This policy has been formed in order to outline the efforts of the Academy of Forensic Medical Sciences (hereafter AFMS) in the acknowledgement of conflicts of interest, in adherence to the rules and regulations put in place by the British Accreditation Council and the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual).
The AFMS is required by the General Conditions of Recognition to have in place a conflict of interest policy that allows us to identify and manage potential conflicts of interest. It is in the best interest of the Academy to be aware of and properly manage all conflicts of interest and appearances of a conflict of interest.
The Academy recognises that its employees and associates have diverse interests and contacts within the local, national and international community, and that these links to outside bodies are often beneficial to the Academy and to the individuals, along with the public interest. However, it also recognises that the connections may give rise to potential conflicts of interest. There is a risk that certain activities may divert the Academy and its employees from their primary educational, research and service missions.
The Academy recognises that, in general, individuals will recognise and avoid or resolve potential conflicts of interest by informal action either through discussion with a senior member of staff, or through action with the individual/s concerned. The Academy leaves employees to develop their own ‘portfolio’ of activity, including external collaborations of various kinds. When undertaking such collaborations, the employee must be aware that an outside interest may appear to conflict with their duties. The employee may also appear to be engaging in activities that compete with those of the Academy. In the majority of instances, a simple disclosure of the potentially conflicting activity will be sufficient to absolve any appearance of a conflict of interest. However in certain cases, the Academy may suggest a different way of managing the activity, avoiding the conflict of interest. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to restrict one or other of the employee’s conflicting activities.
This policy is designed to help employees and board members of the Academy to identify situations that present potential conflicts of interest and to provide the Academy with a procedure to appropriately manage conflicts in accordance with legal requirements and the goals of accountability and transparency in the operation of the Academy of Forensic Medical Sciences.
The Academy has an obligation to its employees:
A situation in which a private or personal interest of an employee has the potential to appear to influence the objective conduct of the individual with regard to his/her duties at the Academy. The term ‘conflict of interest’ is intended to include perceived (a situation which a reasonable person would consider likely to compromise objectivity), potential (a situation which could develop into an actual or perceived conflict) and actual conflicts of interest.
A financial or non-financial interest to the employee, or to a relative or friend of the employee.
Anything of non-trivial monetary value (under £50)including, but not limited to, pay, commission, consultancy fees, equity interests, forgiveness of debt, property, royalties, intellectual property rights.
Any non-financial benefit or advantage, including, but not limited to, enhancement of an individual’s career, education or professional reputation; access to privileged information or facilities.
For example, conflicts of interest can arise when the interests of a commercial venture, from which the Academy employee derives direct benefit, differ from the interests and primary obligations of the Academy as a whole, or when the commercial venture consumes an undue share of the employee’s attention.
Any member of an employee’s close family (i.e. spouse, parents, siblings or children); his/her partner (i.e. boy/girlfriend, sexual or romantic partner); close personal friends; and any other person with whom the employee has a relationship which is likely to appear, to a reasonable person, to influence his/her objectivity.
In order to determine a conflict of interest, it must be considered whether the private, personal or commercial interest of an individual is likely to interfere with their objective judgment shown whilst conducting their duties at the Academy. The employee themselves must consider whether any relevant others would act in the same manner as they intend on acting, with the interests of the Academy as a priority.
Due to the vast range of circumstances, it is impossible to list all possible conflicts of interest. Therefore a small list of serious examples has been provided:
An employee using his/her position to:
It is the responsibility of all employees to avoid any conflict of interest. However, if a conflict of interest arises, the employee has a duty to disclose the details of the conflict, in full, and seek a resolution. He/she must then take no part in the matter(s) relating to the conflicting interest unless and until such time as the potential conflict in resolved.
Conflicts of interest should be disclosed to the employee’s line manager, except where the interest relates to Academy activities outside of control of that manager, in which case the conflict must be disclosed to the person responsible for those activities and the line manager should also be informed. Where there is any doubt who is responsible for the activity, disclosure should be to the Director of the Academy. In instances where a potential conflict of interest is identified, but the employee does not wish to reveal the details to their line manager and they are unable to withdraw from the situation, he/she should seek advice from the Director or Vice Director of the Academy of Forensic Medical Sciences.
Disclosure must include sufficient information to enable appropriate resolution, which is likely to include: the type of potential conflict of interest, the nature of the activity, a description of all parties involved, the potential financial or non-financial interests or benefits, and any other relevant information. The confidentiality of disclosures will be respected as far as possible; the information will only be shared with those with a need to know. The person to whom the conflict of interest has been disclosed (the Reviewer) must keep a written record of the disclosure and all subsequent related actions and decisions.
Failure to disclose an actual or perceived conflict of interest, or to cease involvement in the situation until the conflict has been resolved, constitutes a breach of the employee’s contract of employment and may result in disciplinary action, and in serious cases could result in dismissal. In determining whether disciplinary action is appropriate, consideration will be given to the extent to which the employee was aware of the actual or perceived conflict of interest and/or made a reasonable decision not to declare it.
Once a conflict has been disclosed, the Reviewer is responsible for resolving the conflict of interest as soon as is reasonably practicable. Until that time, the employee must take no part in the particular activity relating to the potential conflict (It is assumed that non-involvement will affect only a small part of the employee’s day to day duties, if any. If that is not the case, and it would have a major effect on the employee’s current job, advice must be obtained from the Academy Director before taking action, which might be interpreted as being akin to suspension). Every effort should be made to reach agreement with the employee regarding the solution. Resolution of the conflict may not go beyond the scope of the employee’s contractual obligations (explicit or implicit) without the employee’s agreement.
Where the Reviewer is unable to decide how to resolve the conflict of interest, or, particularly in more significant cases, wishes to have the advice and authority of a more senior colleague (or where he/she also has a conflict of interest), the matter should be referred to his/her manager, who will then become the Reviewer.
Where a resolution cannot be reached within one working week, the Reviewer must make a preliminary decision, either:
The employee should be notified of the preliminary decision within one working week and reasons should be provided where he/she is required to continue to suspend involvement in the activity. In most cases, the solution will be one of the following:
For the employee not to be involved in any way, thus removing the conflict of interest. Where no alternative can be agreed upon, this will be the solution, by default, provided that does not go beyond the scope of the employee’s contractual obligations.
In any meeting for the purpose of agreeing a solution to the conflict, the employee is entitled to be accompanied by a work colleague (employed by the Academy of Forensic Medical Sciences).
Where agreement cannot be reached and the employee is not satisfied with the decision, he/she may take the matter up through the Grievance Procedure.
In all cases, in order to protect the interests of the employee and the Reviewer, the Reviewer should keep a record of the disclosure and solution to the conflict of interest. Where a conflict of interest is ongoing and it is important that the current and future line managers are aware of it, the line manager (if different from the Reviewer) should be informed and should keep a record to pass to his/her successor (normally on the local personal file), with the knowledge of the employee.