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Why have a whistleblowing policy?
It takes courage to bring bad practice to light. Protective bodies such as the police and CQC often appear indifferent to complaints, as shown in a recent case that came before a South London Employment Tribunal. In that case the employee was ostracised and bullied after she reported numerous failings. It was only the Nursing and Midwifery Council who saw through her employer’s smokescreen, and took up her case.
Such instances, this one reported in Private Eye, do our sector no favours.
Open door, open mind
When Virgin Trains first took over from the old British Rail they encountered a record number of complaints. And the reason? They handed out complaint forms. They wanted to know what upset passengers.
That is why you should have a whistleblowing policy. You should want to know if something is upsetting your staff. Even if you don’t really want to know you might nevertheless want to be the first to do so. Yet staff often won’t let you know if they feel they would be ignored, bullied or ostracised.
What to do
The first step is a policy. Employees need to know that they will be taken seriously and, unless you have a policy, they may doubt it. You can find appropriate policies in the QCS system.
The second step is to protect, so far as you reasonably can, the identity of the whistleblower. Others, not just the alleged offender, may be complicit in bad practice, and whistleblowers are sometimes subject to dreadful abuse from colleagues, especially if the overall work environment is poor. Apart from reputational damage, you could be facing a claim for unfair constructive dismissal, and, as in the case quoted earlier, a successful claim at that.
The final step is to have a little courage yourself if a whistle is blown. You may learn about events that are discomforting, but with resolve you can do something about them.
Malcolm Martin of Employer Solutions – QCS HR Expert contributor.
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