HR Hartley

Encourage workers to blow the whistle

What in HR’s name was management at the Immigration and Nationality
Directorate (IND) doing in the case of whistleblower Steve Moxon? It didn’t put
HR in a good light – especially as the case was all over national TV.

There was Moxon on the steps of the IND building in Sheffield, unable to
enter as the system had been changed to reject his ID swipecard.

This incident, shown on main evening news bulletins, was a PR disaster for
the IND and aspects of its HR policies, as well as embarrassing for the
Government. It should know that public sector whistleblowers enjoy near-hero
status in the media and among much of the British public.

Moxon’s ‘crime’ was to tell the public he serves about malpractice in a
department that it pays for. He also showed that Beverley Hughes, minister for
immigration, is about as in touch with her department as Bernard Manning is
with his feminine side.

The IND failed to tell her that it had ignored immigration regulations while
processing about 11,000 applications from Eastern Europeans wishing to stay in
the UK. Really?

This latest whistleblowing episode comes as no surprise and must concern
public sector HR managers who can expect more of the same.

Recently, GCHQ linguist Katherine Gun and former minister Clare Short have
both breached their obligations under the Official Secrets Act and given
details of secret government spying practices. Gun wasn’t prosecuted fully and
Short not at all.

This gives the green light to other whistleblowers. If they haven’t done so
already, HR managers – especially those in the public sector – must prepare
whistleblowing policies. They could start by reading the 1999 Public Interest
Disclosure Act, which offers some protection to whistleblowers who keep
complaints in-house.

But that is not enough. Organisations must encourage genuine whistleblowers
to come forward. They should have a published policy on whistleblowing and a
senior manager tasked with handling cases.

Otherwise they might just switch on the TV and see an employee ranting about
their organisation’s shortcomings on the evening news.

Hartley is an HR director at large

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