Public interest & disclosure policy

Scope

Employees, agency workers, self-employed contractors, and trainees on vocational or work experience schemes are encouraged to raise genuine concerns about possible malpractice within Hermes at the earliest practicable stage rather than to wait for proof. 
 
This policy does not form part of your terms and conditions of employment, and can at any time be reviewed and changed at the organisations request. 
 
This document supersedes all prior Public interest & Disclosure policies. 
 
   

Purpose 

Hermes believes that it is good business practice to ensure that everyone is aware of what constitutes malpractice under the terms of the Public Interest Disclosure Act, 1998, and what action they can take to disclose alleged instances of malpractice. Individual employees may often be the first to realise when either a colleague or Hermes is doing something that is illegal, improper, or fraudulent. 
 
The aim of this policy is to provide a rapid mechanism under which genuine concerns can be raised internally, and if necessary externally, without fear of adverse repercussions. It is also intended to promote throughout Hermes a culture of openness and a shared sense of integrity by inviting all employees to act responsibly in order to uphold the reputation of Hermes and maintain public confidence.  
     

Procedure 

Sometimes employees may not report their concerns for a number of reasons:
  • feeling that speaking up would be disloyal to their colleagues or to Hermes 
  • fear of harassment or victimisation 
  • feeling that their suspicions may not be well founded 
 
In such circumstances, individuals may believe that it is easier to ignore the concern rather than to report what may prove to be just a suspicion of malpractice. The procedure detailed below is intended to provide safeguards and reassurances to enable employees to raise concerns about malpractice in connection with the business. 
 
The procedure also aims to balance the need to provide safeguards for individual employees who raise concerns in good faith about malpractice, against the need to protect other employees and Hermes against malicious or vexatious allegations that can cause serious damage to innocent individuals. 
  
   

Speak up line 

The Security department has set up a free phone telephone service – “Speak up Line” – for individuals to report information relating to allegations or suspicions of malpractice. This is a confidential line, where information can be left anonymously if preferred. All information is treated as confidential. The “Speak Up Line” number is 0844 543 7010 
 
Some examples of the types of matters regarded as malpractice for the purposes of this policy are:
  • fraud and/or financial irregularity 
  • corruption, bribery, or blackmail 
  • criminal offences 
  • failure to comply with a legal obligation 
  • endangering the health or safety of any individual 
  • endangering the environment 
  • miscarriage of justice 
  • deliberate concealment of any of the above 
 
The individual should, as soon as reasonably practicable, disclose in confidence the grounds for their belief of malpractice to a manager or HR Business Partner, providing as much supporting written evidence as possible about the reasons for their concern about wrongdoing. 
 
The manager/HR Business Partner, will interview the individual in confidence as soon as practicable after the initial disclosure. 
 
The employee can request that their identity be kept confidential. Hermes will make every effort to respect this request, but cannot guarantee it in all circumstances. Where this may not be possible – for instance, if the issue becomes a matter for the police – Hermes will discuss this with the individual as soon as possible. 
 
As soon as practicable, the manager/HR Business Partner will recommend the further stages to be taken. Such recommendations may (without limitation) include one or more of the following:
  • that the matter should be reported to the police or the Health & Safety Executive 
  • that the matter should be investigated either internally by Hermes (e.g. Security or HR Department) or by external auditors or investigators appointed by Hermes 
  • that the individual, if an employee, should be given the opportunity to seek redress via Hermes grievance procedure 
      
  

Recommendations for further action 

Any recommendations for action will follow an investigation. Recommendations may be made by a manager, HR Business Partner or an appropriate senior level manager, providing that none of them are alleged to be involved in the malpractice and will be made to the HR Director or Chief Executive. 
 
In any case, the recommendation will be made without revealing the identity of the individual, save as provided for in the section headed “Safeguards” below. The recipient of the recommendation will take all steps within their power to ensure that such safeguards are implemented, except to the extent that in the view of the recipient there are good reasons for not doing so. 
 
A recommendation of no further action may be made if the manager/HR Business Partner:
  • is satisfied that the individual is not acting in good faith 
  • is satisfied that the individual does not have a reasonable belief that malpractice within the meaning of this policy has occurred, is occurring, or is likely to occur 

 

A recommendation of no further action may also be made if:
  • the matter concerned is already the subject of legal proceedings, or has already been referred to the Police or other enforcement agency 
  • the matter is already (or has already been) the subject of proceedings under one of Hermes’s other procedures 
     
Where possible, the individual will be informed of the relevant actions to be taken, or if there is no further action deemed necessary.
   
 

External disclosure 

If, having followed the above procedure, the individual is not satisfied with the action taken; they may raise the matter directly with the Police or other relevant Public Authority / Government department. However, the individual should inform Hermes of this intention before approaching an external body so that the reasons for their dissatisfaction can be examined and, hopefully, resolved. 
  
The individual may disclose the matter on a confidential basis to a professionally qualified lawyer for the purpose of taking legal advice. Hermes is not responsible for reimbursing the individual for any expenditure as a result of them taking this action.
   
  

Safeguards 

Whenever possible, the individual will not be identified unless they give their consent in writing, or there are grounds to believe that the individual has acted maliciously. In the absence of such consent or grounds, the individual will only be identified in circumstances where:
  • there is a legal obligation to do so 
  • the information is already in the public domain 
  • Hermes needs to seek advice, in which case the identification will only be made to a professionally qualified lawyer 
      
Any documentation (including computer files) kept in relation to the matter will be kept secure. As far as practicable, any documentation prepared by the manager/HR Business Partner will not reveal the identity of the individual as the discloser of information under this procedure. If a union representative or work colleague is involved in this procedure, they will required to keep the matter strictly confidential, save as required by law or until such time as it comes into the public domain. 
  
   

Remedies 

Hermes encourages individuals to report their concerns rather than to keep them to themselves. The individual will not be penalised in any way as a result of raising the issue, unless the action is not raised in good faith. Where there are grounds to believe that a disclosure has been made maliciously, or where an external disclosure is made without first advising Hermes and without reasonable grounds, Hermes may take action against the individual. This could include disciplinary action for employees, or possible civil action for non-employees. 
  
    

Related Procedures and Processes 

This policy should be read in conjunction with the Equality and Diversity policy, Grievance policy and guidelines where appropriate. 
   
    

Review 

This document will be reviewed annually. If there are any changes prompted by legislation or case law it will be reviewed to ensure compliance. 
  
    

Sign off and ownership 

This policy is owned by Human Resources.