Dignity and respect in the workplace
Caroline McEnery of The HR Suite advises employers to put policies in place now to avoid conflict arising between employees in the future
15 October 2014
The purpose of a Dignity & Respect at Work Policy is to create a working environment that is free from bullying and harassment. Appropriate disciplinary action, including dismissal for serious offences, will be taken against any employees who violate this policy. The policy applies to employees both in the workplace and at work associated events such as meetings, conferences and office parties, whether on or off the premises.
The policy also applies to harassment not only by fellow employees but also by a customer or other business contacts to which an employee might reasonably expect to come into contact within the course of their employment.
Harassment is defined as any act of conduct which is unwelcome and offensive, humiliating or intimidating on a discriminatory ground including spoken words, gestures, or the production, display or circulation of written material or pictures.
Bullying is defined as repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more people against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work. An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work but, as a once-off incident, is not considered to be bullying.
It may involve single or repeated incidents ranging from extreme forms of intimidating behaviour, such as physical violence, to more subtle forms such as ignoring someone. It can often occur without witnesses.
There is both an informal and formal procedure to deal with the issue of bullying/harassment at work. Any investigation should be completed as quickly as possible.
It is often preferable for all concerned that complaints of bullying or harassment are dealt with informally whenever possible, as an informal approach can often resolve matters. As a general rule therefore, an attempt should be made to address an allegation of bullying/harassment as informally as possible by means of an agreed informal procedure. The objective is to resolve the difficulty quickly and effectively, with the minimum of conflict and stress for the individuals.
a) Any employee who believes he or she is being bullied/harassed should explain clearly to the alleged perpetrator(s) that the behaviour in question is unacceptable. If the complainant finds it difficult to approach the alleged perpetrator(s) directly, he or she should seek help and advice, on a strictly confidential basis, from their manager.
The above contact person should listen patiently, be supportive and discuss the various options open to the employee concerned.
Having consulted with the contact person, the complainant may request their assistance in raising the issue with the alleged perpetrator(s) with a view to resolving the issue in an informal low-key manner
b) A complainant may decide, for whatever reason, to by-pass the informal procedure.
If an informal approach is inappropriate or if, after the informal stage, the bullying/harassment persists, the following formal procedures should be invoked:
a) The complainant should make a formal complaint, in writing, to the manager. The complaint should be confined to precise details of actual incidents of bullying/harassment, for example, state the name of the alleged perpetrator, the nature of the complaint, dates and times, witnesses, and any action that the complainant may already have taken, if any.
b) The alleged perpetrator(s) should be notified in writing that an allegation of bullying has been made against them. They should be given a copy of the complainant’s statement and advised that they shall be afforded a fair opportunity to respond to the allegation(s), within specified time limits.
c) Both parties have the right to be accompanied by a work colleague at all meetings.
If appropriate to the investigation, the company reserves the right to suspend the alleged perpetrator(s) with pay, pending the outcome of the investigation.
d) The complaint should be subject to an initial examination by a designated member of management, who can be considered impartial, with a view to determining an appropriate course of action. No assumptions will be made by the company about the guilt or otherwise of the alleged harasser, or about the motivation or intent of the complainant. An appropriate course of action at this stage, could be exploring a mediated solution or a view that the issue can be resolved informally. Should either of these approaches be deemed inappropriate or inconclusive, a formal investigation of the complaint should take place with a view to determining the facts and the credibility or otherwise of the allegation(s).
Actions post investigation
Where a complaint is upheld, a disciplinary hearing will take place, in line with the company’s disciplinary procedure. Should management decide that the complaint is well founded; the alleged perpetrator(s) should be given a formal interview to determine an appropriate course of action. Such action could, for example, include transfer, and/or counselling and/or monitoring or other appropriate disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.
If you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact one of our HR advisors on 0667102887.