3.1 Within our role as a regulator and as a prescribed person3 under the Act, we want to ensure that workers in the optical sector have a mechanism to raise public interest concerns with us, where they have been unable to raise or resolve those concerns internally. This policy contains this procedure and outlines the process that we follow to consider concerns. It also provides guidance about making concerns and making protected disclosures.
3.2 Protected disclosures can be made to us on matters relating to:
3.2.1 the registration of individuals and businesses registered with us;
3.2.2 the fitness to practise (FTP) of individuals and businesses registered with us; and/or
3.2.3 any other activities in relation to which we have functions (including education and training, and illegal practice).
3.3 This policy does not apply to:
3.3.1 personal grievances, disciplinary matters, contractual disputes or other aspects of the working relationship, which should be managed informally or formally through the organisation’s grievance policy;
3.3.2 concerns raised from members of the public (who are not classed as optical sector ‘workers’) about a registrant’s or business’ standard of practice. These should be referred to us via our ‘complaints about opticians’ procedure [see below];
3.3.3 concerns regarding the way we have conducted a fitness to practise investigation concerning a registrant. These should be referred to us via ‘complaints about the GOC’ procedure [see below]; or
3.3.4 concerns regarding consumer issues, such as refunds or customer service. These should be referred to the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS).
3.4. Whistleblowing is slightly different in Northern Ireland from England, Wales and Scotland, although this does not affect our process for handling your concern. The requirement to make a disclosure in the public interest does not apply in Northern Ireland, instead the requirement is that a disclosure must be made in ‘good faith’. The differences are explained further in annex 5.
3 A prescribed person is an organisation an individual can approach if they do not wish to make an internal disclosure to their employer or educational body (or cannot) or if they have made an internal disclosure but no action has been taken. These organisations are usually regulators and their purpose is to investigate concerns. They cannot provide legal protection, but they can provide support and advice about raising concerns.