Regulated Members is collectively used to describe RICS professionals and regulated firms. The guidance is designed for Regulated Members so that they can understand their duty to report problematic behaviour or practices of other Regulated Members.
From time to time we see or hear things in our personal and working lives that seem wrong or unfair. For professionals, it is especially important to consider carefully what to do, when this happens. As a Regulated Member, there is an expectation that you will deal with such situations in a responsible manner. A key part of doing the right thing may be to speak up about wrongdoing, in order to help prevent further harm from happening and to maintain trust in the profession. This can mean talking to a line manager or reporting your concerns through specially designated channels within your place of work. However, you should also consider whether the matter is serious enough to be reported to RICS for regulatory consideration. It can sometimes be very difficult to judge what the right thing to do is and how best to raise concerns appropriately about problematic behaviour or practices. To help, this guidance provides basic advice and information about your obligations. However, remember that the decision on reporting concerns and the best stage to report them is an informed decision for you to make as a professional.
RICS is responsible for upholding standards in the profession in order to safeguard the public interest. For this reason, as a member of RICS you have a professional duty to promptly disclose the details of any Regulated Member that you reasonably believe may have breached RICS standards (byelaw B5.2.1(c) of the Royal charter and bye-laws). There may also be times when you need to speak up about your own conduct, for example, if you are charged or convicted of a criminal offence you should tell us immediately. The duty to speak up is an important part of the profession's "moral compass". Think of it as protecting the reputation of your profession, by helping RICS to uphold the public interest.
This duty is separate to any specific reporting or whistleblowing procedures set by your employer or other organisations that you work with. You do not need to report minor or trivial concerns that arise during your work, for example, complaints that can be handled through the Complaints Handling Procedure. Good company systems and controls play a vital frontline role in upholding standards and, where appropriate, reporting serious matters to RICS for consideration.
Serious matters should be reported to RICS immediately. RICS requires some Regulated Members to provide information on an annual basis. This provides another opportunity to speak up about any concerns that have arisen during the year.
You should use your professional judgement to decide whether to report concerns to RICS. In some cases, it may be appropriate for you or the organisation you work at to conclude internal enquiries before reporting concerns to RICS. In some cases, the concerns are so serious that there should be no delay in reporting them.
A responsible principal will have primary responsibility for ensuring that RICS' professional, technical and ethical standards are applied, upheld and supported by an appropriate assurance framework within a regulated firm. A Responsible Principal can make a report on behalf of other Regulated Members they work with.
When making a report, you must consider your on-going duty of confidentiality to your client(s). You can anonymise confidential information or seek your client's permission to disclose the information to RICS.
Any information disclosed to RICS will be treated as confidential and will not be used for any other purpose than is required for RICS to carry out its regulatory function. Only RICS staff who have regulatory responsibilities and a need to know the information will have access to the information. All RICS staff are trained to understand their responsibility to maintain confidentiality and only use confidential information for its intended purpose.
Many regulatory cases that RICS investigates originate from either members of the public or Regulated Members who report concerns. Without this information, RICS' ability to regulate the profession would be far less effective and its ability to maintain the public's trust in the profession would be limited.
Regulated Members should not enter into agreements which prevent another Regulated Member from reporting serious matters to RICS.
The most familiar example of speaking up is where an employee raises concerns about their manager or employer, but there may be many different circumstances that cause you concern. However, scenarios generally fall into one of the following categories:
Below are examples of the kind of reports that should be made to RICS. These examples should help you understand how some of these scenarios might look in real life:
1. A Regulated Member, person X, is acting as an expert witness for a client in court proceedings. Another Regulated Member, person Y, is acting as an expert witness for the client's opponent in the dispute. During the hearing the court criticises person Y's evidence, questions their competency and asks whether they have followed the relevant RICS practice statement. Person Y responds, confirming that they have never acted in this area before and are not aware of the RICS practice statement. Following the conclusion of the hearing and receiving the court's decision, person X reports their concerns about person Y to RICS along with a copy of the court's decision.
2. The principal at a firm regulated by RICS reviews a set of valuation files and notices some discrepancies in the valuations. It appears that, on some files, there are two reports, each with different valuations figures. On further review, some emails are found between the Regulated Member and the client. In each case the client suggests that the valuation figure is too high and asks whether it can be changed. The principal becomes concerned about the independence of the valuation as there is no evidence to support the change in valuation figure. The principal reports the concerns to RICS, giving a list of the clients' files that they are concerned about.
3. A principal at a firm regulated by RICS is told by the firm's accountant that there are some discrepancies in the client bank account reconciliation. It shows that there are not enough monies held in the client bank account to meet the liabilities owed to clients. On further investigation it appears that monies have been misappropriated by a member of staff. The principal reports the member of staff to the police and also reports the matter to RICS.
4. A firm regulated by RICS has had seven separate professional negligence claims made against it in the last year. One of the principals has been speaking with the insurance broker to renew the firm's insurance. The other principals become aware that, because of the firm's previous claims, the insurance broker has been unable to get the firm an offer for professional indemnity insurance and the policy lapses. The firm does not immediately cease trading and taking instructions from clients. One of the principals raises the concerns with the other principals and reports them to RICS.
5. A firm regulated by RICS holds an event for its staff. At the event, one of the principals at the firm approaches a junior member of staff. The principal offers a drink to the member of staff. The principal then makes comments about the member of staff's appearance and touches the member of staff's body. The member of staff is offended by the unsolicited advances and tries to walk away. The principal then tells the member of staff not to come into work the next day. The member of staff reports the incident to another principal and together they make a report to RICS.
You should receive an acknowledgment immediately and a further response will be sent to you with 28 days of receipt of your report. RICS will ask you whether you want to be kept up to date with the progress and outcome of any investigation.
As with all information received, RICS assesses the seriousness and credibility of the concerns before deciding on whether to investigate further. RICS investigations are undertaken according to a formal process, which has been designed to ensure consistency and transparency. You can find out more about the process by reading "Deciding whether to take disciplinary action: regulatory decision-making at RICS"
When reporting concerns about a Regulated Member, you may want to remain anonymous. When anonymous information is received, RICS may decide not to investigate if it does not believe the information is credible, in the interest of fairness to the Regulated Member that is the subject of the reported concerns.
If you want to remain anonymous, RICS will make its best efforts not to disclose you as the source of the information. However, you should be aware that there may be circumstances when RICS is obliged to disclose you as the source, for example, where a court or another regulator orders it. Furthermore, RICS cannot guarantee that the Regulated Member will not identify you as the source based on the nature of the concerns you are reporting.
When reporting concerns anonymously, RICS will not keep you updated or tell you whether any action has been taken.
Depending on the nature and seriousness of your concerns, you may also want to share your concerns with other organisations.
Raising a report with RICS does not discharge you from any statutory obligations you may have to report concerns or illegal behaviours, for example, to statutory regulators, or law enforcement agencies.
RICS may also decide to make reports to other organisations, as far as it is permitted by law.
Reporting concerns about a colleague or an organisation you work with can be very difficult, and you may need personal support to help you.
LionHeart is a charity for RICS members and their families that is independent from RICS and is entirely confidential. It can offer work-related support and counselling for stress and wellbeing. It can also offer a referral for one-off legal advice and signpost you to further help if necessary.
LionHeart helps RICS professionals no matter where in the world they are based, although for practical and legal reasons the global services it can offer may vary. Please give the support team a call in confidence to discuss any concerns you might have.
Helpline: 0800 009 2960 or +44 (0)121 289 3300
The Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) has developed the IBE Speak Up Toolkit.
It has been developed using personal experience combined with the IBE's understanding of what constitutes good practice from conversations with IBE's supporters. It helps you to prepare for raising a concern, and covers the whole speak up journey - from noticing a problem and having a conversation through to what to expect if you call a Speak Up helpline or if your concern is investigated.
The IBE Speak Up Toolkit is available for your use on its website as well as being available from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.