City revamps whistleblower policy

Red Deer city staff can now blow the lid on harassment, bullying or safety in the workplace without fear of retaliation.

Red Deer city staff can now blow the lid on harassment, bullying or safety in the workplace without fear of retaliation.

On Monday council enhanced and revamped its ethics standard policy or a Whistleblower policy including adding an anonymous third party confidential hotline for employees.

Greg LeBlanc, the city’s Human Resource Team Leader, said the hotline would be operational 24/7 all year round through an online reporting option and through a telephone service.

LeBlanc said there is a process within the ethics toolkit that tells new employees at orientation that ensures them they will be protected.

The city currently does not have an anonymous way of reporting concerns.

LeBlanc said there has been a policy in place where employees could drop off a sealed envelope to the Human Resources department.

“What they don’t have is the anonymous way of reporting their concerns,” said LeBlanc. “As an example … we have had a a sealed envelope delivered to Human Resources and one of the forms in the toolkit suggests it. That has been in place since 2005. It’s not as confidential and to some extend easy as a third party

Council will consider the estimated $15,000 annual fee for the third-party hotline during the upcoming operational budget talks in January.

Mayor Tara Veer said there were various means of fulfilling the ethical standards policies and reporting mechanisms but there was a lack of accountability and formal mechanism for staff to come forward.

“We needed that anonymous component to be built into our accountability loop, ” said Veer. “Today we followed through on that commitment to our public and our staff so if they have a concern they can come forward anonymously and without fear of reprisal.”

In 2013 the Alberta government created the Public Interest Disclosure Act which was applicable to the public sector and post secondary institutions and hospitals. It was not applicable to municipalities but the jurisdictions had the opportunity to opt in.

The city initially opted in at the suggestion of the audit committee in September 2013 and directed administration to

review the legislation and the current and past practices and policies. As part of the resolution, council rescinded the 2013 resolution.

Veer said it worked on paper but it didn’t translate in practice.

Kristy Svoboda, Director of Human Resources, told council that to date no other municipalities have opted into the legislation.

“There were concerns that we were giving away our municipal independence,” she said. “The legislation was very cumbersome. There wasn’t any specific language specific to the municipalities. Any reprisal complaint can be reported directly to the commissioner. There was no opportunity for the City of Red Deer to do our own rigour and process. It added another layer of complexity to an already PIDA terminology and regulation.”

Administration will report to the audit committee and council annually. It will be brought back to council for review in a year’s time.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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