Guidance for people receiving concerns

This page provides information on what to consider when receiving a whistleblowing concern.

What does the person want to achieve by raising this concern, and can this be achieved?

When you receive a concern you need to be clear from the start about the outcome the person wants to achieve.  The person may not be clear about this, or they may know that they want things to change but not be sure how.  It may be appropriate to direct them to other HR procedures if there are connected issues. 

Your discussions with the person should include whether the organisation can achieve the outcome they are hoping for.  If it is not going to be possible to achieve the outcome, tell the person why.  They may expect more than the organisation can provide, or you may feel that any action which would be needed to achieve the outcome is not in proportion to the risks that have been identified. 

What exactly is the person’s concern?

It is important to understand exactly what concern the person is raising.  It may be necessary to ask for more information to get a full picture.  When you receive a concern, remember that the person who raised it may be nervous about doing so. Make sure that they have enough time and privacy to explain their concern fully. It can also be stressful to speak about a concern, so if you have a meeting you may need to take breaks or have more than one meeting.

Who are the other people involved?

Consider whether other staff are aware of the issue, or whether they should be.  If so, who are the other staff, and has the person already discussed the concern with them?  In particular, consider whether senior staff responsible for this area of work are aware of the issue, or whether they have been told about the concern.  You should also take account of any previous investigations into this issue.

What support do the person raising the concern and other staff involved need?

Always check if the person raising the concern needs support.  Discuss with them what support would be helpful and how this can be provided.  This may include getting support from their trade union or professional representative body.  Also consider whether others involved in the situation need support and, if so, how this can be provided. 

See our 'getting information or advice' page for a list of contact details for support agencies and professional bodies

Does the person raising the concern want their involvement to remain confidential?

It is important to discuss the level of confidentiality the person wants to maintain and how their details will be used. In all cases, the person’s name must not be shared with anyone who does not need to know it in order to investigate the concern, unless it has to be shared by law. It is important to ensure that records containing the person's name have access restricted. Sometimes the investigator will need to know who raised the concern, but in other cases this isn’t necessary or appropriate.

The person may not want to have their details recorded at all. You should advise them that this is an ‘unnamed concern’, which would limit what can be done for them in terms of support and legal protection. They wouldn’t have access to the Standards and the organisation would choose the best way to handle the concern.

See our 'anonymity and unnamed concerns' page for further information.

Who is the best person to respond to the concern at stage 1?

If you cannot resolve the concern because, for example, you are not familiar with the issue or do not have the authority to make the changes that are needed, explain this to the person raising the concern, and pass details of the issue to someone who can.  Keep the person who raised the concern informed about what is happening and who is responsible for investigating the matter.


Updated: January 8, 2021