Protected Disclosures Policy and Procedure

ACU welcomes disclosures or reports of conduct by its staff, associates or contractors which may adversely affect the honest or proper performance of their duties to ACU. These disclosures assist the University to maintain and strengthen its high standards of conduct, administration and governance.

ACU has committed to a process of dealing with disclosures in a way which provides protections for persons making disclosures and informs them of the process and outcome of the disclosure while respecting the need for fairness in investigating and dealing with disclosures.

The ACU Protected Disclosure Policy and Procedure provide an opportunity for disclosures to be investigated and appropriate action to be taken, and anyone with concerns that fall within the policy are encouraged to follow this process.

What is the ACU Protected Disclosures Policy and Protected Disclosures Procedure?

The ACU Protected Disclosures Policy and Protected Disclosures Procedure can be found at:

What Can a Protected Disclosure Be Made About? (Reportable Conduct)

The Policy and Procedure are intended for concerns which are serious and relate to the conduct of ACU officers, employees and members (including members of Senate or Senate Committees) or of ACU affiliates, which may affect the honest and proper performance of duties to ACU.

Affiliates of ACU are ACU contractors and consultants and their employees.

Other policies and procedures

Other complaint and grievance processes include:

Who Can Make a Protected Disclosure?

A disclosure can be made by:

  1. an officer or employee of ACU;
  2. a member of the ACU Senate or any of Senate’s Committees or a member of Australian Catholic University Limited;
  3. a member of the public dealing with ACU;
  4. a contractor or consultant of ACU or an employee of a contractor or consultant of ACU.

Students

Students cannot make a protected disclosure, but should use student complaint processes and procedures. A student who is also, for example, an officer or employee of ACU may make a protected disclosure if the disclosure concerns only that relationship to ACU.


What Protections Apply to a Protected Disclosure?

A person who makes a protected disclosure:

  • is able to make an anonymous report to an independent third party;
  • will have their identity and their report kept as confidential as practicable; and
  • will have protection against detrimental action for making a report.

Because any person being investigated must have enough information to respond to allegations about their conduct, ACU may not be able to deal with a protected disclosure without disclosing information which may identify or tend to identify the discloser. ACU will not do this in investigating a matter without consulting with the discloser and obtaining the discloser’s consent. In the case of the University receiving a serious allegation which ACU considers it must take further, ACU may use the information in the protected disclosure to investigate an allegation. In this case the University will advise the discloser of its intentions and use its best endeavours to protect anonymity.

How is a Protected Disclosure Made?

Disclosures can be made to FairCall which is an independent service of KPMG.

From 8.00 am to 6.00 pm (EST) on business days telephone calls will be answered by trained staff, otherwise, you should expect a response within 24 hours.

Contact

How can I make an Effective Disclosure?

The more information which is provided with a disclosure, the easier it is for the University to deal with it properly and fully. Without enough information for an investigation ACU may only be able to note the disclosure and not take it further.

In writing or verbal disclosures

If you are able to set out concerns in writing with supporting documents, this is ideal but it is not necessary. ACU will accept and deal with disclosures which are not in writing also.

Documents and witnesses

Supporting documents and the names and details of persons who can provide information or support for the disclosure will help any investigation.

Facts

It is important to set out the facts on which the disclosure is based – this can include for example, conversations or behaviour observed with as much detail as possible such as dates and times, who was present; what exactly happened and where events took place.

Identifying Information

Identifying information may not be necessary to deal with a disclosure, for example where the University is able to investigate the disclosure from transaction and financial records.

In some cases however, ACU may not be able to deal with the disclosure without knowing the identity of the discloser or using information which may tend to identify the discloser. If identifying information is required, ACU will not proceed with an investigation without consulting the discloser and obtaining his/her agreement unless the allegation is so serious that ACU considers it must take it further in which case it will advise the discloser of its intentions and will use its best endeavours to maintain the anonymity of the discloser.

What Happens When a Protected Disclosure is Made?

  • FairCall will inform the ACU Protected Disclosure Officer of the disclosure, but not the identity of the discloser, unless the discloser agrees otherwise.
  • ACU may ask FairCall to contact the discloser for more information or ask for consent of the discloser to approach them directly for more information in order to deal with the disclosure.
  • The ACU Protected Disclosure Officer will consider the disclosure and decide how it should be dealt with. The options include: dealing with the disclosure as an allegation of misconduct against an employee under the ACU Enterprise Agreement; using the ACU Grievance Management Policy; using the ACU Research Code of Conduct process or initiating an external or internal investigation into for example, allegations concerning an ACU contractor.

What process is used will depend upon the nature of the disclosure and the issues it raises. Where an allegation of misconduct against an ACU employee is concerned, the Enterprise Agreement process will nearly always be required so that ACU can deal with the matter in accordance with the law.

Where the information provided by the discloser is not enough to proceed on or the disclosure does not come within the Policy, the disclosure will be noted, but may not be investigated or an alternative policy or procedure may be suggested.

The discloser will receive updates on the progress of dealing with a disclosure and will be informed of the outcome of the disclosure through the disclosure receiver.

Because of ACU’s obligation to act fairly and because of rights of review and appeal, the process of dealing with an allegation and reaching an outcome may take a long time. There are also confidentiality obligations which may not allow the University to give the details of an outcome. At a minimum, FairCall will provide the discloser with information on the action ACU proposes to take, the likely time-line and advise when the process is complete.

What About a Person Who is the Subject of a Protected Disclosure?

Rights

No action will be taken against a person who is the subject of a disclosure without their being told about the allegations; having the opportunity to respond to the allegations and a fair investigation process.

Obligations

No detrimental action

It is very important that no detrimental action is taken against anyone who has made a disclosure or involved in the investigation of a disclosure. Detrimental action against a discloser will be treated very seriously by ACU.

This obligation not to take detrimental action continues after the disclosure has been dealt with and irrespective of the outcome of the disclosure.

Confidentiality

A person who is the subject of a disclosure may seek professional advice to assist with dealing with allegations about them but must do so on a confidential basis and must otherwise keep all information concerning the disclosure confidential, including not discussing the matter with ACU colleagues, even if they are aware of the matter.

This confidentiality obligation continues after the disclosure has been dealt with and irrespective of the outcome of the disclosure.

If you need guidance on confidentiality obligations you should consult with the person who is dealing with the matter.

Support

The University recognises that being involved in a disclosure and an investigation process is stressful. If you are involved in a disclosure, you may find it helpful to discuss it with your supervisor and support is available from the ACU Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at http://www.acu.edu.au/292273 or by telephone on 1800 818 728. EAP also provides a support service in the form of Manager Support to supervisors and managers who are dealing with complex people management issues that may involve a high level of emotion. More information can be found at http://www.acu.edu.au/292312.

What About Others in the Workplace?

Investigations and actions which follow on from a disclosure may affect others in the workplace.

Obligations of all Employees

The Policy and the Procedure require:

  • confidentiality of information about a protected disclosure
  • no detrimental action or behaviour towards any person who makes a disclosure

including after the disclosure has been dealt with and irrespective of the outcome.

It is expected that employees will not gossip or speculate and will respect the process and its outcomes.

All employees must provide any assistance requested to an investigator and co-operate in maintaining a harmonious and professional working environment.

Support

ACU recognises that involvement in the protected disclosures process may be difficult and stressful.

Support is available to ACU employees through the ACU Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at http://www.acu.edu.au/292273 or by telephone on 1800 818 728. EAP also provides a support service in the form of Manager Support to supervisors and managers who are dealing with complex people management issues that may involve a high level of emotion. More information can be found at http://www.acu.edu.au/292312.

Employees should also approach their supervisor for support.

Other Questions

Questions about the operation of this policy can be sent to the Director of Governance at protected.disclosures@acu.edu.au.