We are committed to creating a safe working environment free from harassment and bullying, where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. We aim to ensure that complaints of harassment are dealt with quickly, positively and confidentially.

All employees should be treated equally irrespective of their sex, marriage and civil partnership, age, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, religion or belief, gender reassignment and pregnancy and maternity. We will not tolerate any form of harassment, or victimisation of a person who has raised an allegation, and where necessary, it will be treated as a disciplinary matter.

The aim of this policy is to highlight the options available to employees if they are subject to bullying, harassment and/ or victimisation and to ensure that those responsible for managing and supporting employees are aware of their responsibilities.

This Policy applies to all Falkirk Council employees. It also applies when a complaint is made against an Elected Member.

Definition

This policy deals with bullying, harassment and victimisation in the workplace which may be defined as follows:

Bullying (as defined by ACAS) is:

'Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.'

Harassment (as defined by the Equality Act 2010) is:

"Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual".

For the purposes of this Policy, harassment will also include conduct of a similar nature which is not related to a protected characteristic.

Victimisation, for the purposes of this policy, is less favourable treatment of an individual because they have made a complaint or intend to make a complaint about being bullied or harassed or act as a witness in this regard.

Whether intentional or not, such conduct is unacceptable and all complaints will be treated seriously. Examples of unacceptable behaviour are:

  • Spreading malicious rumours, or insulting someone (particularly on the grounds of age, race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity )
  • Copying emails that are critical about someone to others who do not need to know
  • Ridiculing or demeaning someone i.e. picking on them or setting them up to fail
  • Exclusion or victimisation
  • Unfair treatment
  • Overbearing supervision or other misuse of power or position
  • Unwelcome sexual advances – touching, standing too close, display of offensive materials; including signs, pin ups and calendars
  • Making threats or comments about job security without foundation
  • Deliberately undermining a competent worker by overloading and constant criticism
  • Preventing individuals progressing by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities
  • Jokes, banter, emails or deliberate abuse directed at a person or group

The list of above examples is not exhaustive; it is representative of many types of behaviour that others may object to and find offensive which could create an intimidating working environment.

When determining whether a matter may constitute a breach of Dignity at Work, an important factor to be considered is the perception held by the individual who is claiming to have been harassed, bullied or victimised and whether it was reasonable for him/ her to hold that perception.

It is also important to note that effective management of employees is not bullying or harassment. Managers are expected to lead and manage employees which involves setting and making sure employees understand performance standards. Legitimate, constructive and fair criticism of an employee’s work performance or behaviour either informally or formally is not bullying.


Your responsibilities

Failure to deal with allegations of harassment, bullying or victimisation at work or by a third party such as a client of the Council may expose both the Council and employees to a number of legal consequences. Complainants can cite both the employer and individual employees as respondents at Employment Tribunal and, if the case is upheld, both may be held liable.

Everyone must therefore take responsibility to ensure that your area of work is free from harassment.

Employees

You have a clear role in helping create a climate at work in which bullying and harassment are unacceptable. You therefore have specific responsibilities as follows:

  • Treat all colleagues and service users with respect and dignity and contribute positively to effective working relationships
  • Not discriminate against other employees
  • Not intimidate, threaten or bully other employees or otherwise behave in a manner inconsistent with fair and dignified treatment of employees at work;
  • Not victimise any individuals who have raised concerns or acted as a witness in relation to any breach of this policy
  • Bring to the attention of management any breach of this policy witnessed, providing evidence where possible
  • Support any proceedings to consider allegations under this policy and not misuse the provisions of this policy by making malicious or groundless complaints

Managers and Elected Members

Managers must take responsibility for addressing performance issues such as capability, time keeping and attendance. Training will be provided to ensure you deal with these issues in accordance with the relevant policy.

Falkirk Council requires managers to behave in a professional manner at all times and to be aware of how your own behaviour can adversely impact on staff and potentially be perceived as harassment or bullying depending on the circumstance, including:

  • Deliberately imposing grossly excessive or unachievable workloads or impossible deadlines in order to make life difficult for a particular employee
  • Repeated unfair criticism or destructive and negative criticism that focuses on blame rather than future improvement
  • Criticising individuals in front of colleagues
  • Excessive or overbearing monitoring of a particular employee’s work without good reason
  • Ordering a particular employee to work below his or her level of ability, or to perform mundane demeaning tasks, with no proper reason
  • Removing an employee’s responsibility without consultation and for no proper reason
  • Threatening an employee with dismissal

You are responsible for ensuring that, where an employee reports any act of harassment by a third party such as a client of the Council, that these complaints are dealt with timeously and that reasonably practicable steps are taken to prevent such third party harassment. Complaints in relation to unacceptable conduct by third parties should be dealt with under the Council’s Policy and Procedure for the Management of Violence and Unacceptable Actions at Work

Managers and Elected Members have a particular duty to set a proper example by treating everyone with dignity and respect. You must be committed to the elimination of harassment, and be vigilant in preventing acts of harassment and victimisation where possible.

You will pass this responsibility down through all levels of management and to all employees. You are responsible for ensuring that the policy is drawn to the attention of employees. You will ensure appropriate guidance and support is given in the implementation and application of the policy.


Procedure

Stage 1 - Informal

The early resolution of concerns is a key aim of this policy, particularly to prevent possible issues escalating. It is also essential to stop any inappropriate behaviour occurring or being repeated to minimise anxiety for the employees concerned. As a result, all employees have a responsibility to work towards an early resolution of their concerns. Where possible, employees who are subjected to a breach of their dignity at work should make every reasonable effort to resolve this informally though one of the mechanisms listed below.

Informal mechanisms available are summarised below.

Speaking to the alleged harasser

Acts of bullying and harassing behaviour are not always intentional with individuals not being aware of the impact of their behaviour on others. By making the individual aware of the impact of their behaviour, this can often resolve the matter.

Mediation

Mediation is a process of conflict resolution between two individual employees facilitated by an independent trained mediator. The purpose of mediation is to allow the individuals concerned an opportunity to explore issues of conflict with the aim of reaching a mutually agreeable solution. It can be used at any stage in the Dignity at Work process.

If an employee elects to undertake the meditation process, this does not stop them from progressing their complaint more formally if the matter remains unresolved i.e. the unacceptable conduct is continuing.

Approaching one of the Council’s trained Harassment Support Officers

Harassment Support Officers can be approached for advice and support in total confidence with no obligation to take it further.

Stage 2 - Formal

Making a formal complaint

Circumstances may arise where informal approaches do not resolve the employee’s concerns i.e. the breach of dignity at work does not stop or the matter is so serious that the employee does not consider that informal resolution is practicable. If the employee/complainant feels it is necessary to progress the matter more formally, the complaint must be made in writing either to the employee’s line manager or next appropriate Senior Officer or the Service HR Adviser, confirming whether informal approaches have been unsuccessful or giving an explanation of why it was not practicable.

Falkirk Council has a duty of care towards all of its employees; therefore depending on the nature of the allegations, and to ensure that the integrity of the process is not compromised, it may be difficult for both parties to continue to work in the same environment. In specific circumstances, it may be appropriate for relevant managers to consider temporary redeployment or suspension, however this must be done in consultation with Human Resources.

Preliminary Meeting

On receipt of the complaint, if the recipient considers that an informal approach may assist in resolving the situation, this will be discussed with the employee. Otherwise, the line manager ( where they have not been involved in the complaint to date) or a more senior nominated manager will arrange to meet with the employee/complainant with a representative from Human Resources present. The employee has the right to be accompanied at this meeting by a work colleague or trade union representative.

At this meeting, the employee will be invited to explain the basis of their complaint which will be sensitively explored to determine:

  • Whether the complaint is appropriately dealt with under the Council’s Dignity at Work Policy – when determining whether a matter may be considered a breach of Dignity at Work, an important factor to be considered is the perception held by the individual who is claiming to have been harassed, bullied or victimised and whether it was reasonable for him/ her to hold that perception
  • Whether all appropriate informal mechanisms to resolve the problem have been explored and the issue remains unresolved i.e. the inappropriate behaviour is continuing
  • Whether a management intervention may resolve the matter e.g. the manager may attempt to find a joint resolution between the parties through facilitated discussion led by themselves or a mediator or may take the view that the matter may be resolved through training, clarity of roles etc
  • Whether the matter requires to be fully investigated as a potential disciplinary matter as described below

This list is not exhaustive.

Where it is determined that remedial action is required involving the individual being complained about or that a formal investigation is required, the manager must make the complainant aware that the other employee will be advised of their complaint.

The manager should write out within 5 working days of this meeting to confirm their decision in relation to the course of action to be adopted. If the complainant is not satisfied with this decision or feels dissatisfied with the conduct of any subsequent investigation or its outcome, they have the right of appeal against this decision within 10 working days of receipt of the outcome letter. Any appeal will be considered in line with the appeals stage of the grievance policy.

Investigation process

Where the decision is taken that an investigation is appropriate due to a potential breach of the Dignity at Work Policy, an Investigating Officer will be assigned to explore the allegations and be supported by Human Resources. The investigation will be conducted in line with the Council’s Disciplinary Policy.

The complainant will be advised, at the outset, that the allegations have been taken seriously however, if allegations are found to be malicious or allegations are unsubstantiated, that Disciplinary action may be invoked against them.

The Investigating Officer should submit a written report recommending the outcome to the relevant Service Manager/ Headteacher or Chief Officer. The Service Manager/ Headteacher or Chief Officer will ultimately determine the final outcome and the following are possible outcomes of the investigation:

  • On the balance of probabilities there is a case to answer and therefore disciplinary action is appropriate regarding the alleged harasser
  • No case to answer therefore no further action
  • Both parties partially responsible therefore recommend support through training
  • Counselling and/or mediation
  • Complainer raised a vexatious claim and therefore should be subject to disciplinary proceedings
  • Redeployment is required on the grounds of breakdown in the working relationship

The outcome of any disciplinary proceedings is confidential and, as such, will not be disclosed to the complainant. The behaviour which caused the original concerns will be expected to stop and the complainant will be advised, in writing, in general terms whether or not their concerns were substantiated. They will have the right of appeal against either the conduct or the outcome of the investigation conducted as outlined above.

Where an investigation relates to employees from separate Service areas, further consultation is required with Human Resources to ensure that relevant parties are advised, as appropriate, of any required actions.

Complaints Against Elected Members

Where a complaint relates to the conduct of an Elected Member, it should be considered in the first instance by the Director (of the Service in which the person making the complaint works. The Director should meet with the employee with a view to determining:

  • Whether the complaint is appropriately dealt with under this Policy
  • Whether any of the informal mechanisms to resolve the problem are appropriate and whether the employee wishes to pursue these

If the Director determines that the complaint should be dealt under this Policy and either has further determined that the informal mechanisms are not appropriate or has determined that they would be appropriate but the employee does not wish to pursue them, the Director will appoint a Chief Officer to conduct an investigation of the complaint.

The purpose of the investigation will be determine whether, on a balance of probabilities, the conduct complained of has taken place and whether this amounts to bullying, harassment or victimisation. In the event that the Chief Officer finds that there has been conduct in breach of the Policy, the Chief Officer’s report will be referred to Council.

The Council will consider the appropriate action to be taken against the Elected Member and, in particular, whether a referral should be made to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards.


How to informally raise Dignity at Work concerns

We are committed to creating a safe working environment free from harassment and bullying, where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Every employee must take responsibility to ensure that your area of work is free from harassment.

You have a clear role in helping create a climate at work in which bullying and harassment are unacceptable.

The early resolution of Dignity at Work concerns helps to prevent possible issues escalating. It is essential to stop any inappropriate behaviour occurring or being repeated to minimise anxiety for the employees concerned. As a result, if you have concerns relating to your dignity at work, you have a responsibility to work towards an early resolution of their concerns. Where possible, employees who are subjected to a breach of their dignity at work should make every reasonable effort to resolve this informally though one of the mechanisms listed below.

Speaking to the alleged harasser

Acts of bullying and harassing behaviour are not always intentional. Individuals not being aware of the impact of their behaviour on others. By making the individual aware of the impact of their behaviour, this can often resolve the matter. You should speak directly to the alleged harasser explaining that you feel uncomfortable in the way that they act towards you and asking them to stop behaving in that manner. If you feel unable to do this, you may ask your line manager, trade union representative or a colleague to do this on your behalf.

If the person is your line manager, you can ask a more senior manager to talk to them. Equally, if the complaint relates to the conduct of an Elected Member, you may raise this with your Director and seek their support to raise this on your behalf.

Mediation

Mediation is a process of conflict resolution between two individual employees facilitated by an independent trained mediator. The purpose of mediation is to allow the individuals concerned an opportunity to explore issues of conflict with the aim of reaching a mutually agreeable solution. It can be used at any stage in the Dignity at Work process. There needs to be willingness on the part of the employees concerned to enter into mediation on a voluntary basis. No-one can be forced into the mediation process, and the outcome will be non-binding.

Mediation is appropriate when:

  • An ongoing working relationship is required
  • There is a need to act co-operatively
  • Conflict/differences are affecting work
  • It is in both parties interests to resolve
  • There is a willingness by both parties to resolve

We ensure that trained mediators, selected from varying backgrounds, are available to facilitate this process. If you wish to consider mediation as an informal mechanism to address your concerns, you should raise this with your line manager ( or where relevant, a more senior manager) who will liaise with Human Resources to arrange for a mediator to be allocated.

If you elect to undertake the meditation process, this does not stop you from progressing your complaint more formally if the matter remains unresolved i.e. the unacceptable conduct is continuing.

Harassment Support Officers

We have trained Harassment Support Officers who can be approached for advice and support in total confidence with no obligation to take it further. This support can be accessed via the HR Helpdesk Tel 01324 506222.

The role of the Harassment Support Officers is to:

  • Advise what the terms bullying and harassment mean and which types of behaviour may fall or not fall within the remit of this Policy
  • Explain the process for dealing with Dignity at Work complaints, including informal mechanisms and potential outcomes and implications
  • Promote the benefits of seeking an early resolution to complaints

Harassment Support Officers will discuss any issues which you raise in confidence and will not divulge information to any other person without your knowledge.

Employees who have been accused of unacceptable conduct under this Policy may also contact an Harassment Support Officer who will be able to explain the above.

Proceeding with formal complaint

The matter should only be progressed to the formal stage of this Policy if:

  • the informal approach does not bring about the desired result i.e. the unacceptable conduct is continuing
  • you feel that an informal approach is not appropriate due to, for example, the seniority of the other individual concerned
  • you feel that the matter is so serious that an informal approach is not possible ( in determining this, it is important that you retain a sense of proportion in identifying behaviour which is perceived as causing offence)

If you wish to progress with a formal complaint, you must submit a written complaint to either to your line manager or next appropriate Senior Officer or the Service HR Adviser, confirming whether informal approaches have been unsuccessful or giving an explanation of why it was not practicable


Mediation Frequently Asked Questions

How will mediation work?

The process will be explained to you in advance of the meeting and again at the start of the mediation meeting. You will have the opportunity to ask any questions about the process if you are unsure.

Why do I have to get involved when it is not my fault?

The mediation process is voluntary and will only go ahead if both parties agree to it. Taking part in mediation does not mean that blame has been attributed to either party.

Won't the mediator have bias?

The mediator is impartial and is only involved to facilitate discussion to enable you both to agree a solution.

Does the mediator have any authority?

The solution requires to be workable and practical. The mediator cannot influence resources or management structures therefore the solution identified should be practical within current working arrangements.

Will it work?

Both parties have to make a commitment to be involved and the outcome has to suit you both.

Will I be able to explain my side of things?

Both parties will have the chance to explain what the issues are.

What if I'm not comfortable with the way the meeting is going?

The mediator controls the meeting and will make sure the ground rules are adhered to, however you can call for a recess at any time.

What if I would prefer a more formal process?

Mediation does not stop you from taking out a formal complaint if you are not happy with the outcome.

Is mediation a waste of time?

It could save time if you are able to reach a solution without having to resort to a more formal route.

Can I bring someone with me?

As a general rule the agreement must be between two parties. However depending on exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate to discuss being accompanied.

What if the mediator does not understand the issue?

He/she does not have to as the solution comes from you.

Is the process confidential?

Yes both parties will sign up on this basis. However if there is any suggestion of illegality (e.g. child protection issue) the mediator will bring the session to a close and will advise that he/she may have to inform appropriate bodies.

What will my manager find out about the discussions?

Your manager will be made aware of the arrangements to allow time off for mediation. However they will not be aware of the discussions that take place in the mediation meeting. There is the opportunity for both parties to agree at mediation if some element of the agreement should be shared with your manager.