Bullying and Harassment Policy
We expect that all working relationships will be characterised by respect. Any kind of behaviour which undermines, exploits, humiliates, ridicules or threatens another person will not be tolerated.
The law defines harassment as unwanted conduct that affects the dignity of people in the workplace or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
If it is serious enough, a single incident can be harassment. It is irrelevant that no offense was meant; the effect on the recipient is what determines whether words or actions are harassment. Bullying can never be excused by saying, “But I was only joking”. It is also irrelevant that the person offended was not the intended target. For example, if a colleague expresses offensive views in a conversation which does not include you but takes place in your presence, you would still be entitled to complain about it.
The most common forms of harassment are: a person being ridiculed, patronised, excluded, bullied, intimidated, physically or verbally threatened or even assaulted. This list is not exhaustive. Harassment can be unlawful.
- What to do if you are being bullied or harassed
If you are being bullied or harassed, the first step, if possible, is to confront the harasser. Clearly state that the behaviour is offensive and that you want it to stop. If you do not feel able to do this by yourself, ask the Chief Executive, or if the complaint is against the Chief Executive, the Chair of the Board for help.
Received complaints must be dealt with promptly and thoroughly. In most instances, the Chief executive or Chair should be able to put a stop to the problem informally, without recourse to further action.
- The formal complaint process
A formal complaint of harassment may be made if informal action is thought to be insufficient by the member of staff making the complaint.
When a formal complaint is made, the Chief Executive or Chair will begin an investigation within ten days of the complaint being received. They will appoint an investigator, who will normally be someone senior to the person making the complaint and who has had no involvement in the matters complained of. The objective of any investigation will be to uncover all relevant information. Investigations must be thorough, but must also be carried out with all due urgency. Confidentiality and discretion are paramount.
An essential part of any investigation is to interview the person making the complaint. At this meeting, they may be accompanied by a colleague or by a trade union representative or official.
- The Right to be Accompanied
To exercise the right to be accompanied, employees must make a reasonable request. It will not normally be reasonable for employees to insist on being accompanied by a companion whose presence would prejudice the meeting or who might have a conflict of interest, nor would it be reasonable to ask to be accompanied by a companion from a remote geographical location if someone suitable and willing is available on site or more locally.
The role of the companion can include addressing the meeting to sum up the employee’s case and conferring with the employee, if the employee wishes, but it does not include answering questions on the employee’s behalf or preventing them from speaking. If the original time set for the meeting is during the normal working hours of the companion, he or she will normally be released from his or her duties to attend the hearing. However, if the companion cannot be available on the date for which the hearing has been arranged, an alternative time will be set within five working days from the day after the original hearing date.
In certain limited circumstances, the Chief executive or Chair may decide that we should allow the employee to be accompanied by someone other than a fellow worker or a trade union representative. Two examples would be where there are language difficulties or where it would be a reasonable adjustment for someone with a disability. It will be open to the Chief Executive or Chair to refuse to allow anyone to act as a companion that he or she considers inappropriate for this role and we reserve the right to ask for full details of the proposed companion’s identity and qualifications in order to make this decision.
An investigation may also involve taking statements from other members of staff. The investigating person will make it clear that in the interests of fairness, any statements may be copied to the member of staff whose conduct is being investigated. If a member of staff is afraid of reprisals from the employee under investigation, we will try to protect his or her identity, if we can. In any event, the investigating manager will ensure that everyone they speak to is informed that the process is confidential and must not be discussed.
Both parties to the complaint will be advised of the outcome within two weeks of the end of the investigation. Disciplinary procedures will then begin if appropriate.
Reports and other information produced during the investigation may be made available on request to both parties to the complaint and will not be unreasonably withheld.
The kind of follow-up action that might be necessary following the investigation of a complaint of bullying or harassment could include:
- Disciplinary proceedings against a person found to have subjected someone to harassment;
- Training for the person found to have subjected someone to harassment;
- Disciplinary proceedings against a complainant who makes an ill-founded complaint and who does not hold an honest belief in the complaint.
If the outcome is adverse to the employee, he or she will have the right to appeal against the decision taken. For further information, please consult the Appeals Procedure.