Harassment or victimisation
4.1 The council recognises that the decision to raise a concern can be difficult, not least because of the fear of reprisals.
4.2 The council will not tolerate harassment or victimisation and will take action to protect individuals who raise concerns. This does not mean that if the individual raising the concern is the subject of informal or formal, procedures, that those procedures will be halted as a result of raising a concern under this policy.
4.3 Officers should not release information which identifies whistle-blowers without their permission, unless there is a requirement to do so (e.g. a court order).
4.4 Any person applying pressure upon such officers to identify whistleblowers shall be subject to the same provisions as outlined in 4.6 below.
4.5 Where a whistle-blower alleges they are / have been victimised / harassed as a result of raising a concern that matter shall be referred to an appropriate officer to deal with and investigate. Appropriate officers will include the s151 officer (chief finance officer), monitoring officer, head of HR and learning. Where the investigations may identify the whistle-blower, either indirectly or directly, the way forward shall be discussed with the whistle-blower and any resultant action confidentially reported to the chair of the audit committee where appropriate.
4.6 Each case will be considered on its merits. If anyone is found to have victimised or harassed someone, who has made a referral under this policy, it would normally be considered:
- a matter of gross misconduct if carried out by an employee of the council
- a matter for the council to consider termination of a contract, if it is carried out by or at the request of a contractor. If there are concerns that a contractor is victimising, or has victimised, a whistle-blower an independent review may be requested.
- a matter that would be referred to the standards committee, if it relates to member conduct
- a matter that could affect service provision, if it relates to a customer.
4.7 All concerns will be treated in confidence and every effort will be made not to reveal the identity of the person highlighting the concern if that is the wish of the individual.
4.8 Information may be shared with officers to help progress any relevant investigation, but in a form which does not endanger confidentiality.
4.9 It must be appreciated that the investigation process may reveal the source of the information and a statement by the individual raising the concern may be required as part of the evidence.
4.10 Referrals will be recorded so that summary information can be reported to the council’s audit committee to illustrate trends.
4.11 Individuals are encouraged to put their name to any allegation. The council will do its best to protect the individual’s identity when they do not want their name disclosed.
4.12 Concerns expressed anonymously are much less powerful but will be considered at the discretion of the council. In exercising this discretion, the factors to be taken into account would include:
- seriousness of the issue
- credibility of the concern
- likelihood of being able to obtain the necessary information.
4.13 Any individual who makes an allegation which is not subsequently confirmed by the investigation, will have no action taken against them and will continue to have protection under this policy from victimisation or harassment.
4.14 If, however, an individual makes malicious or vexatious allegations, action may be taken against them. Maliciously making a false allegation is a disciplinary offence.