This Policy is to give any member, volunteer or employee who has genuine concerns about a situation the opportunity to voice those concerns without fear of recrimination. This is distinctly different from any Grievance and Disciplinary Policies. Although a genuine concern may result in disciplinary action if a member, volunteer or employee is found to behave in an unprofessional manner, or contrary to the Chartered Institute of Horticulture (CIH) Code of Professional Conduct and/or other Policy, Procedure or Contract of Employment.
For the purposes of this policy document the word “member” shall be taken to mean either a paid-up member of the Institute regardless of grade of membership or designation or a non-paid up member who is classified as one of the categories specified below:
i. members whom the Institute is waiting to pay their subscription within the time limit associated with their payment method
ii. Prizewinners and Honorary Fellows from whom the Institute does not expect a subscription whilst they retain this category.
iii. members currently within their 6-months free period of membership.
The word “employee” shall be taken to apply to a person employed directly by the Institute, an agent acing with legitimate authority of the Institute or a person employed by an organisation providing services to the Institute who is employed wholly or partly in conducting the business of the Institute.
Note; at the time of writing this policy the Institute has no paid employees and its office holders are volunteers. The staff of the Secretariat are employed by the Horticultural Trades Association which also has a Whistle Blowing Policy.
i) Any member, volunteer or employee has a right and a duty to raise a concern about possible fraud, abuse, neglect, harassment or health and safety.
ii) The Chartered Institute of Horticulture has a duty to ensure that any member, volunteer or employee who raises a concern under the terms of this policy will be protected from any recriminations. The Honorary Secretary may, however, invoke Disciplinary Procedures if it is established that the issue raised is not genuine and is done with malicious intent.
This Policy will allow for:
i) Confidentiality. Except in cases such as abuse when safeguarding adults, Police or Social Services need to be informed or another member or employee is guilty of an offence requiring disciplinary action. In most cases the Secretariat will be informed of an alleged issue to assist in any investigation, unless the issue concerns a member of staff of the Secretariat.
ii) Speed. The Honorary Secretary must ensure that any genuine concern brought to his/her attention under the terms of this policy will be dealt with quickly and sympathetically.
iii) Flexibility. If the alleged issue effects or involves the Honorary Secretary, the President should be informed. The President will exercise his/her best judgement in determining who should be informed of the alleged issue. In most cases the Secretariat will be informed to assist in any investigation, unless the issue is related to a member of staff of the Secretariat.
iv) Sensitivity. The Honorary Secretary is required to be sensitive to issues involving any type of discriminatory practice or other discriminatory behaviour.
v) Feedback. Persons taking action under the terms of this policy will be advised when the situation has been dealt with and will be debriefed as appropriate and as soon as reasonably practicable.
vi) Protection. The individual will be protected following the resolution of an issue. Persons raising a concern must feel able to do so on the understanding that they have nothing to fear and will not suffer reprisals.
i) Any person raising a concern about a situation must ensure that he/she is clear what the specific issue is. (It may help to write down the actual facts on a dated file note rather than rely on memory).
ii) If the concern is complex and a member or employee is unsure who the best person to approach is, he/she may discuss the issue in confidence with the Honorary Secretary or a preferred member of the Management Board.
Procedures for Making a Disclosure
On receipt of a complaint of malpractice, the member of the Secretariat who receives and takes note of the complaint, must pass this information as soon as is reasonably possible, to the appropriate designated investigating officer as follows:
• Complaints of malpractice will be investigated by the Honorary Secretary unless the complaint is against the Honorary Secretary or is in any way related to the actions of the Honorary Secretary. In such cases, the complaint should be passed to the Chief Executive or President for referral.
• In the case of a complaint, which is any way connected with but not against the Honorary Secretary, the Chief Executive will nominate a member of Management Board to act as the alternative investigating officer.
• Complaints against the Chief Executive should be passed to the President who will nominate an appropriate investigating officer.
• The complainant has the right to bypass the Secretariat/Honorary Secretary and take their complaint direct to the President. The President has the right to refer the complaint back to the Honorary Secretary if he/she feels that the Honorary Secretary, without any conflict of interest, can more appropriately investigate the complaint.
If there is evidence of criminal activity then the investigating officer should inform the police. The Chartered Institute of Horticulture will ensure that any internal investigation does not hinder a formal police investigation.
Due to the varied nature of these sorts of complaints, which may involve internal investigators and / or the police, it is not possible to lay down precise timescales for such investigations. The investigating officer should ensure that the investigations are undertaken as quickly as possible without affecting the quality and depth of those investigations.
The investigating officer, should as soon as practically possible, send a written acknowledgement of the concern to the complainant and thereafter report back to them in writing the outcome of the investigation and on the action that is proposed. If the investigation is a prolonged one, the investigating officer should keep the complainant informed, in writing, as to the progress of the investigation and as to when it is likely to be concluded.
All responses to the complainant should be in writing and sent to their home address.
The investigating officer should follow these steps:
• Full details and clarifications of the complaint should be obtained.
• The investigating officer should inform the individual against whom the complaint is made as soon as is practically possible. The individual will be informed of their right to be accompanied by a trade union or other representative at any future interview or hearing held under the provision of these procedures.
• The investigating officer should consider the involvement of the Chartered Institute’s auditors and the Police at this stage and should consult with the President / Chief Executive. Any serious misconduct will be referred immediately to the Charity Commission
• The allegations should be fully investigated by the investigating officer with the assistance where appropriate, of other individuals / bodies. The identity of the complainant will be kept confidential from those not involved in the investigation and from the subject of the investigation.
• A judgement concerning the complaint and validity of the complaint will be made by the investigating officer. This judgement will be detailed in a written report containing the findings of the investigations and reasons for the judgement. The report will be passed to the Chief Executive or President as appropriate.
• The Chief Executive / President will decide what action to take. If the complaint is shown to be justified, then they will invoke the disciplinary or other appropriate CIH procedures.
• The complainant should be kept informed of the progress of the investigations and, if appropriate, of the final outcome.
• If appropriate, a copy of the outcomes will be passed to the Chartered Institute’s Auditors to enable a review of the procedures.
If the complainant is not satisfied that their concern is being properly dealt with by the investigating officer, they have the right to raise it in confidence with the Chief Executive / President.
If the Institute’s policies are working, The Chartered Institute of Horticulture should be able to deal with most issues internally, however, in exceptional circumstances; it may be felt necessary to contact an external agency if the problem involves;
(a) The Honorary Secretary, the Chair of the Management Board or the President;
(b) Abuse of public or donated funds;
(c) Abuse of a vulnerable person
If after raising concerns with the organisation the “Whistle Blower” continues to have serious concerns and feels the need to escalate their complaint, it is possible to refer the matter to the Charity Commission of England and Wales;