An anonymous concern is one that has been shared with the organisation in such a way that nobody knows who provided the information.
Alternatively, someone may raise a concern with the organisation but not be willing to have their name or personal details recorded. This is known as an ‘unnamed concern’ (someone is aware of their identity, so it is not completely anonymous).
While the organisation must respect the person’s request for their concern to be unnamed, it must also make it clear to the person that if their name is not recorded, their concern cannot be handled under the Standards and they cannot refer the matter to the INWO.
The organisation should make it clear to all staff that they will not have the same level of protection if they raise an anonymous or unnamed concern as they would if their details were shared and recorded confidentially. Raising an anonymous or unnamed concern limits:
- the legal protections available to the person raising it
- the organisation’s ability to provide feedback and offer support
- the person’s ability to ask the INWO to consider the matter.
If other staff guess the identity of the person who has raised concerns, that person may be at risk of unfair treatment if they don’t have the protection or support these Standards provide.
Raising an anonymous or unnamed concern may also mean the concern cannot be investigated and handled effectively, as there may be significant gaps in the information needed for the investigation.
If an anonymous or unnamed concern is raised, managers should record as much information as possible and carry out an appropriate investigation. The organisation can choose how to investigate the concern, and sometimes will need to take immediate action to reduce risks. Good practice would be to follow the whistleblowing principles and investigate the concern in line with the Standards, particularly if existing business as usual procedures have already been attempted. Although it is good practice, the organisation is not required to follow these Standards.