We believe that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work. Bullying and harassment of any kind will not be tolerated in our business. This policy aims to identify what is meant by “bullying” and “harassment” and sets out our position in relation to combating them.
This policy applies to bullying and harassment in the workplace, and also outside the workplace in a work-related context, such as on business trips, customer or supplier events or work-related social events or online / social media.
We will take all reasonable steps to ensure that our employees have received training and understand their responsibilities regarding this procedure. You should note that employees can be held personally liable for harassment at work and employers have a defence to claims in the event that they can demonstrate that all reasonable steps were taken by the employer to ensure that harassment did not occur. We are committed to taking all such reasonable steps.
“Bullying” is defined as offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable. Excluding and/or ignoring someone can also constitute bullying.
“Harassment” is defined as behaviour towards another person on the grounds of that person’s sex, age, race, religious belief, political opinion, disability or sexual orientation which has the purpose or effect of violating dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading and humiliating environment for that person.
Excluding and/or ignoring someone can also constitute harassment if the reason for the exclusion is related to one of the protected characteristics described above.
Harassment may also be based on a perception of another person, for example that the person is gay, or is disabled, whether or not this perception is correct and even if the alleged harasser knows that their perception is, in fact, wrong.
Harassment can also occur because someone is associated with another person, for example, someone who is harassed because they care for a disabled person, or a white worker who sees a black colleague being subjected to racially abusive language which also causes an offensive environment for her.
The conduct will be regarded as bullying or harassment only if, having regard to all the circumstances, and in particular the alleged victim’s perception, it should be considered reasonably as bullying or harassment.
The following is an illustrative, non-exhaustive list of behaviours that may constitute bullying and harassment:
- physical contact ranging from touching to serious assault;
- verbal and written harassment through jokes, racist remarks, offensive language, gossip and slander, sectarian songs, threats and letters;
- visual displays of posters, graffiti, obscene gestures, flags, bunting or emblems or any type of offensive material;
- isolation or non co-operation at work or exclusion from social activities;
- coercion, including pressure for sexual favours, pressure to participate in political or religious groups; and
- intrusion by pestering, spying, following etc.
You should note that it is the impact of the behaviour which is relevant and not the motive or intent behind it. It is not a defence to say that you did not intend to cause offence.
Everyone working for us has a responsibility to help ensure a working environment in which the dignity of all employees, clients and customers is respected. Everyone must comply with this policy and you should ensure that your behaviour to colleagues, clients and customers does not cause offence and could not in any way be considered to be harassment. Joking or ‘banter’ among colleagues relating to any of the protected characteristics listed above is strictly prohibited.
You should discourage bullying and harassment by making it clear that you find such behaviour unacceptable and by supporting colleagues who suffer such treatment and are considering making a complaint. Any employee who is aware of an incident of harassment should alert a member of management.
We have a duty to implement this policy and make every effort to ensure that bullying and harassment do not occur. We will ensure that employees are made aware of and understand the terms of this policy and will support any employee who makes a complaint. Where updates to this policy or further training on this policy are required, we will clearly communicate these and provide appropriate training to its employees.
Complaining about harassment or bullying
We recognise the right of employees to complain about bullying and harassment should they believe they have been subjected to such behaviour. All complaints will be dealt with seriously, promptly and confidentially. Every effort will be made to ensure that employees making complaints and others, who give evidence or information in connection with the complaint, will not be victimised.
Employees who feel that they have been bullied or harassed should raise the matter in accordance with the grievance procedure.
The grievance procedure provides for complaints to be dealt with informally. While bullying and harassment are very serious issues that would normally be dealt with by way of a formal complaint, it may be appropriate in some circumstances to raise the matter informally. It may be appropriate for employees to raise complaints informally where the employee simply wants the behaviour to stop or where the behaviour has only happened once and is not particularly serious in nature.
In this case, the employee can either speak with the alleged harasser and request that the behaviour stop or seek the assistance of a colleague or manager in speaking with the alleged harasser. A note should be taken of what is discussed and this will be used as evidence in the event of a formal complaint having to be made.
In the event that a formal complaint is made under the grievance procedure, it should specify:-
- that it is a complaint of bullying or harassment
- the name of the alleged harasser;
- the nature of the alleged harassment (in as much detail as possible)
- dates and times when the alleged harassment occurred;
- the names of any witnesses; and
- any action already taken to stop the alleged harassment.
On receipt of a formal complaint, action will be taken if appropriate to separate the alleged victim from the alleged harasser to enable an uninterrupted investigation to take place. This may involve a temporary suspension with pay until the matter has been resolved.
The complainant will be interviewed by the person handling the complaint (“the investigating officer”) to establish full details of what happened. You may bring a fellow worker with you to this meeting if you choose. The investigating officer will then carry out a thorough, independent, impartial and objective investigation as quickly as possible. The investigating officer will not be connected with the allegation in any way. An investigation will be carried out quickly, sensitively and with due respect for the rights of both the complainant and the alleged harasser.
Where your complaint is about someone other than a fellow worker, such as a customer, client, supplier or visitor, we will consider what action may be appropriate to protect you (and anyone else involved) pending the outcome of the investigation, bearing in mind the needs of our business and the rights of that person. We will try to discuss the matter with the third party where appropriate.
The investigation will involve interviews with the person against whom you are making the complaint and any other relevant witnesses. The alleged harasser will be given full details of the nature of the complaint and will be given the opportunity to respond. The investigation may also need to examine relevant documents, including emails and other evidence.
Strict confidentiality will be maintained throughout the investigation into the allegation. Where it is necessary to interview witnesses, the importance of confidentiality will be emphasized to them.
Upon the conclusion of the investigation, a report outlining the conclusions of the investigator will be sent to the complainant and the alleged harasser. If the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of the report, they can appeal the findings using the grievance procedure.
Outcome of investigations
If the report concludes that the allegation is well founded, the harasser will be liable to disciplinary action in accordance with the disciplinary procedure.
If you bring a complaint of harassment you will not be victimised for having brought the complaint and you will be protected against any reprisals arising out of bringing a complaint in good faith, even if your complaint cannot be upheld. However, if the report concludes that the complaint is both untrue and has been brought with malicious intent, disciplinary action will be taken against the complainant which may include dismissal.
This handbook has been prepared by Mark Mason Employment Law Consultancy for the exclusive use of Bumbles Day Care Limited and is not to be made available for use within any other organisation.