Part 2: Guidance for businesses

70. Having a proper process for acting upon concerns raised by those speaking up, taking them seriously and making staff aware of how to speak up (and escalate) if they need to is explicitly set out in the Standards for Optical Businesses[7] (standards 1.1.3-1.1.6). Businesses also have a duty to foster a culture of candour in which staff can be open and honest with patients when things go wrong (standard 2.1). An essential part of this involves making the business an environment where poor practice and/or safety issues can be identified, reported and dealt with appropriately, and staff are as confident as possible in speaking up.

71. As part of creating an appropriate business environment, you should recognise that there are certain groups of individuals (particularly those with protected characteristics) who are likely to face barriers in speaking up (see part 1, section A of this guidance). It is important, therefore, that the business is aware of these potential barriers and fosters a culture where everyone is comfortable to speak up.

72. The National Guardian’s Office in England has worked with Health Education England to create e-learning modules[8] including a module for managers entitled ‘Listen Up’ – this is for line managers and middle managers, and is focussed on listening and the barriers that can get in the way of speaking up. They will be launching a module for senior leaders later in 2021.

73. You must not discriminate against your staff for speaking up honestly and following proper process to do so and should ensure that you read part 1 of the guidance, particularly in relation to protected disclosures and the law around protecting whistleblowers from negative treatment or unfair dismissal.

[7] This guidance is intended to apply to all optical businesses, not just those who are eligible for registration with us.

[8] https://www.e-lfh.org.uk/programmes/freedom-to-speak-up/ (last accessed 8 October 2021)