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Shoosmiths whistleblowing policy


Background

We are committed to conducting our business with honesty and integrity and we expect all staff, suppliers and contractors, to maintain high standards. We encourage staff to report suspected wrongdoing as soon as possible.

The aims of this policy are:

  1. To encourage staff to report suspected wrongdoing as soon as possible, in the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated as appropriate, and that their confidentiality will be respected.
  2. To provide staff with guidance as to how to raise those concerns.
  3. To reassure staff that they should be able to raise genuine concerns without fear of reprisals, even if they turn out to be mistaken.

This policy does not form part of any employee's contract of employment and we may amend it at any time

Who is covered by this policy?

This policy applies to all individuals working at all levels of the firm, including partners, members, officers, directors, employees, consultants, homeworkers, part-time and fixed-term workers, casual and agency staff (collectively referred to as staff in this policy).

What is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is the reporting of suspected wrongdoing or dangers in relation to our activities. In our workplace or in our supply chain this includes:-

  1. criminal activity;
  2. miscarriages of justice;
  3. danger to health and safety;
  4. damage to the environment;
  5. bribery;
  6. tax evasion, or the facilitation thereof, by anyone who falls within the scope of this policy, including associated persons (as defined by the Criminal Finances Act 2017);
  7. failure to comply with any professional obligations such as the Solicitors Code of Conduct;
  8. financial fraud or mismanagement and any breach of the Solicitors Accounts Rules;
  9. unauthorised disclosure of confidential information or any breaches of the Firm’s Data Protection Policies, including but not limited to the Data Retention Policy, whether or not such breaches are considered necessary to require any notification to the Information Commissioner’s Office or any other regulatory body;
  10. forced or compulsory labour or human trafficking; and
  11. the deliberate concealment of any of the above matters.

A whistleblower is a person who raises a genuine concern relating to any of the above. If you have any genuine concerns related to suspected wrongdoing or danger affecting any of our activities (a whistleblowing concern) you should report it under this policy.

This policy should not be used for complaints relating to your own personal circumstances, such as the way you have been treated at work. In those cases you should use the Grievance Procedure.

If you are uncertain whether something is within the scope of this policy you should seek advice from your local HR contact.

How to raise a concern

We hope that in many cases you will be able to raise any concerns with your local HR contact. S/he may be able to agree a way of resolving your concern quickly and effectively.

However, where the matter is more serious, or you feel that your local HR contact has not addressed your concern or you prefer not to raise it with them for any reason, you should contact the Partner in charge of your office.

A meeting will be arranged with you as soon as possible to discuss your concern. You may bring a colleague or union representative to any meetings under this policy. Your companion must respect the confidentiality of your disclosure and any subsequent investigation. A written summary of your concern will be taken down at this meeting and you will be provided with a copy after the meeting. We will also aim to give you an indication of how we propose to deal with the matter.

If you have any concerns about raising a matter internally then please use our external, independent Whistleblowing service Safecall. You can use Safecall to register a concern about any matter by ‘phone or online. Safecall provides a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week service via the Freephone number below. When contacting Safecall you will be put in touch with an operator who is trained to receive a report about concerns in the workplace that you feel cannot be addressed in any other way. Your call will not be audio recorded all calls received by Safecall will be treated confidentially and should you wish, guarantee your anonymity.

Safecall: 0800 915 1571.

Safecall can also be contacted via the web at: www.safecall.co.uk/report

Confidentiality

We hope that staff will feel able to voice whistleblowing concerns openly under this policy. However, if you want to raise your concern confidentially, we will make every effort to keep your identity secret. If you raise your concern with Safecall and wish to remain anonymous then Safecall cannot provide the Firm with your name. If it is necessary for anyone investigating your concern to know your identity, we will discuss this with you before any disclosure.

We do not encourage staff to make disclosures anonymously. Proper investigation may be more difficult or impossible if we cannot obtain further information from you. It is also more difficult to establish whether any allegations are credible. Whistleblowers who are concerned about possible reprisals if their identity is revealed should come forward to the appropriate person as detailed above and appropriate measures can then be taken to preserve confidentiality.

External Disclosures

The aim of this policy is to provide an internal mechanism for reporting, including an independent, confidential service via Safecall to allow the Firm to investigate and remedy any wrongdoing in the workplace. In most cases you should not find it necessary to alert anyone externally.

The law recognises that in some circumstances it may be appropriate for you to report your concerns to an external body such as a regulator (including the SRA, FCA and ICO). We strongly encourage you to seek advice before reporting a concern to anyone external.

Investigation and Outcome

Once you have raised a concern whether to a member of staff at the Firm or Safecall, we will carry out an initial assessment to determine the scope of any investigation. We will inform you of the outcome of our assessment. You may be required to attend additional meetings in order to provide further information.

In some cases we may appoint an investigator or team of investigators including staff with relevant experience of investigations or specialist knowledge of the subject matter. The investigator(s) may make recommendations for change to enable us to minimise the risk of future wrongdoing.

We will aim to keep you informed of the progress of the investigation and its likely timescale. However, sometimes the need for confidentiality may prevent us giving you specific details of the investigation or any disciplinary action taken as a result. You should treat any information about the investigation as confidential.

If we conclude that a whistleblower has made false allegations maliciously or with a view to personal gain, the whistleblower will be subject to disciplinary action.

If you are not satisfied

While we cannot always guarantee the outcome you are seeking, we will try to deal with your concern fairly and in an appropriate way. By using this policy you can help us to achieve this.

If you are not happy with the way in which your concern has been handled, you should contact the Firm’s Chairman or CEO who will investigate the matter or appoint a member of the Board to do so.

Data Protection

In accordance with this policy, the Firm will hold and process, both electronically and manually, personal data which is necessary for the purposes of dealing with any concerns raised by you.

Any and all personal data held or processed in relation to any concerns raised by you, including but not limited to: any written complaint, any correspondence relating to the concern raised, any investigation notes or meeting notes, any witness statements and any personal details collected as a result of the concern raised shall be dealt with in accordance with the Firm’s data protection policies including, but not limited to, the Firm’s Data Retention Policy, all of which are available via Channel 9.

Protection and support for whistleblowers

It is understandable that whistleblowers are sometimes worried about possible repercussions. We aim to encourage openness and will support staff who raise genuine concerns under this policy, even if they turn out to be mistaken.

Staff must not suffer any detrimental treatment as a result of raising a concern. Detrimental treatment includes dismissal, disciplinary action, threats or other unfavourable treatment connected with raising a concern. If you believe that you have suffered any such treatment, you should inform the person investigating the matter or if this is not appropriate the HR Director immediately. If the matter is not remedied you should raise it formally using our Grievance Procedure.

Staff must not threaten or retaliate against whistleblowers in any way. If you are involved in such conduct you may be subject to disciplinary action.

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.

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