WORKPLACE BULLYING AND HARASSMENT POLICY

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1 WORKPLACE BULLYING AND HARASSMENT POLICY 1

2 S Introduction Promoting good practice Bullying and harassment definitions The Law Our responsibilities Dealing with complaints Informal approaches Formal approaches Additional sources of support Problems with members of the public Difficulties between Members and Officers Trained Advisors Useful contacts Role of adviser 2

3 Introduction The Royal Borough exists to provide services to local residents, some of whom may be vulnerable or dependant on the help that the Council provides. Moreover, everything the Council does is paid for from public funds. And so the community has every right to expect from Council staff high standards of integrity and behaviour. The Royal Borough deplores all forms of bullying and harassment. The Council expects all employees to treat everyone - colleagues, clients, and the general public - with courtesy and politeness. Staff have the right to carry out their daily work in an environment where they feel respected. The Council will not tolerate bullying or harassment of staff by each other, by managers of their staff or contractors towards service users. Where complaints are made by staff against colleagues or managers, every effort will be made to resolve matters informally. Sometimes, a formal investigation may be necessary and, where an allegation is found to have merit, appropriate action will be taken. Separately, disciplinary action, including dismissal, may be taken against staff who are found to fail to fulfil their responsibilities in this area. Equally, the Council will investigate fully and may then take action including considering prosecution and civil remedies, to protect staff from harassment by any service users, their relatives or members of the public. The way in which relationships between Members and managers and staff should operate is set out in the protocol on Member/officer relations in the constitution. The Council will monitor carefully the extent and the nature of bullying and harassment and will make all staff aware of this policy. Training will be available where it is requested. These notes are for all staff. They aim to be a practical guide to help ensure that all staff are treated with respect during their daily working lives, free from bullying and harassment. 3

4 Promoting good practice We all have a duty to respect each other and to work in a professional way, to promote a friendly working environment. The Royal Borough has a clearly stated set of values, they are: Positive Collaborative Appreciative Innovative Public Service Think about how you conduct yourself in the office or workplace, and at meetings. Be polite and courteous to colleagues and clients at all times. Think about how you answer the phone, or how you greet customers, or give feedback. Some examples of good practice are: setting a good example by treating all your colleagues, clients and customers with politeness, courtesy and respect being alert to, and correcting, unacceptable behaviour raising any concerns in a private and confidential place wherever possible ensuring staff can seek advice when raising harassment problems thoroughly investigating all complaints dealing with any complaints fairly, thoroughly and confidentially bearing in mind that good conduct is expected from all staff taking advice if unsure what to do or say the Council encourages the membership of trade unions. Employees who are officials or members of an independent trade union recognised by the Council are permitted reasonable time off during working hours to carry out certain trade union duties or to take part in any trade union activity. 4

5 Bullying and harassment definitions When groups of people work together, patterns of behaviour become established. The majority of people work well together, and most recognise individual differences and backgrounds. In some situations however, individuals may feel uncomfortable or even humiliated. Sometimes this might arise from misunderstanding or clumsiness, or from occasional or persistent insensitivity. This guidance seeks to give advice on matters which may cause significant distress to one or more staff members. Bullying can be described as persistent behaviour against an individual which is intimidating, offensive or malicious and which undermines the confidence and self-esteem of the recipient. This behaviour may be intentional or unintentional. Harassment is where unwanted conduct has the effect of violating someone s dignity. It may include behaviour that is offensive, frightening or in any way distressing. It may be intentional bullying which is obvious or violent. Harassment may also be subtle and insidious. It may involve nicknames, teasing, name-calling, gestures or other behaviour which may not be intended to be malicious but nevertheless is upsetting. Harassment may be persistent or a serious isolated incident. The same behaviours may arise unintentionally - people may accidentally offend or upset a colleague with a thoughtless act, gesture or comment but where the actions or comments are seen as demeaning and unacceptable by the recipient, then the behaviour must be challenged (see below) Bullying or harassment may be based, for example, on age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation or any personal characteristic or external responsibility of the individual. Sometimes, however, bullying behaviour or harassment can seem to have no specific cause, and may appear to be simply one person taking a strong dislike to another, for a trivial or no reason. This may be worse if the person who is acting in a bullying way is in a senior job, or directly manages the person being bullied. However, legitimate and fair criticism of an employee s performance or behaviour at work is not bullying. The Royal Borough considers the following to be some examples of unacceptable behaviour: Aggressive behaviour; shouting or threats; impolite or discourteous behaviour Unwelcome, sexual innuendo or attention Spreading malicious rumours or insulting someone Ridiculing or demeaning someone Exclusion or victimisation Behaviour or decision-making which is based on improper prejudice Making unjustified, persistent criticisms Being overbearing or neglecting to supervise properly; or otherwise misusing power or position Making threats or comments which are without foundation, about job security. 5

6 Bullying and harassment are not just about spoken words. They can be in body language, or gestures or written communication, , or telephone. The Law Employers have a duty of care for all their workers and a liability under the following laws: The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 states that intentional harassment in the work place can be classed as a criminal offence. That Act specifies that someone causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress can face prosecution for committing a criminal offence. Some examples of this are: using threatening, abusive or insulting words or disorderly behaviour displaying any writing, sign or any other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting The European Commission s code of practice Protecting the dignity of women and men at work is mainly about of sexual harassment. Other laws to bear in mind which prohibit harassment include: The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 The Race Relations Act 1976 The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 The Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendment) Regulations 2003 Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) Regulations 2003 European Anti-Discrimination Directive 2000/78/EC The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees, and are liable for the actions of their employees at work. The Employment Rights Act 1996 gives an employee the right to claim unfair constructive dismissal when he resigns in the face of his employer s breach of contract, which may include failing to protect his health and safety at work. An employee can bring a claim against the employer and the individual harasser. Individuals found liable may be made to pay personal compensation to the victim. Our responsibilities We are all responsible for our own actions. Managers have a particular responsibility to ensure that they and the staff they manage fully understand what is meant by harassment, and its implications for staff. Managers have a responsibility to address issues as they arise, rather than wait until a formal complaint is made. Managers need to respond sensitively to any concerns expressed and to provide support. Anyone who feels that they are a victim of harassment will be taken seriously and will not be treated unfairly because they have made a complaint about discrimination, bullying or harassment. Staff who are the subject of complaint are entitled to be told what is alleged and to be given a chance to 6

7 explain their actions. Sometimes an apology and a promise not to repeat the behaviour will resolve the issues, but sometimes a formal investigation will be required. Dealing with complaints The Council has a good working environment which aims to make staff feel comfortable, respected and valued. It is keen to continue promoting a working environment free from intimidation. Any staff complaints will be taken very seriously and will be dealt with promptly Informal approaches In some cases it may be possible to deal with matters informally. Sometimes people are not aware that their behaviour is unwelcome and an informal discussion can lead to a greater understanding and an agreement that the behaviour will cease. There are a number of measures that individuals can take themselves to attempt to resolve any tensions. For example, they can: raise the issue with the person, stating what the person is doing to harass them and explain how they feel (it is acknowledged that this can be difficult and the individual might wish to talk to a trained adviser at this stage see below) listen carefully to the person s response ask the person to agree to stop the behaviour, explaining why it is offensive or intrusive (doing this in front of a witness may be helpful) if the disagreeable behaviour continues or worsens, contact a trained adviser Formal approaches Some cases of harassment cannot be dealt with informally and, in these cases, the Council s procedures need to be used. If you feel that you are being bullied or harassed at work, and that formal action is needed, then you can take one of two alternative courses of action: 1 you have the right to use the Council s grievance procedure if you wish. You will have been given information about this procedure when you joined; more information is available at any time from your manager, on the Intranet, or trade union or 2 you can write directly to one of the personnel managers who will meet with you promptly and give you advice. The names and addresses of the personnel managers are included at the end of these notes. Both processes will be dealt with promptly and will be treated as strictly confidential. Remember: 7

8 the informal and formal approaches are separate investigators and advisers need to be impartial and not connected with the allegation both parties in any complaint about bullying or harassment have the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative of their choice any action must be taken promptly while events are fresh in everyone s mind; those involved in the incident and any witnesses should be interviewed and advice should be sought from Personnel there is a commitment to confidentiality clearly defined and agreed timescales are set out in which to resolve the problem Additional sources of support All employees are welcome to discuss problems of bullying or harassment informally at any stage, with their line manager, trained adviser, personnel officer or trade union. There may, however, be occasions when employees need the help of professional counsellors. Anyone whose health is being affected by anything at work should consider approaching their G.P. Another option is to contact CiC (the Council s counselling service). In any case of harassment, employees are reminded that help from others - informal or formal - is always available. It should be remembered though that these are sources of support and not an alternative to resolving matters through one of the approaches described above. Problems with members of the public The notes above deal with issues between colleagues. There may be times when staff are not treated fairly by service users, members of the public or others who they are assisting. If you ever feel that you are being bullied or harassed at work in these circumstances then you should seek advice and support from your manager straight away. Managers who receive such complaints from members of their staff must take appropriate action, which may range from speaking to the member of the public to considering prosecution of the perpetrator, or civil action to restrain the offending behaviour. Support should be offered to the employee concerned and the Council recognises the right of any employee to involve the Police in a private action. Managers need to respond sensitively to any concerns expressed to them. Anyone who feels that they are being bullied or harassed must be taken seriously. Whatever the cause feeling harassed is upsetting. Managers should always consult the individual involved in the incident in the planning of a response, but the final decision regarding the action to be followed lies with the manager. 8

9 These are actions that could be taken towards a service user with the agreement of a Director and as necessary following legal advice, where harassment is thought to be serious or persistent: Reduce the level of service Withdraw all services temporarily Withdraw all services permanently Consider the joint involvement of the Police and the Council In a residential setting consideration could be given regarding the suitability of the placement In the event of an incident employees have a responsibility to bring issues of harassment to the attention of a manager and should do so each time they feel that a person s behaviour is unacceptable. Additionally, if you are the victim of or a witness to a racial incident by a member of the public you should record the details on the racial incident reporting form available on the Intranet. A racial incident for this purpose is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or another person. Difficulties between Members and Officers Any difficulties should be reported in the first instance to the appropriate Executive Director who will decide whether the Town Clerk and Chief Executive needs to be involved. 9

10 Trained Advisors A number of officers in each business group are trained to provide advice and support to staff who feel they have experienced bullying or harassment. The role of advisors is outlined in Appendix A. You are free to contact them at any time on a confidential basis. A current list of trained advisors can be found below. You may contact an advisor in a different business group to your own or your trade union. Confidential counselling is available to Council staff from: Counselling in Companies telephone In addition, advice can be sought from Personnel Managers Employee Relations Peter Gowers, or him on: Policies, Systems, Payroll and Stephen Wood, or Pensions him on: Recruitment and Development Mary Ann Lord, or her on: Bullying and Harassment Advisors Name Job Title Business Contact/Ext No Group Janine Anderson Principal Research & FCS 3339 Development Officer Sally Bazeley Personnel Adviser CS 2844 Colin Bradford Senior Support Officer CS 3132 Doris Cook Personal Assistant TELS 5105 Peter Gowers Personnel Manager CS 2167 Employee Relations John Jackson Head of Building Control P&BD 3822 Mary Ann Lord Personnel Manager CS 2347 Recruitment & Development Lyn Myers Corporate Finance Manager CS 2310 Vera Nelson-James Social Worker FCS 4727 Sandra Pullen Learning & Development Systems & Information CS

11 Manager Lisa Russell Assistant Personnel Advisor CS 2961 Graham Taylor Huw Williams Stephen Wood Chief Community Safety Officer Joint Homeless Team Team Leader Personnel Manager Policy, Systems, Payroll and Pensions CS 2308 HHASC 3247 CS 2120 Useful contacts:- The Andrea Adams Trust (a UK charity founded to tackle workplace bullying) Acas Helpline (free advice and support) Equality and Human Rights Commission 11

12 Appendix A Workplace Bullying and Harassment Role of adviser Any employee who feels that they are being bullied or harassed can approach, on a confidential basis, an advisor. The role of the adviser is to:- Assist the employee to think about and reflect on the situation and explore the options available so that the employee can decide on a course of action. Provide support for the employee during that process and act as a sounding board. This support is likely to involve: Advising on the workplace bullying and harassment policy Advising on the approaches contained in the policy Advising on other sources of support (for example how to access the Council s counselling service) This might involve meeting the employee once or several times over period of time. Advisers must be outside the employee s line management chain, independent and impartial. This means it may be inappropriate for an adviser to become involved in the case, for example, where the adviser has a friendship or some other connection with the alleged perpetrator that makes it inappropriate to offer advice. In these circumstances the employee should be referred to a different adviser. The role does not involve: Attempting to resolve issues on behalf of the employee Investigating allegations of bullying or harassment Accompanying employees at disciplinary or grievance investigations, meetings or hearings (this is the role of the trade union or the employees companion ) although an adviser may be called as a witness (for either party) Providing counselling all employees have access to a specialist counselling service through CiC 12

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