’ listed in the legislation cited above. The matter may then be looked into by prescribed persons where recommendations may then be given to the employer as to how the problems may be rectified and in some cases enforcement action may be taken.  

We share NICVA’s policies to assist organisations in drafting their own. However, our policies are relevant to NICVA and are not samples. They should not be replicated, but may be used for reference purposes, in conjunction with other guidance available. NICVA cannot accept any claims arising from error or misinterpretation.
alex.hastings@nicva.org's picture
by Alex Hastings

Human Resources Manager

[email protected]

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