Whistleblower-policy

Decided by the RFSL congress Oct 18-20 2019. The policy is implemented on both national and local level inside RFSL.

Introduction

RFSL has a high standard of openness, honesty and responsibility. We are proud of our reputation and well-functioning operation. We expect members, trustees, co-workers, cooperation partners and others that are affected by our operation to complain if there are any serious flaws in our organisation.

This policy is aimed at facilitating the reporting that can lead to RFSL discovering and fixing problems in its operation and is ultimately a part of our quality assurance.

The policy complements important steering documents like RFSL’s anti-corruption policy and contains guidelines that apply to the national office’s, the branches’ and the branches’ operations’ staff, members, cooperation partners and others.

1. What is whistleblowing?

Those who are active in an operation, and especially employees who work in the operation on a daily basis, are often the first to know when something is seriously wrong. A culture of closing one’s eyes to serious problems means that no one raises the alarm and that those responsible don’t get the chance to act before the damage is done. Whistleblowing can therefore be described as calling attention to potential serious wrongs in the operation. A person that does whistleblowing is in the policy called a whistler. A whistler doesn’t have to prove the wrongs they are reporting, but they need to be able to point out reasons for their concerns in good faith.

A whistleblowing issue cannot be confused with general discontent that can arise between employees and an employer, between members or between staff. It doesn’t replace other possible contacts with, or reports to, instances like authorities and healthcare. If a whistleblowing issue is dismissed as something other than a whistleblowing issue, the person that has reported it should be informed and be given the opportunity to turn to another authority in the organisation. The irregularity may still be rectified, but not as a whistleblowing issue.

2. What is meant by irregularity?

Irregularities according to this policy involve illegal or unlawful behaviour, like for example:

– Unlawful actions.
– Crimes against RFSL’s code of conduct.
– Actions that go against RFSL’s established policies and guidelines.
– Unprofessional behaviour that harms RFSL.
– Wrongful accounting or auditing praxis.
– Actions that can harm a person or premises.
– Serious abuse of power or position of trust.
– Discrimination, sexual harassment and other forms of harassment.
– Biased management of conflicts of interest.
– Bribes.
– Extortion.

3. How to report an incident

Regardless of how much or little you know about an issue, you can always voice your concern that something is awry. The person you talk to will need to ask you some questions in order to get a good picture of the situation.

Apart from the contact information below, we have our trustees and accountants whose job it is to scrutinise the organisation and make sure that everything is done the way it’s supposed to. There are accountants both at branch level and at national office level.

In order to report according to this policy, use one of the following alternatives:

For members and trustees:
1. Report a suspected or factual case to the nearest board or president as soon as possible.

2. If you feel uncomfortable contacting your nearest board or president, or for any other reason don’t want to report to them (for example because the irregularity involves them), you report to the people responsible for branches at the national office or one of the directors at the national office.

For staff in a branch:
1. Report a suspected or factual case to the nearest board or president as soon as possible.

2. If you feel uncomfortable contacting your nearest board or president, or for any other reason don’t want to report to them (for example because the irregularity involves them), you report to the people responsible for branches at the national office or one of the directors at the national office.

Note that the national office primarily will support the branch in dealing with the situation. That can mean that the national office takes on the board’s role in a conflict between employer and employee. If you’re unsure of if the national office can provide the support you need, we recommend that you contact your union or similar organisation for guidance.

For staff at the national office:
1. Report a suspected or factual case to your nearest director as soon as possible.

2. If you’re uncomfortable with contacting your nearest director, report the incident to the executive director or the president.

For external parties:
1. Report suspected or factual case to your contact person as quickly as possible.

2. If you’re uncomfortable with contacting your contact person, report to the executive director or the president.

4. Protection for whistle-blowers

The person that addresses a problem according to this policy is expected to:

– Submit the information in good faith and in RFSL’s best interest.
– Feel that there is good reason to believe that the misgivings are true.
– Not to have a hidden agenda or make false accusations.
– Not be seeking personal or financial gains.

A whistle-blower as characterised above is an important asset to RFSL and all RFSL’s stakeholders and should be protected with the resources that the organisation has at its disposal.

Reprisals towards a whistle-blower, as well as whistleblowing on false grounds, should have its consequences. That is handled by the national office or the association board of trustees.

Anonymity
You can report anonymously or in your own name. The person handling your report is obliged to inform you about the right to remain anonymous.

You need to be prepared for follow-up questions from the person receiving the whistleblowing in order for that person to get a picture of what’s happened. Contact information is therefore appreciated. But if you want to remain anonymous before others in the organisation, and in the process and report, this is of course possible.

5. This is what happens

First assessment
RFSL will act on suspicions reported according to this policy. To protect the people involved, and those suspected for alleged wrong-doings, a primary investigation will be made under confidentiality in order to assess if a bigger investigation is needed, and if so, in what form.

If immediate action needs to be taken to stop potential irregularities and minimise the damage for RFSL or certain individuals, this will be done before any assessment has been carried out.

If a branch needs support in running such a process or wants the national office to take care of the process, the branch should request this when the case is brought to their attention.

Information about the process
No later than a week after a whistleblowing case has been reported, the whistle-blower should be informed about how their case is handled. If no feedback is given, the whistle-blower should contact the executive director, president and/or the organisation’s lay accountants and ask them.

Investigation and decision about course of action
If the issue needs to be investigated further, the person who has received the whistle-blowing, or another qualified, to conduct a bigger investigation and make a report.

The report should include general descriptions of the irregularities that are thought to have taken place, unless that risks revealing the identity of a whistle-blower who wishes to remain anonymous or people that haven’t acted inappropriately.

The investigator should strive to be impartial, but at the same time act as a representative for the whistle-blower.

The investigation is ended by suggestions for measures.

The one who investigates and decides on measures to be taken cannot do so alone. There needs to be a dialogue with a co-worker or director. This applies to both members, staff and trustees that handle a whistleblowing case.

Further information about how an investigation can be carried out can be found in the policy’s annex.

Appeal
If you’re not happy with the outcome of the investigation in your whistleblowing case you turn to the president of the association board of trustees, the executive director or the organisation’s lay accountants.

If you’re not happy with the treatment of your whistleblowing case after the organisation’s lay accountants have been involved, you can turn to suitable authority.

6. Responsibility for this policy

The executive director at the national office and the association board of trustees are responsible for informing about this policy and make sure that it’s followed and revised as needed.