Statutory inspection of burial authorities, cremation authorities and funeral directors

A Scottish Government consultation on the proposed statutory inspection of burial authorities, cremation authorities and funeral directors in Scotland.

Section 5 - Interviews of staff members and clients

Previous consultation

106. The 2017 consultation on the proposed inspection regulations noted that it may be appropriate in certain circumstances for an inspector to interview individuals involved in the delivery of services, or a service user. The 2017 consultation asked whether respondents agreed that Inspectors should be able to ‘conduct interviews’ during an inspection, enquiry or investigation of a burial authority, cremation authority or funeral director, where appropriate. This was intended to cover discussions with staff (and third-party contractors such as embalmers), as well as clients/service users.

107. The majority of respondents agreed with this proposal and provided additional helpful comments. For example, large funeral director businesses and local councils noted that a formal protocol regarding interviews should be developed and published, particularly for when interviews might be investigating specific concerns.

108. The Inspection Regulations Working Group discussed this topic and noted their preference for an approach which allows an inspector to request to speak to any member of staff to gather information during inspections. The Group suggested that staff members be able to request to be accompanied by a third party (such as a union representative) if they wish or refuse to be interviewed. During an investigation of a complaint the Working Group suggested that interviews with staff may also be requested.

Scottish Government position

109. The Scottish Government has considered these views, and considers it important to the completeness and effectiveness of inspections or investigations that an Inspector is empowered to request or otherwise engage in discussions with members of staff (including third-party contractors) or clients of relevant bodies.

110. We are therefore currently retaining the proposal to provide in regulation powers for Inspectors to routinely, in the course of an inspection or investigation, have these discussions. We are referring to these as ‘interviews’, and we intend that they may take place during an inspection or at a time convenient for the person – this may be, for example, by telephone or video call at later time.

111. We are including this topic in the current consultation to provide further detail and explanation for this position and ensure respondents have an opportunity to provide up-to-date responses.

112. It will be important to speak with staff, for example, to ascertain or clarify policies, procedures or other operational aspects in the course of assessing the authority or business’s compliance with standards set by the Scottish Government. Further, in the event a whistle-blower or other staff member wishes to report non-compliance with standards it is important that Inspectors are able to engage in that discussion. It may also in some cases be useful and appropriate to elicit feedback from clients on services received.

113. It is additionally important that Inspectors are empowered to speak with clients or service users of relevant bodies. For example, if a complaint is lodged by a client, it is important that Inspectors can formally discuss their concerns. As another example, sometimes issues may be pre-emptively brought to the attention of Inspectors by a body themselves. This might be, for example, if there has been an issue with the release or identification of ashes. Issues may also be brought to Inspectors’ attention by whistle-blowers or other interested parties. In these types of instances Inspectors may request to speak with the bereaved persons who may have been impacted by this issue in order to gather more information.

114. Staff/third-party contractors or clients who do agree to be interviewed by an Inspector would not be identifiable in the inspection report.

115. If/when asked for an interview by an Inspector any staff member will be free to refuse. The refusal would be anonymously noted in the subsequent inspection report for the purposes of recording that an interview was requested but refused. We do not intend to specify the types of questions an Inspector can or cannot ask. However, anyone an inspector is speaking with will be free to refuse to answer any question. It will not be an offence to refuse to speak with an inspector or refuse to answer any particular question.

116. It is intended that persons being interviewed by Inspectors for any reason can be accompanied by a third party if they wish. This may be, for example, a union representative or legal representative.

117. Where a complaint is being investigated the Inspector may request an interview with the explicit purpose of aiding the investigation.

118. Any issue or complaint that falls outwith the Inspectors’ remit, such as one that should be dealt with by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) or Scottish Water, would be referred to that authority. It is also intended that any issue or complaint which is deemed serious enough for Police Scotland or Health and Safety Executive involvement would be referred to the appropriate authority. Therefore, any subsequent interviews held would be for that authority to undertake.

Question 14 - Please provide any comments on the Scottish Government’s proposal to provide in regulations powers for Inspectors to interview staff (or third-party contractors) or clients of burial authorities, cremation authorities, or funeral directors.



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