With reports that a whistleblower has accused Oxfam of failing to act after being informed of safeguarding issues, it is a good time to remind all charities of the law in this area.

In particular, charities should be thinking about how they deal with any concerns raised by a whistleblower and review their policies and systems to ensure they are robust and effective.

What are three top tips for charities when dealing with whistleblowing?

Make sure you have a clear, written whistleblowing policy. The policy may vary according to your charity’s size and resources, but it should state what whistleblowing is, describe the way in which workers can make disclosures and explain how it will be acted upon.

Do not ignore whistleblowing complaints. You will need to investigate any disclosure and hold a meeting with the whistleblower to understand the exact nature of the disclosure and alleged wrongdoing it is about.

Train your managers so that they know how to deal with disclosures in a fair and consistent way. You should also give your workers training so they are aware of the policy and know how to make a disclosure.

How does the law protect whistleblowers?

It’s also important to remember that whistleblowers are protected by law if they can meet the following three requirements:

Firstly, the person making the disclosure must be a worker. This covers employees, apprentices, trainees and agency workers, but it excludes volunteers, charity trustees and genuinely self-employed professionals (other than in the NHS).

Secondly, they must reasonably believe they are acting in the public interest. This means the disclosure must have an impact on other people and not be a personal grievance.

Thirdly, the worker must have a reasonable belief that the information disclosed tends to demonstrate past, present or likely future wrongdoing of the following nature:

  • Criminal offence
  • A breach of a legal obligation
  • Risk to someone’s health and safety
  • Miscarriages of justice
  • Damage to the environment
  • That someone is covering up or concealing the wrongdoing in any of the areas stated above.

The worker must make the disclosure to the employer or in cases of certain types of serious wrongdoing, the worker may make a disclosure to the Charity Commission. The Charity Commission has the power to investigate the concerns raised and take action to rectify the problem.

Our Charities Team is on hand to help you with your workplace challenges, so give us a call to discuss your HR policies and procedures.

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