BULLYING AND HARASSMENT POLICY
The aim of this policy and the accompanying procedure is to prevent bullying and
harassment, provide guidance to resolve any problems should they occur and
Bullying and harassment at work in any form is unacceptable behaviour and will
not be permitted or condoned. Bullying is regarded by YouthNet as unethical,
oppressive, behaviour and is therefore unacceptable in the work environment.
Sexual, sectarian and racial harassment, as well as harassing a person on
account of disability, sexual orientation or age constitute discrimination and are
not lawful under the sex discrimination, fair employment, race relations, disability
legislation and age discrimination. Harassment may also be a civil offence, a
criminal offence and it may contravene health and safety legislation.
Bullying and harassment detract from a productive working environment and can
affect the health, confidence, morale and performance of those affected by it,
including anyone who witnesses or knows about the unwanted behaviour. This
can have a direct impact on the effectiveness and morale of the organisation of
Bullying and harassment are inappropriate behaviours at work and will be treated
by this organisation as misconduct that may include gross misconduct warranting
dismissal. All employees must comply with this policy.
This policy has been agreed with employee representatives.
Definition of Harassment
Harassment is unwanted attention affecting the dignity of employees. This can
include unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct. Such behaviour is
(i) Where it is unwanted, unreasonable and offensive to the recipient
(ii) Where it is used as the basis for an employment decision
(iii) Where it creates a hostile working environment
Some examples are given below but many forms of behaviour can constitute
- Physical conduct ranging from touching to serious assault
- Verbal and written harassment through jokes, racist remarks, offensive
language, gossip and slander, sectarian songs, threats, letters
- Visual displays of posters, graffiti, obscene gestures, flag, bunting or
emblems or any other offensive material
- Isolation or non-co-operation at work, exclusion from social activities
- Coercion, including pressure for sexual favours, pressure to participate in
- Intrusion by pestering, spying, following etc.
It should be noted that it is the impact of the behaviour which is relevant and not
the motive or intent behind it.
Definition of Bullying
There is no single definition of bullying agreed upon internationally. An example
of a definition given by the European Agency for Safety and Health is:
“Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards an
employee that creates a risk to health and safety”
Within this definition “unreasonable behaviour means behaviour that a
reasonable person having regard to all the circumstances would expect to
victimise, humiliate, undermine or threaten.
“behaviour” includes actions of individuals or a group. A system of work may be
used as a means of victimising, humiliating, undermining or threatening. “risk to
health and safety includes risk to mental or physical health of the employee”
Bullying often involves a use or a misuse of power, where the targets can
experience difficulties in defending themselves.
All employees have the right to work in an environment which is free from any
form of bullying or harassment. YouthNet fully recognises the right of employees
to complain about bullying or harassment should it occur. All complaints will be
dealt with seriously, promptly and confidentially. A copy of the complaints
procedure can be found on page 40 of the Staff Handbook.
This procedure does not replace or detract from the rights of employees to
pursue a complaint to a tribunal. A complaint must be lodged within three
months from the date of the alleged act of sex, disability, age or racial
discrimination. For religious or political discrimination, a complaint must be
lodged within three months from the date when the person first knew, or might
reasonably be expected to have first known, of the act of discrimination or within
six months from the date the act occurred, whichever is earlier. 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.
Any complaint of victimisation will be dealt with seriously, promptly and
confidentially. Victimisation will result in disciplinary action and may warrant
All employees have a responsibility to help ensure a working environment in
which the dignity of employees is respected. Everyone must comply with this
policy and employees should ensure that their behaviour to colleagues and
customers does not cause offence and could not in any way be considered to be
Employees should discourage bullying and harassment by making it clear that
they find such behaviour unacceptable and by supporting colleagues who suffer
such treatment and are considering making a complaint. They should alert a
manager or supervisor to any incident of bullying or harassment to enable this
organisation to deal with the matter. Employees should also be aware that they
can be held personally financially responsible at a tribunal if found guilty of
harassing a colleague.
Managers’ and Supervisors’ Responsibilities
Managers and supervisors have a duty to implement this policy and to make
every effort to ensure that bullying or harassment does not occur, particularly in a
work area for which they are responsible. Managers and supervisors have
responsibility for any incidents of bullying or harassment of which they are aware
or ought to be aware. If bullying or harassment does occur, they must effectively
deal with the situation.
Managers and supervisors should:
- Explain the organisation’s policy to their staff and take steps to promote
awareness of procedure for dealing with staff ensuring each member of
staff has been given a copy of the staff handbook.
- Be responsive and supportive to any member of staff who makes an
allegation of bullying or harassment, provide clear advice on the
procedure to be adopted, maintain confidentiality and seek to ensure that
there is no further problem of harassment or victimisation after a complaint
has been resolved.
- Set a good example by treating all staff and customers with dignity and
- Be alert to unacceptable behaviour and take appropriate action.
- Ensure that all staff are made aware of how to raise complaints of
The Organisation’s Responsibilities
YouthNet will ensure that adequate resources are made available to promote
respect and dignity in the workplace and to deal effectively with complaints of
bullying or harassment. This policy and procedure will be communicated
effectively to all employees and YouthNet will ensure that all employees,
managers and supervisors are aware of their responsibilities. Appropriate
training will be provided including training on induction and management
Individuals will be appointed to provide advice and assistance to employees who
are subject to bullying or harassment. The name of these designated advisers
will be made known to all employees. All complaints of harassment will be dealt
with promptly, seriously and confidentially. Managers, supervisors and
designated advisers will receive appropriate training so that they can perform
their roles sensitively and effectively. In addition, those playing an official role in
any formal complaints procedures will receive appropriate training.
YouthNet will monitor all incidents of bullying or harassment and will review the
effectiveness of the policy and procedure annually.
DEALING WITH COMPLAINTS OF BULLYING OR HARASSMENT
Any employee who believes that he/she has suffered any form of bullying or
harassment is entitled to raise the matter through the following procedure.
This procedure does not replace or detract from an employee’s rights to pursue a
complaint under equality legislation.
The Informal Stage
This stage is appropriate where the employee simply wants the behaviour to
stop, where the bullying or harassment is not serious or where it has been
Employees can seek to resolve matters informally by:
- Approaching the alleged bully/harasser directly making it clear to the
person(s) responsible that the behaviour in question is offensive, is not
welcome and should be stopped.
- Approaching the alleged bully/harasser with the support of a colleague or
a trade union representative.
- Approaching the alleged bully/harasser with the support of a
supervisor/manager or designated adviser.
If it is too difficult or embarrassing to do this personally, employees may request
a supervisor or manager to approach the alleged bully harasser on their behalf.
Where an employee seeks the support of a supervisor he/she will be sensitively
informed that their role at the informal stage can only be one of support or
The employee will be advised that,
A formal investigation and possible disciplinary action can only take place if the
complaint is investigated under the formal procedure.
A written record of the action taken will be made to assist with any formal
proceedings which may arise if the behaviour does not stop. Failure to maintain
such a record will not invalidate proceedings at the formal stage.
All reported incidents of bullying or harassment will be monitored and in the event
of any patterns emerging management may wish to initiate its own formal
investigation and take remedial action where this proves to be necessary.
Additionally, there may be situations where the seriousness of a complaint
warrants formal proceeding.
The Formal Stage
The formal complaints procedure is appropriate if the bullying or
harassment is serious, if the person making the complaint prefers this
approach, or if the bullying/harassment continues after the informal
procedures have been used.
It should be raised through the formal complaints procedure as follows:
The Director has been given responsibility for proceedings at the formal stage.
Individuals may raise complaints with the Director or, if appropriate, another
member of management for this purpose. Where possible, employees will be
able to bring a complaint in the first instance to someone of their own religion,
gender, sexual orientation, race, or who is aware of disability issues, if they so
Managers carrying out investigations at the formal stage should not be
connected in any way with the allegation that has been made.
The Administrator will assist throughout the procedure. S/he will attend all
meetings and maintain a written record of all proceeding including the
investigation and any outcome. The Manager conducting the investigation will
check all records to ensure accuracy.
YouthNet will designate an Honorary Officer to act in an advisory role throughout
the procedure to ensure that a consistent approach is taken, particularly with
regard to proposed disciplinary action.
In the event of an employee wishing to make a complaint of bullying or
harassment against the Director the complaint should be made to the
Chairperson of the Personnel Sub Committee.
Investigation under the Formal Procedure
The following procedure details time limits for the completion of each stage of the
procedure. If any of these time limits are not possible then both parties will be
informed of the revised timescale.
The procedure will be completed within twenty working days of the complaint
having been received. Where this is not possible the procedure will be
completed as soon as practicable.
(i) Making a Complaint
Complaints should be raised as soon as possible following an act of alleged
bullying/harassment so that the matter can be dealt with swiftly and decisively.
While it is preferable that a complaint should be made in writing to the Director
(or any other manager as appropriate) this will not preclude the investigation of a
complaint made verbally.
The Director will acknowledge receipt of the complaint and arrange to meet the
Complainant within three working days. If appropriate the Director may delegate
the investigation of the complaint to another senior manager within the
(ii) Initial Meeting with the Complainant
The Director or his/her nominated deputy will meet the Complainant to:
- Clarify and formally record the nature of the complaint and ensure that it is
being handled under the formal procedure.
- Ensure the Complainant is aware of the next stage of the procedure.
- Advise that the Complainant has the right to be accompanied and/or
represented at the investigative meeting by a trade union representative or
Following this meeting the Director or nominated deputy will write to the
complainant and set a date for a formal meeting to be held within five working
days of the complaint being received.
(iii) Avoiding Contact Between Complainant and Alleged Bully/Harasser
The issue of avoiding contact between Complainant and the alleged
bully/harasser must be considered before action is taken to inform the alleged
bully/harasser of the complaint. The Director will take appropriate action
concerning avoiding contact following discussion with the Complainant. Both
parties should also be advised that there should be no communication between
them, directly or indirectly, in relation to the complaint. Where a case of serious
bullying/harassment has been alleged consideration will be given to
precautionary suspension of the alleged bully/harasser to enable investigations
to proceed. An individual who is to be suspended must be formally advised of
this at a meeting with the Manager concerned. The individual will have the right
to be accompanied and/or represented at this meeting by a trade union
representative or work colleague as appropriate.
(iv) Informing the Alleged Bully/Harasser
The Director or nominated deputy will meet with the alleged bully/harasser and:
- Outline the nature of the complaint,
- Confirm that it is being handled under the formal procedure,
- Ensure that the individual is aware of the next stages of the procedure and
- Advise that the alleged bully/harasser has the right to be accompanied and/or
represented at the next stage of the procedure by a trade union
representative or work colleague.
Following this meeting the Director or nominated deputy will write to the alleged
bully/harasser outlining the nature of the complaint and setting a date for a formal
meeting to be held within five working days of the complaint being received.
Whilst the Director or his nominated deputy will seek to resolve the matter as
quickly as possible, the meetings with all involved need not necessarily follow
immediately after each other. Every effort will be made to have held all
necessary meetings within ten working days of the date the complaint was
received. Where this is not practicable the Complainant and the alleged bully/
harasser will be so advised.
The purpose of these meetings is to establish the facts. All those giving
information to the Director or his nominated deputy privately and not in the
presence of any other person involved in or present during the alleged incident.
A record of all meetings will be kept. All evidence provided to assist with the
investigation will be treated as confidential to the investigation subject to any
The investigation should include at least the following
(i) Meeting with person alleging bullying/harassment
The Director or nominated deputy will meet with the person alleging
bullying/harassment and consider both what s/he has to say and any other
related matter. The harassment complainant will have the right to be
accompanied and/or represented by his/her trade union representatives or work
colleague as appropriate.
(ii) Meeting with alleged bully/harasser
The Director or nominated deputy(or other representative) will meet the alleged
bully/harasser and hear what he/she has to say about the alleged incident(s) and
any other related matter. The alleged bully/harasser will have the right to be
accompanied and/or represented by his/her trade union representative or work
colleague as appropriate. This will not be the same person who accompanies
and/or represents the Complainant.
(iii) Meeting with anyone who can assist with the investigation
The Director or nominated deputy will meet anyone who can assist with the
investigation. This may include supervisors and co-workers and may also
include anyone who observed the Complainant’s demeanour immediately before
and after the alleged incident(s) or any colleague with whom the Complainant
discussed the alleged incident(s). Each individual will be asked to outline what
The Director or nominated deputy (or other representative) will meet the
managers/supervisors of both the Complainant and alleged bully/harasser to
establish if there has been any history of previous conflict between them and/or
with other parties.
The Director or nominated deputy(or other representative) may then wish to have
further meetings to clarify or gain additional information.
(iv) Consideration of Information
Having obtained all the information possible, the Director or nominated deputy
will consider whether the organisation’s disciplinary procedure should be invoked
or some other action taken.
(v) Reporting the Facts
The Director or nominated deputy undertaking the investigation should prepare a
written report outlining the facts, indicating his/her findings, and whether the
disciplinary procedure should be invoked or other action taken. Where the
Director or nominated deputy has not the authority to take the necessary action,
this report will be forwarded to the appropriate level of management.
(vi) Decision on Disciplinary Action
The Director (or other appropriate level of management as outlined above) will
then decide either:
(a) To initiate the organisation’s agreed disciplinary procedure against
any party as appropriate; and/or
(b) To take any other appropriate management action eg, the provision of
training or counselling.
(c) Take no further action
(vii) Communicating the Decision
Having made a decision on the most appropriate course of action this will be
communicated in writing to both the person who has complained and the person
against whom the complaint was made.
After the Investigation is Complete
Consideration of Transfer
(a) Redeployment if Disciplinary Action is taken
Where a complaint has been upheld the Complainant may wish to avoid any
further contact with the bully/harasser. Should the bully/harasser remain in
employment with the organisation and where it is agreed that further contact
between the individuals concerned would be unacceptable, every effort will be
made to facilitate this wish.
(i) Training and Counselling
Training and/or counselling will be offered to the person who has been
bully/harasser. Where a complaint has not been upheld training and/or
counselling may also be offered. This will be provided by a trained member of
staff or by an external provider, as appropriate.
(ii) Further Meeting
The Director will meet the individual who has alleged bullying/harassment on a
regular basis to offer support and to ensure that no harassment or victimisation
This action will be undertaken even where a complaint has not been upheld.
The Line Manager of the bully/harasser will be made responsible for ensuring
that the harasser is made fully aware of the organisation’s policies on equal
opportunities and harassment and of the law relating to these matters.