Council change policy to prevent whistleblowers losing their job

Whistleblowers at Sheffield City Council will no longer fear losing their job if they raise a complaint after the standards committee approved a change of policy.

Thursday, 19th April 2018, 11:52 am
Updated Thursday, 19th April 2018, 12:01 pm
Sheffield Town Hall

Sexual harassment, bullying and fraud were some of the eight allegations recorded in the council's whistleblowing log however, it is expected that more people will now "blow the whistle" following the change to provide more clarity and reassurance for employees.

In one case, staff raised concerns about one of their colleagues bullying and harassing another member of staff. They used the whistleblowing route because they felt uncomfortable saying anything in public.

In another case, an employee was disciplined after posting defamatory comments about another member of staff on Facebook.

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The majority of allegations arose around the last time the policy was promoted in 2015.

Michele Hassen, HR service manager, presented the report in an Audit and Standards Committee meeting.

“It was actually following a case we were working on that made us realise we need to do something more”, she said, “and it’s been two or three years since we’ve done any more promotion on it so we thought it was time we did some more re-promotion of it to make sure people were aware.”

In the report, officers said: “The council seeks to conduct its affairs in a responsible manner taking into account the requirements of the proper use of public funds and the standards required in public life.

“The whistleblowing policy enables employees to raise concerns that are in the public interest so that they may be investigated and where appropriate acted upon.

"Employees who ‘blow the whistle’ on wrongdoing in the workplace can claim unfair dismissal if they are dismissed or victimised for doing so. An employee’s dismissal, or selection for redundancy, is automatically considered ‘unfair’ if it is wholly or mainly for making a protected disclosure."

The change will aim to give more clarity and reassurance to employees. It is being made following concerns that people were avoiding raising complaints for fear they would be re-deployed or had to leave the workplace entirely.

Councillor Pat Midgley, Manor Castle ward, said the previous system was unfair and added: “It’s a bit like with housing complaints it’s usually the perpetrator who stays and the person who’s having the injustice has to move. And that’s slightly concerning.”

There is no legal requirement for the council to have a whistleblowing policy but officers say it helps avoid “expensive claims” by picking up on issues at an early stage.