5.1 We acknowledge that workers may be reluctant to report concerns for numerous reasons. For example, they may fear that there will be repercussions in working relationships, on their education, career and career progression, or potentially result in complaints or slander about them. The GOC commits to supporting those who raise concerns and may act as the complainant, where appropriate. Outside of the remit of the GOC, the PIDA was introduced to protect workers against detrimental treatment from colleagues or employers or dismissal as a result of any disclosure by them of information in the public interest.
5.2 All registrants have a duty to raise concerns where they believe that patient safety or care is being compromised by the practice of colleagues, peers, employers, supervisors or the systems, policies and procedures in the organisations in which they work. This requirement is mirrored within our business standards whereby businesses must provide mechanisms to enable those that work for or are otherwise engaged by the business registrant to raise concerns about risks to patients.
5.3 It is recognised that students especially may feel unable to report concerns from fear of repercussions. As such, the GOC expects that any concerns meeting the appropriate criteria which have been raised to education providers, including individual teachers and lecturers by students, are reported either by the student or on the student’s behalf by the individual who then acts as the complainant.
5.4 All registrants also have a duty to encourage and support a culture in which employees can raise concerns openly and safely. This extends to employers, workplaces and organisations.
5.5 There are free confidential advice and support organisations listed in annex 1 which can provide guidance on whistleblowing. Included within this annex are optical sector representative member bodies and trade unions who are also a useful source of advice, information and support and may be able to help to resolve concerns at an earlier stage.
5.6 Confidentiality clauses can legitimately be used in a settlement agreement. However, it is important to note that any confidentiality clause between an employer and an employee or ex-employee which seeks to prevent the employee from making a “protected disclosure” in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 is void and ineffective. This means that settlement agreements cannot be used in an attempt to stop employees from whistleblowing.