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Employment

Health, Safety and Environment / HSE A-Z

Whistleblowing

Whistleblowing is to report on problematic conditions at the workplace.

Contents

Why blow the whistle 

The Work Environment Act has rules that state the employee's right to whistleblowing. The law provides protection against retaliation for employees who blow the whistle and obliges the employers to create conditions for whistleblowing in business.

HiOA wishes to solve problems at the lowest possible level. If an employee at HiOA discovers violations of laws and regulations, ethical norms or problematic conditions that can damage the college or the society, the general rule is to report to the immediate manager. If the problem can not be solved by the immediate manager, you can report to the manager on the level above. If the matter is not resolved, or if it is difficult to resolve it through the official channels (within the faculty / public administration / center), HiOA's whistleblowing procedures allow for the case to be sent to HiOA's Whistleblowing Commission.

What you can report on

Whistleblowing is to report on;

  • violations of laws and regulations
  • violations of college guidelines
  • violations of the general perception of what is justifiable or ethically acceptable
  • problematic conditions that could harm the college or the society

According to the Employment Act, employees are entitled, and in some cases obliged, to report on unacceptable conditions in the business.

For instance, the college wishes that you speak up if you notice;

  • bullying, harassment or discrimination
  • violation of safety regulations
  • environmental crime
  • economic conditions such as corruption or misappropriation of funds
  • violation of professional and research ethical guidelines
  • activity that could cause damage to property or infrastructure

There will always be different opinions about decisions made, whether it concerns budget allocation, hiring, academic priorities or decisions authorized by law and regulations. Expressing such disagreement is not considered whistleblowing.

Who can report

Employees, employee representatives, union and safety delegates may notify of unacceptable conditions on their own or on other’s behalf. You as an employee are obliged to notify of cases of harassment, discrimination and errors or deficiencies that may endanger life and health (Working Environment Act § 2-3).

HiOA's students, external board members, contractors and collaboration partners can also report on problematic conditions

Who you can report to

The college wishes to solve problems as early as possible and at the lowest possible level.

Reporting through official channels

If you discover problematic conditions, you should consult your immediate supervisor. If you believe that the matter cannot be resolved locally, you can consult the manager on the level above (Dean/Head of Section). You have the right to bring a person you trust to meetings relating to the work environment. This may be an employee representative or a safety delegate.

Reporting to the Whistleblowing Commission (Varslingsnemnda)

You may also bring the matter up to the Whistleblowing Commission. This is an alternative channel that should not replace ordinary conflict resolution and communication with the responsible managers, but can be used when unacceptable conditions cannot be resolved through official channels. See the college's procedures for conflict management.

Reports should be communicated to the college’s Whistleblowing Commission through the Staff unit for internal control that works as the secretariat for the commission. You can also directly notify the chairman, Camilla Selman.

Reporting on research ethical conditions must be done to the university college's research ethical committee. 

Form for reporting on problematic conditions at HiOA.

External whistleblowing 

If reporting internally does not resolve the matter, or if you consider it to be inappropriate, you may report to supervisory authorities such as the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Police or the Ministry. You may also report to external lawyer.

Use of the media

You should be very careful if you choose to use the media to attract attention to problematic conditions. Proper reporting of problematic conditions is a prerequisite in order to be protected by the Working Environment Act's regulations for the protection of whistle-blowers. Proper whistleblowing is to follow the university college’s whistleblowing procedures (internal or external).

How to report

Whistleblowing can be done in different ways; by letter, email, telephone or verbally. In the inquiry, it is important that you  make it clear that you consider it a matter worth reporting on. It is also important that you can give as precise a description as possible of the case:

  • What are you reporting on?
  • Where and when did it occur?
  • Who is involved/are there witnesses?
  • Any knowledge of previous matters?

Anonymity

For further monitoring, it is advisable that you provide your full name. HiOA will, to the best of their ability, make sure that your identity as a whistle-blower is not known to more people than necessary for dealing with the matter.  If you want to remain anonymous, you can use your safety delegate, trade union, HSE department or a lawyer as an intermediary. This way they can address the matter with HiOA without disclosing your identity. In this case, no one can demand to know your identity unless the matter ends up in court.

Proper whistleblowing

Both the whistle-blower and those in charge of investigating the matter are responsible for the proper processing of the matter. This means that the confidentiality of personal matters must be respected, that one does not act in a defamatory manner, and that persons who blow the whistle in good faith are protected against retaliation from their employer, even if later it becomes clear that there were no sufficient grounds for reporting on the matter.

Internal whistleblowing is not considered acceptable if the problematic matters are raised in an improper manner that causes unnecessary damage to cooperation, work environment or individuals in the business. An example of this is repeated, unjustified allegations against colleagues. 

HiOAs monitoring of whistleblowing matters

The whistle-blower should always be informed that the report has been received.

The monitoring of the matter will vary depending on what it concerns and according to its seriousness. As a whistle-blower, you will not necessarily be a part of the case and have access to the case documents, but you will be informed of the outcome when the case is concluded.

Monitoring through official channels

The monitoring should be in line with the requirements for the processing of whistleblowing cases.

If the manager is incompetent, lacking decision-making powers or is not processing the case within a reasonable period of time, you can submit the matter to the manager above.

If a case cannot be settled through official channels, the whistle-blower can notify the Whistleblowing Commission.

Monitoring in the Whistleblowing Commission

Single cases related to research ethical matters are handled by the college's research ethics committee. See Guidelines for the research ethics committee’s work.

The Whistleblowing Commission should be advisory and make recommendations to the rector in each single case.

In consultation with the Secretariat (Staff Unit for internal control), the manager of the Whistleblowing Commission determines whether or how a case should be monitored. A case under consideration by the commission may at any time be terminated if the commission concludes that the matter is unproblematic.

The Whistleblowing Commission is headed by an external lawyer and has at least two other members;

  • An external member who is an organizational psychologist or psychologist
  • The college’s main safety delegate or a person recruited from the safety service / trade union at another university or college

If needed, the commission may be expanded by additional professionals.

A report must accompany all cases processed by the Whistleblowing Commission. It must be given to the college’s rector. The report must also notify the persons being reported on. 

Following up the Whistleblowing Commission's report

After the Whistleblowing Commission’s report has been submitted, it will be archived. The Rector must handle any access to information requirements in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act and the Public Administration Act and determine whether other people at the college have official need for access.

Rector determines how the report should be followed up and informs the affected parties about his decision.

Considerations for the person being reported on

When it is decided that a case is to be prosecuted, the person reported on should be made aware of the whistleblowing and of the information given so that they get the opportunity to come up with their version of the case. Considerations must be made when, considering the further management of a case, it is important that the person reported on remains oblivious of the whistleblowing.

The whistle-blower’s identity will not be disclosed unless it is necessary for the case management.

When the case is concluded, the person reported on must immediately be informed, regardless of the outcome.

Case management

Everone is obliged to adhere to the following general principles for the management of whistleblowing cases. The management depends on the nature of the case, but a few key principles should always be followed;

  • all inquiries should be taken seriously
  • anonymous sources can provide important information
  • all ways of whistleblowing should be equally valued
  • all inquiries should be followed up as quickly as possible
  • whistleblowing cases shall be documented and handled confidentially
  • one must be given the opportunity to contradict
  • the whistle-blower should be informed that the notification has been received within 2 weeks
  • the whistle-blower and the person notified of must be informed of the outcome of the case.

If the monitoring of a notification involves processing personal data, the person who receives the notification must ensure that personal data and sensitive personal date are processed in a lawful / prescribed manner. Retaliation against an employee who notifies in accordance with the Working Environment Act § 2-4 is prohibited (Working Environment Act § 2-5).

External information

See this page in Norwegian; https://tilsatt.hioa.no/varsling

Kontakt varslingsnemda