Whistleblowers lift lid on complaints at Sheffield Council

Sheffield Town Hall
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Sexual harassment, bullying and fraud are just some of the allegations raised in a “whistleblowing log” at Sheffield Council.

Employees have “blown the whistle” on both colleagues and managers, says a new council report.

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.

The manager was advised to “use the Dignity and Respect Policy” with the alleged employee.

In a difference case, there was an anonymous claim of witnessing sexual harassment in the workplace. This was resolved internally.

One person had their agency contract terminated after concerns about “management conduct on social media”.

Another member of staff was disciplined after posting defamatory comments on Facebook against an employee.

And a manager received calls regarding an employee off sick who was seen working outside the council with no apparent health issues. The employee was spoken to in a “sickness meeting”.

Other whistleblowing included allegations of accounting irregularities, claims of fraud and whether a worker dealt with a complex funding issue appropriately. All three were unproven.

There were eight whistleblowing allegations dating back over the past four years. Although a number of allegations are initially raised as ‘whistleblowing’, they often become managed through different procedures

Sheffield Council says it is committed to “the highest standards of ethics, transparency, integrity and accountability” but encourages employees to come forward if they are concerned.

In a report, officers say: “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.”

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

The report added: “It helps to ensure that all employees, particularly managers, understand the rights of those who blow the whistle.

“A whistleblowing policy demonstrates the council understands the importance of being aware of any wrongdoing or malpractice and of putting it right and makes it more likely that concerns will be raised internally.

“This reduces the risk of involvement by external bodies such as tribunals and the external auditor, or the risk of reputational damage.”

The council’s Audit and Standards Committee will discuss the report at a meeting on Thursday, April 12.

Whistleblowing

If employees raise an alleged wrongdoing with their employer, they are protected in certain circumstances under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.

The law protects whistleblowers if they are raising an issue in the public interest.

They can claim unfair dismissal if they are dismissed or victimised for doing so.

‘Public interest’ means that whistleblowing cannot be used to challenge financial and business decisions properly taken by Sheffield Council.

An employee can act if they reasonably believes that one or more of the following is happening, has taken place, or is likely to happen in the future:

A criminal offence

Failure to comply with any legal obligation

Fraud, theft or corruption

A danger to the health and safety of the general public or other employees

Damage to the environment