Adopted by the RFSL congress, October 2021.
RFSL has a high standard of openness, honesty and responsibility. We care about and are proud of our reputation and a well-functioning operation. We expect that members, trustees, co-workers, partners and others who are influenced by our operation speak up if there are serious flaws in the operation and issues that may harm RFSL.
Reports from whistleblowers are a source of invaluable information which makes it possible for organisations to catch and rectify irregularities or crimes at an early stage. The aim of this policy is to facilitate reporting that can lead to RFSL finding out about, and rectifying, irregularities in the operation – and it is part of our quality-assurance work and our work for safety. The whistleblower should be able to trust that the internal process for reporting works well.
The policy complements important steering documents such as RFSL’s anti-corruption policy and contains guidelines that apply to both the national office’s and the branches’ operations staff as well as to members, partners and other stakeholders.
1. What is whistleblowing?
Those active in an organisation, and especially individual co-workers 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 irregularities means that nobody raises the alarm and that those responsible don’t get the chance to act before serious damage is done. Whistleblowing can therefore be described as a way of drawing the management’s attention to potentially serious irregularities in the operation. A person that utilises a whistleblowing function is called a whistleblower. A whistleblower doesn’t have to prove the errors or irregularities they are reporting, but they need to motivate the reasons for their concern and be acting in good faith.
A whistleblowing case shouldn’t be confused with general discontent that can arise between staff and employer, between members or between staff. It also doesn’t replace other contacts with, or reports to, instances such as authorities or healthcare. If a whistleblower case is dismissed as something else, the person who reported the irregularity should be informed and be given the opportunity to turn to another instance at the national office. The irregularity may still be rectified, but not as a whistleblower case.
2. What is meant by irregularity?
Irregularities according to this policy involve illegal or prohibited behaviour and may include the following:
- Illegal actions.
- Violation of RFSL’s code of conduct.
- Actions that violate RFSL’s policies and guidelines or harmful negligence of these steering documents.
- Unprofessional behaviour that harms RFSL.
- Erroneous accounting or accounting practices.
- Actions that can harm a person or property.
- Serious abuse of power or position.
- Discrimination, sexual harassment and other forms of harassment.
- Biased handling of conflicts of interest.
3. How to report a case
No matter how much or how little you know about a case, you can always make a report if you’re worried that something isn’t right. The person you talk to will have to ask questions to get a picture of the situation. Those responsible for handling whistleblowing are primarily the president of the branch and manager/human resources, and at the national office the president and the executive director.
Apart from the contact information below, there are also our authorised accountants who have the right to review the operation and ensure that things are done right. There are accountants at branch- and national office level.
To report according to this policy, use one of the following options:
For members, trustees and employees:
1. Report a suspect or actual case to the immediate board or president as soon as possible. If you’re an employee, you report to your immediate manager or human resources manager on the board. In suspicion of crime within the operation those who work with branch support at the national office, the president or the national office’s executive director should be informed within 24 hours.
2. If you feel uncomfortable contacting your immediate board, president, manager or human resources or for another reason (for example that the irregularity concerns them) don’t want to report there, you report to those who work with branch support at the national office, the president or the national office’s executive director.
3. If you feel uncomfortable contacting someone within the organisation, contact the external investigative function. You find the contact information at the website (rfsl.se) and the branch’s site.
Note that you can always turn directly to the external investigative function.
For external partners:
1. Report a suspect or actual case to your contact person at RFSL as soon as possible.
2. If you feel uncomfortable contacting your contact person, or for another reason don’t want to report there, you report to the national office’s executive director or the president.
3. If you feel uncomfortable contacting someone within the organisation, contact the external investigative function. Contact information is on the website (rfsl.se).
Note that you can always turn directly to the external investigative function.
4. Protection for whistleblowers
The person who makes a reveal or addresses a problem in accordance with this policy is expected to:
– Give information in good faith for the best of RFSL.
– Believe that the suspicions are true.
– Not have a hidden agenda or make false accusations.
– Not seek personal or financial gain.
Given the above, a whistleblower is an important asset to RFSL and RFSL’s stakeholders and should be protected by the resources the organisation has.
A whistleblower is protected through:
– retaliation from the employer towards employees who report is forbidden,
– trustees, volunteers and members who report irregularities are protected from retaliation from the client/organisation,
– people who aid in the reporting and people connected to the person who reports are protected from retaliation.
Retaliation means that someone is subject to some form of punishment or maltreatment as a result of them having reported irregularities. Examples of retaliation are actions or statements that bring harm or unease to the person who has reported irregularities. It may also be actions that affect their position at the workplace or within the organisation.
Retaliation towards a whistleblower as well as whistleblowing on false grounds should have consequences. Such situations are in that case handled by the board for the respective operation or by a manager with a delegated responsibility.
You have the right to report either anonymously or in your own name. The person who handles the report is responsible for informing about the right to be anonymous.
You need to be prepared to answer follow-up questions from the person receiving the whistleblowing, so that they can get a picture of what has happened and be able to act. Contact information is therefore appreciated. But if you want to remain anonymous to others in the organisation, and in the handling and reporting, that is, of course, possible.
5. How the case is handled
The first assessment
RFSL will act on suspicions that are reported according to this policy. To safeguard the integrity of individuals involved and the suspects of claimed irregularities, an initial investigation will be done confidentially to determine if a larger investigation is needed, and in that case what form it should take.
If immediate action is needed to stop possible irregularities and minimise the harm for RFSL or individuals at risk, it will be taken before an investigation.
If a branch needs support in setting up such a process or wants the national office to run the process, the branch requests it when the case is reported.
Information about the process
No later than a week after the whistleblower case has been acknowledged, the whistleblower should be informed about how their case is being handled. If there is no feedback the whistleblower should contact the executive director, president and/or the national office’s lay auditors and ask.
Investigation and decision about measures
If the matter needs more investigation, the person who has received the whistleblowing, or another person with confidentiality and competency, will start an investigation and put together a report. Those responsible can also decide to hire an external actor as investigator.
The report should contain general descriptions of the irregularity that might have happened, as long as it doesn’t risk revealing the identity of a whistleblower who wishes to be anonymous or people who haven’t acted inappropriately.
The investigative party should strive to be impartial, but at the same time act as a representative of the whistleblower.
The investigation ends with suggestions for measures.
The person who investigates and decides about measures cannot do it alone. There needs to be a dialogue with a colleague or manager/client. That applies to members and employees and trustees who handle whistleblowing cases.
More information about how an investigation is made, what a report might look like and how cases can be handled can be found in an attachment to the policy.
If after an investigation of your whistleblowing case, conducted in good faith by someone in the organisation, you aren’t satisfied with the results of the investigation, you turn to the president, executive director or the national office’s lay accountants. You can also turn directly to the external investigative function. Contact information can be found on the website (rfsl.se) and the branch’s site.
When you suspect a crime
When you suspect a crime within the operation this should always be reported to the police by the immediate manager or the board. If the victim is undocumented or an asylum-seeker, they can remain anonymous in the police report. The president at the national office and the executive director should be informed within 24 hours if there’s suspicion of crime.
6. Responsibility for this policy
The federal board and the executive director are responsible for informing about this policy, which is revised when needed. The operation’s board is ultimately responsible for following the policy.
Support for people who receive a case
Is not decided by congress.
Is updated and revised by the federal board.
Put together a report with as much information as possible. You should add information to the report on an ongoing basis.
- What has happened? Where has it happened? Be as detailed as possible. When has it happened?
- Who was involved?
- Is it expected to happen again, and in that case, when and where?
- What other people can have knowledge about the incident or may have access to relevant information?
- Is there documentation that can be used as evidence?
- Is there any other information that can be relevant or usable to the investigation or in another way?
Example of how you can plan a conversation with a person you need more information from:
Take notes. If you don’t have the opportunity to take notes when you talk, it can be a good idea to have someone else with you in the room. If the conversation is over the phone, it’s important to disclose who is in the room. It’s important to listen to the person and not question their story.
- Introduce yourself
- I’ve heard that…
- I would like you to give your version of what has happened
- How do you view what has happened?
- Say thank you for sharing
- I’ll get back to you when I know more
The processing of the case, actions and support
After you have gathered the information, you decide how the situation should be processed further. You can use the following questions:
- Should someone else be involved in the process? Weigh pros and cons of dealing with the situation alone versus protecting the confidentiality of the case.
- Is it a whistleblower case (have there been irregularities?) or is it a crisis management situation?
- What form of support does the victim and perpetrator need?
- What type of support does the branch/board/person who handles the issue need?
- Who are/is responsible for the irregularity?
- What forms of measures or retaliation should be taken? Short-term and long-term?
- Who is responsible for carrying these out and informing about them?
- Have all parties involved been informed about the process?
- Do you need to know or do something more to finish the case?
If it’s a whistleblower case, the following measures can be taken:
- An internal revision is started.
- Support is offered.
- The issue is referred to an authorised accountant.
- Take disciplinary measures.
- Refer the case to the authorities.
The overriding principle that RFSL will base its work upon is the organisation and its members’ best.
Support to victims:
- Have their story heard by someone responsible who takes care of the case.
- Can be referred to LGBTQI competent support within our outside the organisation.
- May possibly be helped by a therapist covered by the branch or national office’s insurance.
- Have a dialogue with other members, trustees or employees in a similar situation.