Guidelines for whistleblowing at the University of Bergen
Approved by the University Director on 30 november 2020.
In a good working environment, there is a low threshold for presenting unbiased and constructive criticism. It is therefore important that employees of the University of Bergen feel confident that they can express themselves regarding problematic circumstances in the organization and that these will be handled and followed up in a good way. The guidelines for reporting censurable conditions are intended to encourage an open culture characterized by good internal communication.
The guidelines have been drawn up to facilitate internal whistleblowing in accordance with Section 2 A-6 of the Norwegian Working Environment Act . In addition, the guidelines are intended to clarify procedures, obligations and rights in connection with whistleblowing.
It is an objective that the working environment at UiB should be characterised by transparency and good internal communication. The whistleblowing guidelines are intended to uncover or prevent censurable conditions at UiB. It is desirable, and in the best interests of the organization,that UiB’s employees make use of their right to blow the whistle on censurable conditions.
The guidelines apply to anyone who performs work for UiB, including temporary employees hired from employment agencies. Other groups, such as students and persons in labour market training, are considered as employees when they perform work for UiB, cf. Section 1-6 (1) of the Working Environment Act.
The guidelines are applicable in cases where the employee blows the whistle according to the duty of notification in Section 2-3 of the Working Environment Act, or the notification provision in Section 2 A-1 of the Working Environment Act.
Students’ complaints concerning the learning environment are handled in accordance with Section 4-3 of the University and University Colleges Act.
3) Duty of notification – Section 2-3 of the Working Environment Act
Employees are obliged to notify the employer of conditions in the workplace that relate to errors or deficiencies that entail danger to life or health, or if someone is injured or incurs illness that the employee believes is a result of conditions in the workplace, cf. Working Environment Act Section 2-3 no. 2, b) and e). The notification shall be given in accordance with Guidelines for notification and follow-up of health, safety and environment deviations as soon as the employee has become aware of the circumstance.
Notification of harassment or discrimination in the workplace shall be given in accordance with the guidelines for whistleblowing, as soon as the employee becomes aware of the circumstance, cf. Working Environment Act Section 2-3 no. 2, d).
State employees have an obligation to notify their employer concerning circumstances that they become aware of and which may inflict loss or damage on the employer, employees or the environment so that measures can be initiated with a view to avoiding or limiting the loss or damage, cf. The Code of Conduct for the Civil Service section 2.2.
The safety representative has a special duty of notification under Section 6-2 (3) of the Working Environment Act.
4) Right to blow the whistle - censurable conditions
Employees have the right to blow the whistle on censurable conditions in the organization. Censurable conditions means conditions that are in conflict with the rule of law, written code of conduct or ethical norms to which there is a broad acceptance in society, such as circumstances that may involve
danger to life or health
danger to climate or the environment
corruption or other economic crime
abuse of authority
irresponsible working environment
breach of personal data security.
Statements on circumstances concerning only the employee’s own working conditions are not considered as whistleblowing, unless the circumstance is covered by the points mentioned above.
5) Procedure for whistleblowing of censurable conditions
5.1) Internal notification
At UiB, an electronic notification form has been prepared that employees can use when notifying censurable conditions. If the employee does not wish to use the electronic notification form, it can be notified to the immediate line manager or to another senior manager. The notification is considered to have been received by UiB as the employer when the notification has been sent via the electronic notification form or given to such notification recipient.
It can otherwise be notified via a safety representative, employee representative, colleague, lawyer or similar to a notification recipient.
It is always prudent to notify in accordance with the duty of notification or UiB’s guidelines.
Internal notification is not considered as prudent if the censurable conditions are taken up in an inappropriate manner that unnecessarily harms the co-operation climate, the working environment or individuals in the organization, for example by repeated baseless allegations aimed at colleagues.
The notification may be submitted in writing or orally, by phone or email or in person. The notification should include the full name, the whistleblower’s place of work and the conditions to which the notification applies and should be as exhaustive as possible to ensure the best possible follow-up.
Anonymous notification is allowed.
5.2) External whistleblowing
The employee can always notify externally to a public supervisory authority or other public authority.
When notifying the media or the public in general, stricter requirements are placed on the whistleblower and the procedure. Such whistleblowing can be made if
the employee is in good faith concerning the contents of the notification,
the notification relates to censurable conditions that are of public interest, and
the employee has first blown the whistle internally, or has reason to believe that internal whistleblowing will not be appropriate.
Confidentiality requirements may limit the right to notify externally, cf. Section 13 of the Public Administration Act.
5.3) Burden of proof for proper procedure
The employer has the burden of proof that notification has been made in breach of this provision.
6) Administrative procedure for whistleblowing of censurable conditions
The University Director by the HR Director is the recipient of the electronic notification forms. Other notification recipients must immediately forward received notification to the University Director by the HR director.
The HR Director is responsible to record a notification journal. Recording of the notification journal is important for later documentation and for ensuring a good follow-up of the notification. In the notification journal, the content of the notification must be recorded and further incidents and conversations in the case documented, see form templates for the notification journal.
The HR Director appoints, in accordance with the University Director, a lawyer at the Division of Human Resources as responsible for the case processing of the individual notification. The following general principles apply when handling notification cases, cf. the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation’s guidelines for the preparation of local notification procedures in the Norwegian State;
all enquiries should be taken seriously
all enquiries should be addressed immediately
it should be ensured that the case is as well informed as possible
anonymous sources can be worth as much as open sources
the different whistleblowing methods should be valued equally
the whistleblowing system should be able to be used without fear of consequences
notifications should receive confirmation that they have been received as soon as possible and within no more than 14 days.
the whistleblower should be notified of the outcome of the notification.
It must be ensured that consideration for the whistleblower is taken care of, see further under section 7.
When follow-up of the notification entails the processing of personal data in accordance with the Personal Data Act, the responsible case handler shall ensure that personal data and sensitive personal data are processed in a lawful/prescribed manner.
If it is concluded that the notified condition is not censurable, the case may be closed or the matters notified may be followed up in the most appropriate manner in the organization.
7) Consideration to the whistleblower
The employer (immediate line manager with personnel responsibility) shall ensure in particular that the person who has blown the whistle has a fully satisfactory working environment. If necessary, the employer shall provide measures suitable for the prevention of retaliation.
Retaliation against an employee who blows the whistle in accordance with the guidelines is prohibited. Retaliation means any detrimental action, practice or omission resulting from, or as a reaction to, the employee’s whistleblowing, such as
threats, harassment, unprofessional discrimination, social exclusion or other improper conduct
warning, change in work duties, reassignment or downgrading
suspension, dismissal, summary discharge,or disciplinary sanctions.
8) Consideration to the person subject to whistleblowing
If the employer decides to pursue a notified case, the person about whom the notification has been received should be informed of the notification in the first instance and what information has been provided, so that the person in question has the opportunity to present their version of the case. Reservations are made for cases where, in consideration for the further administrative procedure, it is important that the person about whom the notification has been made is informed of the notification.
The identity of the whistleblower should not be disclosed to the person about whom the notification has been made. If the person about whom the notification has been made requests access to information about the case pursuant to the rules of the Public Administration Act, the person in question is as a general rule entitled to be informed of the identity of the whistleblower, however see section 9 regarding confidentiality requirements for notifications to UiB as a public authority.
When the case has been processed, the person about whom the notification has been made must be informed immediately, regardless of the outcome.