Cathedral Whistleblowing Policy & Procedure

February 2023

What is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is when an employee or volunteer knows, or suspects, that there is some wrongdoing occurring within the organisation and alerts the employer or the relevant authority accordingly.

Often the employee may suspect that something is wrong but may not express their concerns because they believe speaking up would be disloyal to their colleagues or to their employer. They may also fear victimisation, harassment or other reprisals. In these situations, employees may think it is easier to ignore their concerns rather than report what could be a suspicion of malpractice.

Christ Church is committed to the highest possible standards of working practice and to full accountability. To this end, employees and volunteers are fully encouraged to voice any concerns they may have about Cathedral work. It is recognised that some cases will proceed on a confidential basis owing to their sensitive nature.

Employees or volunteers raising a concern under this policy will be fully supported by the Cathedral and should be aware that they can raise concerns without fear of reprisals. The main purpose of this policy is to pro-actively encourage employees and volunteers to raise concerns within the Cathedral rather than ignoring the problem or ‘blowing the whistle’ outside of the Cathedral.

1. Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998

1.1    Employees who ‘whistleblow’ are protected by The Public Disclosure Act 1998. This Act does not offer any protection for volunteers.

1.2    The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 protects workers who ‘blow the whistle’ about an alleged malpractice in the work place. The Act describes the sorts of disclosures that may be protected and the people who may be protected.

1.3    The provisions of the Act protect most workers from being subjected to any form of detriment by their employer. Detriment can take many forms including: denial of promotion, facilities, or training opportunities that the employer may otherwise have offered.

1.4    Employees may make a claim for unfair dismissal if they are dismissed for making a protected disclosure.

2. Purpose and remit of this policy

2.1    The purpose of this Policy is to:

  1. Provide routes for staff and volunteers to raise concerns and receive feedback on any action taken;
  2. Allow staff and volunteers to take the matter further if they are dissatisfied with the Cathedral’s response to the concerns that have been expressed;
  3. Reassure staff and volunteers they will be protected from possible reprisals or victimisation.

2.2    Christ Church (as a joint foundation of College and Cathedral) has in place a complaints procedure and policies and procedures for discipline, harassment, grievance and capability matters. This policy does not replace these policies or their procedures but provides a way to raise concerns that fall outside their scope

2.3    It is intended that any concern arising regarding a suspicion of malpractice in any aspect of the Cathedral’s operations and working practices, or the conduct of staff or volunteers within the Cathedral, or others acting on behalf of the Cathedral, can and should be reported under this policy.

2.4    Employees who knowingly or deliberately fail to report malpractice or wrongdoing may be liable to disciplinary proceedings if they knowingly and deliberately do not disclose information relating to malpractice in the Cathedral or the conduct of staff or volunteers or others acting on behalf of the Cathedral.

3. Potential whistleblowing scenarios

3.1    Although the following list is not exhaustive, examples of situations in which it might be appropriate for an employee or volunteer to report a wrongdoing include:

  1. A breach, or potential breach, of health and safety legislation;
  2. financial irregularities;
  3. harassment of a colleague, pupil, visitor, customer or other individual;
  4. damage to the environment;
  5. failure to comply with any legal obligation;
  6. the committing of a criminal offence.

4. Procedural safeguards

4.1    Harassment or victimisation

The Cathedral recognises that the decision to report a concern can be difficult, not least because of fear of reprisal from those responsible for the malpractice. The Cathedral will not tolerate any such harassment or victimisation and will take appropriate action in order to protect staff or volunteers who raise a concern in good faith. In addition, employees are protected in law by The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 as described in Section 1.

Employees who are subject to disciplinary action or other procedure against them may not have the procedure halted as a result of raising a concern under this policy. Each case will be considered on its merits and the employee will be advised accordingly.

4.2   Confidentiality

Complaints or allegations are easier to follow up if the person making the allegation is willing to give their name. However, where possible the Cathedral will protect those who do not wish their identity to be disclosed. It must be understood by all employees and volunteers that any investigation may reveal the source of information and a statement from complainants may be required as part of the evidence.

4.3   Anonymous allegations

Concerns expressed anonymously will be treated with caution and will be considered at the discretion of the Cathedral. In exercising this discretion, the Cathedral will take into consideration:

  1. the seriousness of the issues raised;
  2. the credibility of the concern;
  3. the likelihood of obtaining the necessary information and confirmation of the allegation.

4.4   Deliberately False or Malicious Allegations

Allegations made that are deliberately false or malicious will be taken very seriously. If such allegations are made by an employee they will be regarded as a serious disciplinary offence which could result in dismissal. If the allegation is made by a volunteer, they will be asked to leave their volunteering role.

  1. Provided that the person reasonably believed that that the alleged malpractice is or was going to occur, no action will be taken against the person making the allegation is if the investigation fails to find a case to answer.

5. How to raise a concern

5.1   Actions to be taken by the employee or volunteer

If an employee or volunteer knows, or suspects, that some wrongdoing is occurring within the Cathedral, he or she should raise the matter immediately with the relevant manager. Alternatively, the employee or volunteer can raise the matter with the Cathedral Registrar.

  1. Concerns can be raised orally but employees and volunteers are strongly advised to put their concerns in writing setting out the background and history of the concern and providing relevant dates, names and the reason why the situation is a concern;
  2. No employee or volunteer should approach or accuse individuals directly. Neither should the employee or volunteer attempt to undertake their own investigation. Under no circumstances should the employee or volunteer with suspicions convey those suspicions to anyone other than those with the proper authority to investigate the concern.

5.2   Actions to be taken by the manager

The action to be taken will depend on the nature of the concern. Where appropriate, matters raised may:

  1. be investigated by management, auditors or through the disciplinary procedure;
  2. be referred to the Police;
  3. be referred to the Safeguarding Officer or Safeguarding Lead
  4. form the subject of an independent enquiry.

5.2.1 To protect individuals and the Cathedral, initial enquiries will be made to decide whether an investigation is appropriate and, if so what form it should take. Concerns or allegations which fall within the scope of specific procedures will normally be referred for consideration under those procedures.

5.2.2 Some concerns may be resolved by agreed action without the need for a detailed investigation.

5.2.3 The Investigating Officer will write to the complainant within 10 working days of an allegation being made under this procedure to:

  1. Acknowledge receipt of the concern;
  2. Indicate how it is proposed to deal with the matter;
  3. Give an estimate of how long it may take to provide a final response (this may not always be possible at the early stages of an investigation);
  4. Advise whether any initial enquiries have already been made;
  5. Advise whether further investigations will take place and if not, why not.

5.2.4 It may be necessary to seek further information from the complainant. If so, the Investigating Officer will write to the complainant identifying the requirements or clarification required.

5.2.5 It may be necessary to meet with the complainant to discuss the investigation or other information being sought. If this is the case, the complainant may, if they wish, be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague who is not involved in the area of work to which the concern relates.

5.3   Cathedral support

The Cathedral will take appropriate steps to minimise any difficulties the complainant may experience as a result of raising a concern. For example, the complainant may be required to provide evidence in criminal or disciplinary proceedings.

5.3.1 The individual who has raised the issue of a wrongdoing will be kept informed of any investigation that is taking place. The individual will also be informed of the outcome of the investigation. It might not always be appropriate to tell the individual the detail of any action that is taken, but the individual will be informed if action is taken.

5.4   Alerting outside bodies to potential wrongdoing

An individual should always, in the first instance, talk to a manager in the organisation about a potential wrongdoing. If the individual is not satisfied with the response, he or she is entitled to contact a relevant external body to express the concerns. In doing this the employee should:

  1. have a reasonable belief that the allegation is based on facts
  2. not be making any personal gain from the revelations
  3. make the disclosure to a relevant body.

5.4.1 A “relevant body” is likely to be a regulatory body (e.g. the Health and Safety Executive, or the Financial Services Authority).

5.4.2 If the matter is raised outside the Cathedral, confidential information must not be disclosed. In addition, to secure the protections afforded by The Public Interest Disclosure Act, the Disclosure must be protected within the meaning of the Act and comply with a specific set of conditions that vary according to whom the disclosure is made. If necessary, advice may be sought from Citizens Advice, Trade Unions or Professional Associations.

5.4.3 Protect are an independent whistleblowing charity. They have a list of prescribed regulators for reporting certain types of concern. 0203 117 2520

5.4.4 Concerns can be reported to the Charity Commission, who will determine if a charity is at risk, and how serious it is. They will make a record of the concern, and investigate those that pose the highest risk. If they investigate a concern they usually work with the trustees and the charity to help get it back on track. The Charity Commission cannot tell you if your whistleblowing disclosure is protected under the law, or give legal advice. They only investigate how charities are run but do not investigate any crimes. Report your concern to the Charity Commission by email

6. Protection against detriment

If the employee does not follow the procedure set out, which encompasses the requirements of The Public Disclosure Act 1998, the protection against detriment will not apply. Disclosing information in an inappropriate way (e.g. contacting the media) could result in disciplinary action being taken against the employee, which could include dismissal. If a volunteer discloses information in an inappropriate way they may be asked to relinquish their volunteering role at the Cathedral.

7. Review of policy and procedure

The Cathedral will review this policy and operating procedure in line with Christ Church’s Employment Policy Schedule and also when there are any relevant changes in employment law that may affect the current content of this policy.

This document will be reviewed, revised (as required) and approved as part of the Cathedral’s safeguarding annual review process
VersionDateReviewed byApproved byDate of next review
V 1April 2019N/A April 2020
V 2April 2020EJN, GWEJN, GWApril 2021
V2.2 (contacts update)March 2021SRH April 2021
V3Feb 2022SRHChapterFeb 2023
V4Feb 2023MD, SAWChapterFeb 2024

Durham Cathedral are thanked for their assistance with this document.