1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 Whistleblowing has been defined as: ‘the disclosure by an employee or professional of confidential information which relates to some danger, fraud or other illegal or unethical conduct connected with the work place, be it of the employee or his/her fellow employees’

(Public Concern at Work Guidelines 1997).

1.2 Statutory protection for employees who whistleblow is provided by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (“PIDA”). The PIDA protects employees against victimisation if they make a protected disclosure within the meaning of the PIDA and speak out about concerns about conduct or practice within the company which is potentially illegal, corrupt, improper, unsafe or unethical or which amounts to malpractice.

1.3 This policy applies to all employees including full and part time, casual, temporary, and to individuals undertaking work experience.

2. AIMS AND SCOPE OF POLICY

2.1 Montala is committed to high standards in all aspects of the business and will treat whistleblowing as a serious matter. In line with Montala’s commitment to openness, probity and accountability, employees are encouraged to report concerns which will be taken seriously, investigated and appropriate action taken in response.

2.2 This policy aims to:

  • give confidence to employees about raising concerns about conduct or practice which is potentially illegal, corrupt, improper, unsafe or unethical or which amounts to malpractice or is inconsistent with the company standards and policies so that s/he is encouraged to act on those concerns
  • provide employees with avenues to raise concerns
  • ensure that employees receive a response to the concerns they have raised and feedback on any action taken
  • offer assurance that employees are protected from reprisals or victimisation for whistleblowing action undertaken in good faith and within the meaning of the PIDA.

2.3 This policy covers whistleblowing relating to alleged:

  • unlawful conduct
  • miscarriages of justice in the conduct of statutory or other
  • processes
  • failure to comply with a statutory or legal obligation
  • potential maladministration, misconduct or malpractice
  • health and safety issues including risks to the public as well as risks to employees
  • action that has caused or is likely to cause danger to the environment
  • abuse of authority
  • unauthorised use of public or other funds
  • fraud or corruption
  • breaches of financial regulations or policies
  • mistreatment of any person
  • action that has caused or is likely to cause physical danger to any person or risk serious damage to company property
  • sexual, physical or emotional abuse of employees
  • unfair discrimination or favouritism
  • racist incidents or acts, or racial harassment and
  • any attempt to prevent disclosure of any of the issues listed.

2.4 The PIDA sets out the full statutory rights and obligations of employees wishing to whistleblow.

3. SAFEGUARD AGAINST REPRISAL, HARASSMENT AND VICTIMISATION

Montala will not tolerate harassment or victimisation of employees when matters are raised in accordance with the PIDA provisions. Any employee who victimises or harasses another employee as a result of their having raised a concern in accordance with the whistleblowing policy will be dealt with under Montala's disciplinary procedures.

4. CONFIDENTIALITY

4.1 Montala recognises that employees may want to raise concerns in confidence and will do its utmost to protect the identity of employees who raise a concern and do not want their name disclosed.

4.2 However investigation into the concern could reveal the source of the information; and statements may be required from the employee as part of the evidence, which would be seen by all parties involved. If the investigation leads to prosecution, the whistleblower is likely to be called in to give evidence in court.

5. ANONYMOUS ALLEGATIONS

Employees should put their name to allegations whenever possible - anonymous concerns are much less powerful. In relation to determining whether an anonymous allegation will be taken forward the management will take the following factors into account:

  • the seriousness of the issue raised
  • the credibility of the concern
  • the likelihood of confirming the allegation from attributable sources, and obtaining information provided.

6. PROCEDURE FOR MAKING A WHISTLEBLOWING ALLEGATION

6.1 Concerns should be expressed in writing to the HR Officer. If the concerns involve the HR Officer then the Managing Director should be the first point of contact. It is expected that the person receiving the allegation will become the investigating officer. However it is at the discretion of this person to delegate the investigation to another person if they feel this is appropriate.

6.2 Your concern should be in writing for the avoidance of doubt. You should set out the background and history of the concern; giving names, dates and places where possible, and explaining the reason for your concerns. If you feel unable to put the matter in writing you can still raise your concern verbally and should telephone or arrange to meet the appropriate person.

7. RESPONSE TO WHISTLEBLOWING

7.1 The matter raised may:

  • need inquiry internally
  • need to be passed to the Police if it relates to alleged criminal activity

7.2 At this stage concerns/allegations are neither accepted nor rejected.

8. TIMESCALE FOR RESPONSE

8.1 You will normally receive a written response within 5 working days (except in the case of anonymous allegations):

  • acknowledging that the concern has been received
  • indicating how it is proposed to deal with the matter
  • giving an estimate of how long it will take to provide a final response
  • advising whether any enquiries have been made
  • advising whether further enquiries will take place
  • informing you of support available whilst matters are looked into, and
  • maintaining confidentiality wherever possible, but also explaining that it may not be possible that you can remain anonymous.

9. THE INQUIRY PROCESS

9.1 The investigating officer will:

  • look into the allegation - seeking evidence and interviewing witnesses as necessary.
  • maintain confidentiality wherever possible but will be mindful that there is no guarantee that the whistleblower can remain anonymous.
  • if appropriate, for concerns of criminal behaviour refer the matter to the Police.

9.2 If the investigating officer needs to talk to you, you are permitted to be

accompanied by a trade union or professional association representative or a fellow employee not involved in the area of work to which the concern relates.

9.3 The target is to complete the inquiry within 15 working days from the date

of the initial written response, although the enquiry may extend beyond this timescale.

10. THE INQUIRY REPORT

10.1 Following completion of the inquiry process the investigating officer will make a written report and if necessary action will be taken. This may result in a trigger for the grievance and/or disciplinary procedure to be implemented against the person reported. The whistleblower will also be notified of the outcome. The report will not contain the whistleblower’s name unless you have expressly stated that you wish to be named.

10.2 If the investigation was carried out by a person other than the HR Officer or Managing Director the written report must be submitted to them to determine what further action (if any) is required. When considering further actions, the HR Officer and Managing Director must act on any recommendations made in the report.

11. TAKING THE MATTER FURTHER

If no action is to be taken and/or you are not satisfied with the way the matter has been dealt with, you can make a complaint under the complaints procedure or raise your concerns with other organisations as listed below:

  • the Police - for concerns of criminal behaviour
  • a trade union or professional association
  • Public Concern at Work (an independent charity that provides free advice for persons who wish to express concern about fraud and other serious malpractice. Telephone 0207 404 6609 or www.pcaw.co.uk).