CONFLICT OF INTEREST POLICY AND PROCEDURE
Version number :
IFT Leadership Team
Last Review Date:
Next Review Date:
Board of Trustees
Board of Trustees
2.0 Definition of conflict of interest
3.0 Policy Implementation
5.0 Monitoring and Compliance
6.0 Guiding principles for conduct in organisations
7.0 Guidance and Guidelines
8.0 Personal Relationships
10.0 Money, gifts and bequests
11.0 Relationships between members of staff
12.0 Declaration of personal relationships
1.1. IFT is committed to ensuring that, as far as it is reasonably practicable, the way we provide services to the public and the way we treat our staff reflects their individual needs and does not discriminate against individuals or groups on the basis of gender, transgender status, pregnancy and maternity, marriage or civil partnership, race, religion/belief, sexual orientation, age or disability.
1.2. The purpose and aim of the conflict of Interest policy is to raise awareness and provide guidance regarding the standards of conduct and behaviour that the IFT expects from its staff.
1.3. All staff should ensure that they act at all times in such a manner as to justify public and IFT confidence. All staff are to uphold and enhance the good standing and reputation of the IFT in the provision of services and to safeguard the interests of service user/trainees and act in accordance with their relevant professional code of ethics and conduct.
1.4. This policy should be considered with regard to the IFT’s Duty of Candour obligation, which means that all staff must adopt an open and honest approach when dealing with service user/trainees and their relatives / carers. This duty has specific implications and actions for some situations, such as when serious incidents occur, but otherwise should be the default position of all staff in all their dealings at the IFT.
- Definition of Conflict of Interest
The purpose of this policy is to clarify the responsibilities of all IFT staff to ensure that their behaviour inside and outside work, and interest outside work do not conflict or appear to conflict with their position, duties and responsibilities at IFT. This policy should be considered alongside the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct Policy.
Conflict of interest might also refer to a situation in which the concerns or aims of two different parties are incompatible or a situation in which a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity.
In essence a conflict of interest relates to a situation where an individual’s personal interests – family, friendships, financial, or social factors – could compromise his or her judgment, decisions, or ethical actions in the workplace.
- Policy Implementation
The Conflict of Interest Policy applies to all individuals working at all levels at IFT and its implementation will be supported through a variety of communication mechanisms including team briefings.
All new employees will receive a copy of this policy with their induction information and further advice will be provided by line managers.
All staff should declare a conflict of interest and have a discussion on what should be declared with their line manager:
- on appointment when moving to a new role
- or when the responsibilities under their existing role changes significantly
In any event staff should make an immediate declaration of interest in all cases where circumstances change and/or new interests arise resulting in a conflict of interest. All new employees are required to submit a nil return if they have no interests to declare.
Failure to meet the standards and requirements of the Code may result in disciplinary action.
- Declare any known conflicts of interest as soon as they arise or in relation to your current or proposed activity at IFT, including recruitment, line management and procurement duties.
- Avoid any abuse of the privileged relationship which exists with service users and of the privileged access allowed to their person, property or residence.
- Politely refuse to accept any gift, favour or hospitality from service user/trainees which might be interpreted as seeking to exert undue influence or to obtain preferential consideration.
- Employees should not accept significant personal gifts from contractors and outside suppliers
- Be aware of the potential for conflict of interest between private obligations outside work and the requirements of your job
- Employees may through agreed procedures and without fear of recrimination, bring to the attention of the appropriate level of management any deficiency in the provision of service, impropriety or breach of procedure.
- Monitoring and Compliance
The Board will respond, as set out below, in light of those matters which have been brought to their attention, with ongoing monitoring. This policy will be reviewed and amended as necessary in light of any matters raised.
Standards of Business Conduct
It is the responsibility of all staff to ensure that they are not placed in a position, which risks, or appears to risk, conflict between their private interests and/ or external employment and their IFT duties. This primary responsibility applies to all staff, volunteers and Trustees and specific guidance is set out below.
- Guiding principles for conduct in organisations
IFT must be impartial and honest in the conduct of business and therefore, employees should remain beyond suspicion. It is a disciplinary offence for an employee to accept an inducement or reward for doing or refraining from doing, anything in his or her official capacity, or corruptly showing favour or disfavour in the handling of contracts.
IFT works within the Bribery Act 2010. Clause 18 states that:
18.1 The Grant Recipient:
18.1.1 shall not, and shall procure that its staff, agents, consultants and sub contractors shall not, in connection with this Agreement, commit a Prohibited Act;
18.1.2 shall not engage in any activity, practice or conduct which would constitute an offence under sections 1, 2 or 6 of the Bribery Act 2010 if such activity, practice or conduct has been carried out in the UK;
18.1.3 shall comply with the Authority’s anti-bribery policies, as updated from time to time and notified to the Grant Recipient;
18.1.4 shall have and shall maintain throughout the term of this Agreement its own policies and procedures, including adequate procedures under the Bribery Act 2010, to ensure compliance with clauses 18.1.1, 18.1.2 and 18.1.3;
18.1.5 shall promptly report to the Authority’s Delivery Partner any request or demand for any undue financial or other advantage of any kind received by the Grant Recipient in connection with the Funded Activity;
18.1.6 shall immediately notify the Authority’s Delivery Partner in writing if a foreign public official becomes an officer or employee of the Grant Recipient or acquires a direct or indirect interest in the Grant Recipient, and the Grant Recipient warrants that it has no foreign public officials as officers, employees or direct or indirect owners at the date of this Agreement;
18.1.7 shall, if requested, provide the Authority or the Authority’s Delivery Partner with any reasonable assistance, at the Authority’s reasonable cost, to enable the Authority to perform any activity required by any relevant government or agency in any relevant jurisdiction for the purpose of compliance with the Bribery Act;
18.1.8 within one (1) month of the Commencement Date, and annually thereafter, certify to the Authority’s Delivery Partner in writing (such certification to be signed by an officer of the Grant Recipient) compliance with this clause 18 by the Grant Recipient and all persons associated with it or other persons who are supplying goods or services in connection with this Agreement. The Grant Recipient shall provide such supporting evidence of compliance as the Authority and/or the Authority’s Delivery Partner may reasonably request.
For the purpose of clause 18 of the Bribery Act 2010 above, the meaning of adequate procedures and foreign public official and whether a person is associated with another person will be determined in accordance with section 7(2) of the Bribery Act 2010 (and any guidance issued under section 9 of that Act), sections 6(5) and 6(6) of that Act and section 8 of that Act respectively. For the purpose of this clause 18, a person associated with the Grant Recipient includes any agent, delegate or subcontractor of the agent. Staff should be aware that a breach of the provision of this Act renders them liable for prosecution and may also lead to loss of employment and pension rights at the IFT.
- Guidance and Guidelines
7.1 Conflicts of interest guidance
To help staff determine if there is a conflict of interest situation here is some guidance that further defines and details how it might arise:
A conflict of interest is where the best interests of IFT are not the primary focus when conducting IFT business, such as hiring staff, entering into contracts, partnering with other organisations or planning business strategy. A conflict of interest may arise at any level of the organisation but is more likely to arise where people have authority to make decisions about direction or procurement of goods, service or staff. Conflicts of interest may arise where:
- Personal or (external) professional interests conflict with a person’s professional role at IFT.
- Personal or professional connections conflict with a person’s professional role at the IFT.
- Personal or external professional benefit is derived from decisions taken or knowledge held due to a person’s position at the IFT.
Conflicts of interest can arise in a wide variety of ways. In all cases, the underlying concern is the same – that is, ensuring that decisions are made impartially, and ethically as well as the need to manage the risk of bias, or the appearance of bias.
7.1.1 To work out how to manage a conflict, it can be helpful to categorise it as a:
- Financial conflict
- Non-financial conflict
- Conflict of roles
The situation may not fall neatly into one category or may relate to more than one type of conflict. But, if staff are trying to figure out whether they have a conflict and, if so, what to do about it, analysing their situation by putting it in one of these four categories can be a useful starting point.
In addition to these four categories, there might also be conflicts created by the possession of official information that is used for personal benefit or to make a gain for others.
In all situations, your conflict might be actual or perceived – that is, you might have an actual conflict, or there could be no conflict, but to an outside observer it looks like there is.
7.1.1.a Financial conflicts of interest
A financial conflict of interest is any situation where a staff member stands to gain or lose financially from a decision they are asked to make.
Financial interests might be direct or indirect and need not involve cash changing hands directly. It could, for example, be an effect on the value of land or shares that that are owned.
If staff have a financial conflict of interest:
- They should treat it seriously, even if it seems trivial to them; and
- They need to make sure they are familiar with any specific rules that apply to the management of financial conflicts of interest in IFT.
7.1.1.b Non-financial conflicts of interest
A non-financial conflict of interest is any situation where a staff member is not affected financially by a decision but are affected in some other way that might make them biased or appear to be biased.
A non-financial conflict of interest might arise, for example, from a family relationship, friendship, or any other sort of personal relationship.
Non-financial conflicts can also arise if they are a member of, or involved with, an organisation outside of their work with IFT.
7.1.1.c. Conflict of roles
A conflict of roles can arise in any situation where staff are a decision-maker for two different organisations about the same matter.
A conflict of roles is just another type of non-financial conflict but it is likely to prompt different issues than other types of conflicts. The question is not so much whether the staff member’s interests conflict, but whether the interests of the two organisations they work for do.
A conflict of roles may also lead to a conflict of duties.
The main points to consider with a conflict of roles are that:
- The staff member needs to be clear what their obligations are to each role or organisation;
- They need to be confident that both organisations are clear about what their obligations are to each of them and, if necessary, have a protocol that explains this; and
- They need to always be alert for situations where the interests of the two organisations might conflict, even if they generally do not.
Predetermination is any situation where a staff member is making a decision about something and there is a risk that people will think they have made up their mind before they considered all of the evidence. Suggestions of predetermination usually arise because of something the staff member has previously said or done.
Although not technically a conflict of interest, the underlying risk with predetermination is the same as for conflicts of interest – that is, the risk that the staff member will negatively impact on a decision they are involved in making because they are biased or appear to be biased.
However, general personal factors, such as an employee’s ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, political, or philosophical leanings, wealth, or professional background, can not constitute predetermination, unless they actually give rise to a strongly held personal belief that directly relates to the matter being considered (this cannot be assumed but has to be established and confirmed by the staff member who holds the belief).
7.2 Conflicts of interest guidelines
All staff should familiarise themselves with the following guidelines. Staff should:
- Make sure you understand the guidelines and consult your line manager if you are not sure;
- Make sure you are not in a position where your private interests and the IFT duties may conflict;
- Declare any relevant interests to the Chief Operating Officer.
If In Doubt Ask Yourself
- Am I, or might I be in a position where, I, or my family/friends, could gain from the connection between my interests and my employment?
- Do I have access to information, which could influence purchasing decisions?
- Could my outside interest be in any way detrimental to IFT or to patient interests?
- Do I have any other reason to think I may be risking a conflict of interest?
If You Are Still Unsure – Declare It
- Adhere to the ethical code of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply if you are involved in any way with the acquisition of goods and services;
- Seek the IFT’s permission before taking on other employment which may adversely affect your ability to fulfil your employment obligations or which conflict or may be seen to conflict with your obligation to the IFT.
- Accept any gifts, inducements or inappropriate hospitality. (There may be circumstances where modest hospitality and casual gifts are acceptable – seek advice from your line manager);
- Abuse your past or present official position to obtain preferential rates for private deals unless this forms part of a concessionary agreement negotiated with the IFT;
- Unfairly advantage one competitor over another or show favouritism when awarding contracts;
- Misuse, make available or make inappropriate reference to official ‘commercial’ or ‘in confidence’ information.
- Personal Relationships
IFT values and relies upon the professional integrity of relationships between members of staff and in staff/student and staff/service user relationships. In order that IFT activities are conducted and perceived to be conducted, in a professional and proper manner it is necessary to distinguish between, and take account of, personal relationships which overlap with professional ones. In the context of this document, a personal relationship is defined as:
- a family relationship,
- a business/commercial/financial relationship, or
- a sexual/romantic relationship.
8.1 Relationships between staff and students
IFT believes that the professional relationship between a student and a member of staff is vital to a student’s educational development and affirms that the teaching relationship is based on confidence and dependency. In this context, a professional relationship is defined as one where there is an assessing, supervising, tutoring, teaching or pastoral role or a role providing administrative or technical support. Students are entitled to equality of treatment and it is important that a personal relationship between a member of staff and a student is not perceived by others to prejudice that equality of treatment.
Staff are strongly advised not to enter into a sexual/romantic relationship with a student for whom they have a responsibility for assessing, supervising, tutoring, teaching, or pastoral care or for whom they are required to provide administrative or technical support. Further, staff should not enter into a business, commercial or financial relationship with a student which could compromise, or could be perceived to compromise, the objectivity and professional standing of the teaching relationship.
IFT recognises, however, that such relationships may exist when a member of staff is appointed or when a student enrols, or that a relationship may develop between a member of staff and a student during a programme of study. Where a member of staff has a professional role in relation to a student with whom they have a personal relationship, it is the responsibility of the member of staff to inform their Programme Director, in order that alternative teaching, tutoring or assessment arrangements may be made.
Staff may seek guidance on the implementation of this Code, on a confidential basis, from the Directors or Chief Operating Officer. Students may seek guidance on the implementation of the Code on a confidential basis from the Course Chair.
Remember that students have the right to see the records kept about them. Be clear about what is factual and what is opinion, be careful to identify which is which in your recording, and note the grounds on which your opinion is based.
8.2 Relationships between staff and service user/trainees
The relationship between an IFT member of staff and a service user/trainee must be based on the assessed needs of the service user/trainee and the skills and knowledge of the member of staff engaged to help meet those needs. All staff should seek the advice of their line manager if they have any concerns or issues about relationships with service user/trainees.
You may know from your own experience that it is harder to use your skills effectively with a friend, relative or partner where there is an emotional involvement. It is therefore essential that while you may develop a close working relationship with service user/trainees you must never allow that to cloud your professional judgement.
IFT has a duty towards its staff, who may sometimes be influenced, manipulated or abused by service user/trainees. This policy provides guidance within it and its links to other IFT policies to highlight the roles and responsibilities of staff and where they may gain support and protection.
IFT has a responsibility to protect service user/trainees from being manipulated and abused by staff, and staff should ensure that they consider their practice in line with the Safeguarding Policy of the IFT and codes of ethics.
IFT has a duty of care towards all its service user/trainees, who, by the nature of their needs, will often be vulnerable. Staff must recognise this vulnerability and protect service user/trainees from exploitation and abuse. Staff must:
- not take advantage of their position for their own purposes;
- respect the dignity, privacy, safety and well-being of service user/trainees;
- not take advantage of service user/trainees’ vulnerability or enable others to do so.
Staff should be aware that if service user/trainees have experienced abuse in the past, they may find it difficult to understand the nature of the working relationship with staff and professional boundaries. Staff must be aware of this and offer support and appropriate advice.
All staff need to be aware that failing to comply with these standards may result in formal disciplinary action, which may include dismissal, and could be prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
Staff must raise any concerns about the professional conduct and practice of their colleagues with their supervisor and line manager.
Managers are responsible for supporting staff in discussing any issues in relation to this policy and agreeing support and management structures including completion of necessary reports, statements etc. Managers are also responsible for ensuring the provision of support as necessary to staff and service user/trainees.
8.3 Pre-existing relationships
It is quite possible that at some point someone you know or are related to will be referred to your group for a service. It is your responsibility to inform your manager of the relationship, so that you are not directly involved in the assessment or provision. Otherwise you may be perceived to be in a position leading to a conflict of loyalties.
It is difficult to provide an effective service to someone you already know – it requires a shift in the relationship and in the balance of power to allow you to ask relevant personal questions or to provide professional care, and you need to be able to step aside from your usual role. There is a risk that your response would not be the most appropriate for the circumstances.
The service user/trainee may not wish to share some important information with you, because they would not want to do so in your role as a friend or relative, and find it difficult to separate that from your new professional role.
The service user/trainee may try to use your relationship to get a ‘better’ service, or you may feel an obligation to do so, putting additional emotional pressure on you and setting up unrealistic expectations.
Course Leads and Directors will agree with you a course of action which may include putting systems in place where you have no involvement with the service user/trainee’s care and treatment. As an extreme solution, following consultation with the potential service user/trainee, they may be cared for by another team if this would meet their needs and you will have no access to their records.
For some service user/trainees, email may be their preferred way of communicating. For recording and retention purposes emails must be treated as letters.
Text messages can be a useful alternative to a Minicom for people with impaired hearing, but you should only use mobile phones provided for work purposes by the IFT, and restrict texts to arrangements for meetings or similar topics, ensuring that the telephone number is not transmitted with the text message.
You should not give personal mobile or home telephone numbers to service users. This blurs the distinction between personal and professional relationships, and is open to abuse by either party.
Although both texts and emails lend themselves to a more informal style, you must ensure they are as clear, informative and appropriate in tone as any other staff/service user/trainee communication.
You should report any abusive or offensive communication to your line manager, and refer to the relevant IFT policy for dealing with this situation.
Any contact made to you by a person who has been a service user/trainee must be communicated to your manager and to the team who are currently involved in the service user/trainee’s care if they are still receiving a service from the IFT.
Make sure you address service user/trainees by the name/title they prefer, and be aware of the effect of your style and tone of voice.
Remember that service user/trainees have the right to see the records kept about them. Be clear about what is factual and what is opinion, be careful to identify which is which in your recording, and note the grounds on which your opinion is based (see the Data Protection Policy).
- Money, gifts and bequests
You must not lend money to service user/trainees, or borrow money from them, nor must you arrange for or influence them to lend money to or borrow from any third parties, except for a legitimate service-related reason previously approved by your line manager.
You must not sell goods or services to service user/trainees or buy from them. Nor must you arrange for the sale of goods to or purchase from third parties, except for a legitimate service-related reason previously approved by your line manager.
To avoid any suspicion of influence you must not witness wills for service users. If you are a named beneficiary in a service user/trainee’s will you must discuss this with your line manager, who will seek advice from the Head of HR or Chief Operating Officer and advise you on the best course of action.
You must not normally accept gifts from service user/trainees. However, for some of the IFT’s service user/trainees there may be a need to make a gesture towards shifting the balance away from always being the recipient, and they may feel unable to accept further help which they may need. If a service user/trainee is insistent, you must discuss the matter with your line manager; if the proposed gift is of little monetary value or might be shared within a team it may be possible for the manager to accept it, while reinforcing the message about any future gifts.
You should not give gifts of substantial value to service users/trainees with whom you work. Giving gifts to a trainee on behalf of the service you work for may be appropriate when the finish their placement.
- Relationships between members of staff
Although the existence of a personal relationship between members of staff does not necessarily constitute a bar to the employment or promotion of either party, staff should declare to their line manager any personal relationships which may give rise to a real or perceived conflict of interest or breach of confidentiality.
Where a personal relationship exists or develops between members of staff who are in a line management or supervisory relationship at work, they must not be involved in recruitment, selection, appraisal, promotion or in any other management activity or process involving the other party. Additionally, staff in a personal relationship should not work together in any circumstance whereby a conflict of interest, breach of confidentiality or unfair advantage may be perceived to be gained from the overlap of a personal and professional relationship. In any such circumstances, the relationship must be declared in confidence, to the the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Directors or Chief Operating Officer. The person to whom the information is disclosed will then make alternative management arrangements and confirm them in writing to the individuals concerned. If it is considered unavoidable to inform other members of staff about the relationship in order to explain a change in management arrangements, this will be discussed with the individuals concerned, before it is disclosed (Also see IFT’s Dual Relationships and Professional Boundaries Policy).
- Declaration of personal relationships where they overlap with professional roles
Staff who are uncertain about whether they should take action regarding a personal relationship, are invited to seek guidance in confidence, from the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Directors or Chief Operating Officer.
A case whereby any personal relationship as defined within this policy and IFT’s Dual Relationships and Professional Boundaries Policy, is not declared and results in an unfair advantage or disadvantage to either of the parties to the relationship (be they a member of staff, service user/trainee or a student), will be considered a serious matter and may lead to disciplinary action.
While not a bar to employment with the IFT, applicants for employment will be asked to declare any personal relationship with existing members of staff, students, or trustees (Also see IFT’s Dual Relationships and Professional Boundaries Policy).
All staff at IFT, not just senior staff and Directors, have a duty to be aware of and declare any potential conflicts of interest as soon as they are identified. Trustees also have a legal duty to do so and must always act in the best interests of the IFT.
Trustees and Directors are required annually to complete the Fit and Proper Person and Declaration of Interests forms, which cover conflicts of interest. Other staff must follow the guidance set out in the Code of Conduct and this includes with regard to external employment with partners or competitors of the IFT.
12.1 Trustees and Directors – Conflict of Interest Process
- Annual completion of the Declaration of Interests form.
- Declaration of any interests associated with agenda items at the beginning of each meeting.
- Appropriate recusal during discussion and decision making.
Staff – Conflict of Interest Process
- As soon as it becomes clear there is a possible or definite conflict of interest it must be reported to the line manager, Directors, Chief Operating Officer or Chair of the Board of Trustees as appropriate.
- The report will be reviewed.
- A decision will be made as to the appropriate level of involvement the staff member should have in the activity generating an actual or potential conflict of interest and if necessary, an alternative member of staff will be nominated to manage the activity.
Conflicts of interest are managed by the Chief Operating Officer or by the Executive or Board where either of these declares a conflict of interest. The conflict of interest register is used to record any declarations and the management of them.