1. Purpose and Scope
Christian Brethren Community Service’s (CBCS) Vision, Mission and Values underpin a strong commitment to maintaining high standards of corporate governance, compliance and general ethical behaviour.
CBCS is committed to detecting and preventing illegal, unethical or other undesirable conduct. This policy provides a way for employees, volunteers, residents, clients, vendors, contractors or others to report their concerns confidentially, freely and without fear of repercussion.
CBCS’s Whistleblower Policy is in place to provide these people a process to make anonymous complaints about matters they encounter.
All people utilising this policy will be treated fairly and with strict confidentiality.
There are a number of existing policies/practices that allow staff, residents or clients to report wrongdoing:
Staff and volunteers:
- Employment Contract (Staff)
- Code of Conduct
- Bullying & Harassment Policy and process in the Staff Agreement and Staff Handbook
- Unacceptable conduct statements within the Staff Agreement and Staff Handbook
- Mechanisms in place for providing feedback and/or making a complaint at the local level.
- Escalation of issues to the appropriate executive if there is an inadequate local response.
Complaint mechanisms external to CBCS:
- Residential Care – My Aged Care, Aged Care Quality Complaints Commission
- Retirement Living – NSW Fair Trading, Seniors Rights Service
In situations where these policies/practices are not applicable, it may become necessary for an individual to take action as a Whistleblower.
This Policy applies to all employees, contractors, volunteers, residents, and any other person with knowledge of any suspected wrongdoing or unethical behaviour related to the conduct of CBCS’s business or staff.
Whistleblowing: The reporting in good faith by an individual of misconduct that is within CBCS’s ability to control. Reporting in good faith means the complainant has a reasonable and honest belief that the alleged misconduct occurred.
Whistleblower: Any Board member, employee, volunteer, resident, family member, vendor or contractor who wishes to make a report in connection with misconduct and avails themselves of the protections offered in this Policy.
- Dishonest, corrupt, illegal or fraudulent conduct
- Unethical or immoral behaviour
- Legal or regulatory non-compliance
- Substantial mismanagement of CBCS’s resources
- Substantial mismanagement that involves a significant risk to health, safety or the environment
- Behaviour damaging to the reputation of CBCS
Whistleblower Protection Officer (WPO): The person to whom a report under this Policy is made and who has responsibility to safeguard the interests of the whistleblower. To maintain independence from CBCS’s operations, the WPOs include two Board members to whom complaints may be made, in addition to three Executives:
- Board Chair – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Deputy Chair – email@example.com
- Chief Executive Officer – firstname.lastname@example.org
- General Manager Finance and Administration – email@example.com
- People Services Manager – firstname.lastname@example.org
Whistleblower Investigation Officer (WIO): The person responsible for investigation of a report made under this Policy, investigating the substance of the report and determining where there is evidence in support of the matters raised. The WIO will be appointed by the WPO at their discretion and may be an investigator external to CBCS depending on the nature of the allegations made and the person or persons against whom they are made.
3. Making a Report
In the first instance, prior to action under this Policy, the whistleblower is encouraged to follow normal reporting channels and discussing the matter with their immediate supervisor/manager.
If the nature of the matter is such that it is not appropriate to report through normal channels, or if the whistleblower has a reasonable concern about doing so, or if the matter has been previously reported under normal channels but the whistleblower believes no appropriate action has been taken, the whistleblower can contact the WPO directly to discuss the matter and lodge a report.
A whistleblower may choose to report a matter anonymously, however they should recognise that anonymity may be inconsistent with natural justice for the person or persons that the complaint is made about and may severely hamper the investigation process. Anonymity may also mean that it is difficult to provide feedback on the status of the investigation to the whistleblower and also to provide the protection afforded to whistleblowers under this Policy.
Whistleblowers should ensure as far as they are able that their report is factually accurate, complete, based on first-hand knowledge, without material omission and presented in an unbiased fashion. The report should be as detailed as practicable and include (but not be limited to):
- the exact nature of the alleged misconduct believed to have occurred
- when the alleged misconduct took place, if known
- where the alleged misconduct took place, if known
- who was involved in the alleged misconduct
- the names of witnesses who may know information that is relevant to investigating the alleged misconduct.
4. Conducting an Investigation
All reports made under this Policy will be investigated with the objective of obtaining evidence that either substantiates or refutes the claims made by the whistleblower.
Investigations will be carried out by the WIO, as appointed by the WPO, who will be fair and independent in their investigation.
A person accused within or connected to the matter must not be the WPO or WIO. If the WPO or WIO believes he/she may have a conflict of interest by acting as WPO or WIO in the matter, he/she is to notify the alternative WPO who will ensure that the matter is addressed without conflict of interest.
Where appropriate, for example where this is a potential risk to resident care or staff safety, the person alleged to have engaged in misconduct may be stood down from duty pending investigation. Where a person is stood down while the investigation takes place, no inference of wrongdoing or assumed guilt will apply. The principles of natural justice will be observed in the investigation, which will be conducted without bias and any person against whom an allegation has been made will be given the opportunity to respond.
If requested, the identity of the whistleblower may be kept confidential, noting that any commitment to confidentiality will be subject to reasonableness and the requirements of the law.
As soon as practicable after the investigation is concluded, the WIO will prepare a report providing a summary of the facts of the suspected misconduct and of the findings of the investigation (i.e. whether the misconduct was substantiated or unsubstantiated). The report shall be provided to the WPO who shall ensure that appropriate measures are taken in light of the findings in the report, which may include notification to regulatory and/or enforcement agencies.
The WPO will provide a brief explanation to the Whistleblower concerning the results of the investigation and actions taken.
5. Protecting Whistleblowers
If a whistleblower makes a report under this Policy in good faith, then provided he/she has not been involved in the conduct reported, the whistleblower will not be penalised or disadvantaged because they have reported a matter.
CBCS staff must not victimise, harass or discriminate against anyone who raises a concern under this Policy or who participates in an investigation. Such victimisation, harassment or discrimination is serious misconduct and may result in disciplinary measures, up to and including summary dismissal. A whistleblower or participant in an investigation who believes he/she has been penalised or disadvantaged, including by being subjected to victimisation, harassment, discrimination or other unfavourable treatment, as a result of their report should immediately report the same to the WPO.
Any employee, supervisor or manager who is found to have penalised or disadvantaged a whistleblower or participant in an investigation by reason of their status as a whistleblower or witness to the alleged misconduct may be subjected to disciplinary measures, up to and including summary dismissal.
Where it is established by the WIO that the whistleblower has not acted in good faith or he/she intentionally made a false, malicious or vexatious report of alleged misconduct, then this will be reported to the WPO and may result in the whistleblower being the subject of disciplinary measures, up to and including summary dismissal.