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Public Interest Disclosure

UCL’s policy regarding the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

Contents


1. Introduction 

Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 

1.1. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 encourages staff to report suspected wrongdoing and protects those that do against being dismissed or suffering a detriment by their employers. It also gives protection to employees against suffering a detriment or retaliation from another employee for reporting suspected wrongdoing. 

1.2. The Act is not designed to support a claim from an employee about other aspects of their employment.  In other circumstances the individual is encouraged to raise any concerns with their manager or HR Business Partner in the first instance and is able to access the UCL Grievance Policy

Summary of UCL's policy 

1.4. University College London (UCL) is committed to the highest standards of openness, probity and accountability.  In conducting its business UCL takes account of the requirements of its funding bodies for the proper use of public funds and of the standards in public life set out in the Reports of the Government's Committee on Standards in Public Life (the Nolan Committee). 

1.5. The purpose of this UCL Policy Statement on Public Interest Disclosure is to encourage staff to report suspected wrongdoing in the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated and to provide guidance about how such "public" disclosures should be made and how each case will then be handled.  This Policy also provides staff with reassurance that they should be able to raise genuine concerns without fear of reprisals.  Members of UCL are expected to use the Policy rather than air outside UCL any such concerns which they may have.  Any member of UCL who chooses to make a disclosure outside UCL (including e.g. to the press) without using the UCL Policy may not be protected under the Act and may be subject to internal UCL disciplinary procedures. 

1.6. It should be emphasised that the UCL Policy, in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act, is concerned with alleged malpractice, impropriety or wrongdoing in the workplace.  It is not designed to provide a route through which individuals can publicly question financial or business decisions taken by UCL, and it offers no protection to such individuals.  Neither may the Policy be used to obtain a rehearing of matters which have already been addressed under other UCL procedures such as Allegations of Financial Irregularity, Allegations of Misconduct in Academic Research, Centralised Complaints Procedure, Sexual Harassment, Racial Harassment, Grievance or Disciplinary procedures or such other procedures as may be adopted by UCL in the future.  

2. Scope of the policy 

2.1. Although the Public Interest Disclosure Act limits protection to employees, agency workers and self-employed workers, UCL's Policy additionally covers lay members of UCL's committees, UCL students and providers of services to UCL through a profession or business. 

2.2. This Policy is designed to allow employees and such other persons as listed in 2.1 above to raise concerns or disclose information at a high level (and, if an employee wishes, independently of line management) which the discloser believes to show evidence of wrongdoing. 

2.3.  The UCL Policy on Public Interest Disclosure covers concerns which are in the public interest and which may need to be addressed separately, at least initially, even if other UCL policies and procedures are subsequently invoked as provided for under 4.2(ii).  Concerns within the workplace which might prompt disclosure could include the following:  

  • Financial malpractice, impropriety or fraud 

  • Activities which have or have the potential to involve bribery or corruption 

  • Failure to comply with a legal obligation 

  • Serious Failure to comply with UCL's Charter, Statutes, or Regulations for Management 

  • Endangering of health and safety or damage to the environment 

  • Criminal activity 

  • Academic or professional malpractice 

  • Miscarriage of justice 

  • Improper conduct or unethical behaviour 

  • Serious conflict of interest without disclosure 

  • Attempts to conceal any of the above 

3. Safeguards 

3.1. Protection  

Protection is provided under the Policy provided that; 

  • the disclosure is being made in the public interest by a person who falls within the scope at 2.1, and 

  • the person making the disclosure is doing so in the reasonable belief that the information made available tends to show wrongdoing. 

No individual reporting a disclosure under this Policy should suffer any detrimental treatment as a result of raising the concern.  Detrimental treatment includes dismissal, disciplinary action, threats or other unfavourable treatment connected with raising a concern. If someone who has raised a concern believes they have suffered any such treatment, they should report it immediately. 

3.2. Confidentiality 

Discloser 

UCL will treat all disclosures under this Policy in a sensitive manner.  UCL hopes staff will feel able to raise their concerns openly under this Policy but if the individual reporting the concern (i.e. the discloser) wants to raise their concern confidentially, UCL will make every effort to keep their identity confidential insofar as this is compatible with making an effective investigation into the allegations which are the subject of the disclosure.  The investigation process may however at some stage have to reveal the source of the information, and the individual making the disclosure may need to make a statement as part of the evidence required. 

Named Individual 

Whenever an allegation is made as part of this procedure against a named individual, that person will be told of the allegation and of the evidence supporting it, and will be allowed to respond before any investigation or further action is concluded.  The point at which the individual is informed will depend on the nature of the concerns raised. 

3.3. Anonymous allegations  

Individuals are encouraged to put their name to any disclosure they make since part of its purpose is to promote openness without the fear of reprisals.  Concerns raised anonymously are much less powerful, difficult (sometimes impossible) to investigate and far less capable of being addressed, but they will be considered at UCL's discretion.  In exercising this discretion, UCL will take account of such matters as: 

  • The seriousness of the issues raised 

  • The credibility of the concern 

  • The likelihood of confirming the allegation from alternative credible and/or attributable sources 

3.4. Untrue allegations  

If an individual reports genuine concerns in accordance with 3.1 above, which are not confirmed by subsequent investigation, no action will be taken against the individual.  An individual raising malicious or vexatious concerns may however face disciplinary action, particularly if they persist in pursuing them where, following investigation, they have been declared to be without foundation.  A disclosure may be declared malicious or vexatious at any stage of the procedure. 

4. Procedure for making a disclosure 

4.1. Initial step  

UCL Council has a statutory responsibility for the good governance of UCL and any disclosure should initially be made to the Vice President, Operations (andy.m.smith@ucl.ac.uk) who has been designated by the Council as the responsible Officer for considering such allegations.   If the disclosure contains allegations against the Vice President, Operations then the disclosure should be made to the Provost. 

4.2. Process  

The Vice President, Operations will consider the information made available by the discloser and will decide whether there are grounds for proceeding further with an investigation.  

If the Vice President, Operations considers that there are no grounds for proceeding further, the discloser has the right to remake the case (see 4.4 below).  
 
If the Vice President, Operations considers that there are grounds for proceeding further, they will decide: 

(i) Whether an investigation should be conducted and, if so, who should undertake it and what form it should take; the appropriate body to conduct the investigation will depend on the nature of the matter raised and may be: 

  • An internal investigation (see 4.3 below) 

  • Referral to the police 

  • Calling for an independent inquiry 

(ii) Whether the concerns are more appropriately dealt with under an existing UCL procedure, as listed in 1.6 above. 

4.3. Investigation  

Where the matter is to be the subject of an internal investigation, under 4.2(i), the concerns will be fully investigated under this Policy. 

In any investigation undertaken directly under this Policy, the discloser and the person against whom the disclosure has been made will be entitled to be accompanied by a workplace colleague or Trade Union representative. 

4.4. Feedback  

The Vice President, Operations will inform the discloser in writing of what action, if any, is to be taken.  If the Vice President, Operations decides no action should be taken - because they consider there is no prima facie case to be investigated - the discloser will be informed of the reason and allowed a second and final opportunity to remake the disclosure to the Chair of the Audit Committee.  The Chair of the Audit Committee will have absolute discretion to decide on an appropriate form of action based on the circumstances of the case so far. 

4.5. Reporting of outcomes  

A record of all disclosures and of any subsequent action will be maintained by the Vice President, Operations for a period of six years.  A report of the outcomes of any investigation will be made to the Provost, Chair of Council, and the Audit Committee in detail where the issue falls within their purview, and in summary in other cases as a means of allowing the Committee to monitor the effectiveness of the procedure.  

4.6. Status 

This policy is non-contractual and may be varied from time to time.