Whistleblowing of censurable conditions

We recommend reading the information on this page before whistleblowing. It is also a good idea to discuss the issue with someone you trust. Employees can seek advice from a manager, safety representative or elected representative before whistleblowing. Students can seek advice from the student ombudsman, student-elected representatives or student advisers.

Read more about whistleblowing on the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority’s website (Norwegian only).

Whistleblowing is reporting breaches of:

  • Acts and regulations
  • Ethical standards
  • Serious conditions that could harm students, employees, the university or society at large

Censurable conditions may be:

  • Bullying or suspected harassment
  • Sexual harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Negative culture / "cheating and wangling"
  • Unethical actions and violations of code of conduct
  • Suspected corruption and economic crime
  • Breach of duty of confidentiality
  • Violation of laws and regulations
  • Other

Pursuant to the Working Environment Act chapter 2-A, employees are entitled and, in some cases obliged, to report censurable conditions at USN. Under the Working Environment Act, employees are obliged to report if there is a risk to life and health or suspected discrimination or harassment.

There will always be different opinions about decisions and resolutions made, whether these relate to budget allocations, recruitment, professional priorities or decisions based on acts and regulations. Expressing such disagreement is not classified as whistleblowing. Whistleblowing is a collective term, and each issue differs so that the way they are processed, and the conclusions will differ.

To whom can you whistleblow?

Whistleblowing service route
At USN, we try to solve problems as early as possible and at the lowest possible organisational level. If you notice censurable conditions, you should, as an employee, discuss this with your immediate superior. If you feel that it is not possible to solve the issue locally, you can discuss it with the manager at the next level up in the organisation (Dean, Head of Section). In such an event, the manager shall involve the Department of Personnel and Organisation when processing the report.

Students can discuss issues with the student-elected representative, student adviser, lecturer or programme coordinator before whistleblowing via an online form. If it is difficult to do so alone, then bring a friend or co-student with you.

You are entitled to bring a person you trust with you to meetings. Employees may, for example, bring along an elected representative from the labour union or one of the safety representatives. Students can contact SSN (student counsellors), the student ombudsman, student priest or student-elected representative, e.g. class-elected representative, campus-elected representative or campus contact person for issues involving the learning environment.

Whistleblowing at USN level (the Department of Personnel and Organisation)
If you feel that the issue has not been solved or is difficult to solve via the service route, you can submit it to the top management at USN. Whistleblowing at USN’s management level shall not replace ordinary conflict solving and communication with responsible managers, but shall be a supplementary channel for addressing the issue. The Rector has assigned responsibility for following up whistleblowing issues at this level to the Department of Personnel and Organisation, irrespective of the field involved.

External whistleblowing

If internal whistleblowing at USN is not successful or you feel that it is not appropriate, there is the option of external whistleblowing. Whistleblowing is possible to the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, the Parliamentary Ombudsman for Public Administration, the police, the Ministry of Education and Research or the general public (media etc.).

Use of media/social media

All persons are encouraged to take caution when whistleblowing to the media/via social media in order to draw attention to censurable conditions. Protection under the provisions of the Working Environment Act for employees who whistleblow requires that whistleblowing is carried out properly. Whistleblowing according to USN’s whistleblowing routines (internally in USN or to a supervisory authority) is defined as proper whistleblowing.

How to whistleblow

There are various methods of whistleblowing, including by letter, email, telephone or face to face. Written whistleblowing is recommended in order to ensure casework and documentation. Any person who feels exposed to harassment should write down their own notes to describe the incident(s), irrespective of whistleblowing method.

It is also beneficial if you can provide as accurate a description as possible of the issue:

  • What does the issue involve?
  • Where and when did it happen, period, date and time?
  • Who is involved/witnesses?
  • Specifically, what the whistleblowing involves
  • Specific description of the censurable conditions
How USN follows up on whistleblowing

All whistleblowing is taken seriously. The employer is obliged to actively investigate whether the claims require further follow-up. Follow-up of the issue will vary depending on the severity of the issue, and USN's ability to investigate the matter.

As a whistleblower, you will not necessarily be involved in the processing and have access to the case documents, but you will be notified of the outcome once the case is closed.

Processing on personal data

The Department of Personnel and Organisation at USN is responsible for processing all sensitive data confidentially and in line with the Personal Data Act, when working on a whistleblowing issue.

Any questions about processing of personal data can be made to USN’s HSE Manager, Ingrid Kristine Reitan (Ingrid.k.reitan@usn.no).

You can also contact USN’s privacy ombudsman, personvernombud@usn.no, if you have questions regarding privacy during processing of personal data. The legal basis for processing is pursuant to both the Norwegian Working Environment Act and the Act relating to Universities and University Colleges; GDPR article 6, 1st. par., letra c), cf, section 2 A-3 of the Working Environment Act, and GDPR article 6, 1st par., letra c), cf, section 1-6 of the Act relating to Universities and University Colleges.

It may be necessary to disclose the information to parties to the issue according to the provisions of the Public Administration Act, duties of the employer, cf. section 2-1 of the Working Environment Act or student bodies, cf. section 4-1 (3) of the Act relating to Universities and University colleges The data is archived according to the Act relating to archives.

You have the right to request access to the information and to have any errors corrected, or if necessary, have personal data deleted or to restrict processing of your personal data, or to object to the processing.

If you believe that the processing infringes your privacy, you may complain to the Norwegian Data Protection Authority. Feel free to ask our Privacy ombudsman about this.

Hidden identity
You may request that your identity is not disclosed to the person(s) you are reporting. Please note that this may hamper further proceedings, as the person who is the subject of the whistleblowing, as a general rule, has the right to provide his/her version of the issue and, consequently, has full right of access to the information. Exemptions may be made if there is a justifiable fear of serious retaliation from the person who is the subject of the whistleblowing, cf. section 19, 2nd par. letra b) of the Public Administration Act.

Whistleblowers are encouraged to come forward with their name to enable further follow-up of the issue. USN will process all information confidentially and ensure that your identity as a whistleblower is not known to more people than is strictly necessary to process the issue. If, however, you still wish to remain anonymous, you can use the form for anonymous whistleblowing or address the issue with the safety representative or labour union. They will then deal with the issue without divulging your identity.

Roles and responsbilities

The employer
The employer is responsible for facilitating whistleblowing, preparing whistleblowing procedures and managing whistleblowing. The employer is also responsible for protecting the whistleblower’s identity and ensuring a proper working environment for the whistleblower and the person who is the subject of the whistleblowing.

When an employer receives a report and shall process the report, he/she is obliged to investigate and assess the impartiality of the person(s) processing the report, in order to ensure confidentiality and the duty of confidentiality during the process and to comply with the principle of hearing both sides of a case (the right to present your own side of the issue).

The whistleblower
Employees who whistleblow about possible censurable conditions are protected against retaliation.

Employees who whistleblow on behalf of others are commonly not a party to the case. With a whistleblowing case, it is only the person(s) who is(are) the target of or directly involved in the whistleblowing who is party to the case.  The whistleblower does not therefore have access to information on how the employer is processing the case. The whistleblower may request information about whether the report is being processed, but not information on the actual processing.

The person who is the subject of the whistleblowing
With whistleblowing, the potentially censurable condition may be a violation by one or more persons or a violation at system or organisation level. With issues where the censurable condition involves one or more persons, it is important to protect the person(s) who are the subject of the whistleblowing. The subject of the whistleblowing is always entitled to a proper working environment while the whistleblowing is being processed.

Pursuant to the Personal Data Act, the person(s) who are the subject of the whistleblowing are entitled to access to the claims of both censurable conditions and other personal data collected.

The subject(s) of whistleblowing are also entitled to provide their version of the censurable condition (right to have both sides of a case heard).

Elected representatives
With a whistleblowing case, the role of the elected representatives is to help the employees who whistleblow. The representatives may for example discuss the issue with the whistleblower prior to the decision to whistleblow, evaluate the procedure, take part in discussions, provide advice and assistance during meetings with management and other involved parties.

Representatives may also whistleblow on behalf of the whistleblower. Such a procedure allows the whistleblower to remain anonymous to the employer. The whistleblower reports via the representative who is responsible for conveying the report. The representative is not a party to the case and shall not be involved in processing the report. Representatives may, via their labour union, choose to support the whistleblowing or whistleblow on behalf of several members.

The safety representatives
The role of the safety representative is a statutory scheme that shall safeguard the employees’ interests in matters concerning the working environment. The safety representative has a duty to report censurable working environment issues such as

  • harassment and discrimination
  • injury and illness
  • risk to life and health

In addition to the safety representative’s duty to report when aware of such issues, it is also possible to whistleblow via the safety representative in the case of other censurable conditions. In such a situation, the whistleblower whistleblows via the safety representative, who is responsible for conveying the report. The safety representative is not a party to the case and shall not be involved in processing the report.

The Working Environment Committee
The Working Environment Committee (AMU) does not normally play a role in specific whistleblowing cases. However, the AMU does play an important role in preparing, implementing and evaluating the organisation's work on whistleblowing and whistleblowing routines. The AMU should be informed about the number of whistleblowing cases, what censurable conditions are involved and how the cases are processed and resolved.

Whistleblowing form

It is safe to whistleblow via an online form. The online form is encrypted and sent directly to a closed case processing system. The case is treated confidentially by employees who have a duty of confidentiality both during processing, and after the case has been closed.

Whistleblowing of censurable conditions

You must log on to our intranet to use the form.

Anonymous whistleblowing

If you wish to whistleblow anonymously, you can do so here. It is important to provide as much specific information as possible, as USN is not able to obtain more information about the case. Please note that with anonymous whistleblowing, it can be difficult to investigate the matter further.

Anonymous whistleblowing form

You must log on to our intranet to use the form.

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