ORKNEY ISLANDS COUNCIL
POLICY ON DIGNITY AT WORK
1. STATEMENT OF INTENT
2. SCOPE OF THE POLICY
3. BULLYING AND AGGRESSION
6. BULLYING AND HARASSMENT COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE
1 STATEMENT OF INTENT
(a) Orkney Islands Council will treat proven cases of bullying and harassment at work with zero
tolerance. As an equal opportunities employer, we are committed to treating our employees in a
fair and equitable manner, with dignity and respect, within a working environment free from all
forms of bullying, harassment and aggression. We will provide training and advice for managers
and supervisors to deal with cases and allegations. The policy has been revised to take account of
the Council’s responsibilities under its Racial Equality policy.
(b) The Council is aware of the stress, anxiety and health problems that bullying, harassment and
aggression can cause and is committed to developing and maintaining a working environment and
organisational culture where this type of behaviour is regarded as wholly unacceptable.
(c) The Council will provide any employee who suffers bullying, harassment or aggressive behaviour
with an appropriate form of redress and will guarantee that complainants will not encounter any
form of reprisal at work as a result of their complaint.
(d) Any employee found guilty (following investigation) of abusing the dignity of a colleague or
colleagues by his/her behaviour in the work place will be subject to disciplinary action, including
dismissal for serious or persistent offences. This will not preclude alternative courses of action in
cases where this is seen as more appropriate.
(e) The Code of Conduct for Councillors covers the treatment of verbal abuse, threats or any form of
harassment on the part of elected members towards any of the Council’s employees.
(f) It is recognised that, on occasion violence and aggression directed by members of the public and
service users toward the Council’s employees occur. These are dealt with by the Council’s
procedure for handling violence and intimidation from the public.
2 SCOPE OF THE POLICY
(a) It is the responsibility of every employee to respect the dignity of their colleagues.
(b) This Policy will apply to everyone working for Orkney Islands Council, in whatever capacity so
every employee of the Council has responsibilities under this Policy.
3 BULLYING AND AGGRESSION
(a) ACAS define bullying as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse of
power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.
(b) Bullying and aggression can manifest themselves in a number of ways, including:
• severe verbal abuse
• abusive or intimidatory written communication (including via e mail)
• intimidating or aggressive behaviour
• the setting of impossible deadlines or intolerable workload burdens
• disparaging personal comments or remarks, often in private
• constantly changing objectives and goals
• taking credit for others' initiatives and achievements
• constantly changing the remits and responsibilities of others
• isolating or shunning certain individuals, thus limiting consultation on important issues or
deliberately excluding from general or specific activities
• actual physical assault
(a) Harassment takes a variety of forms, occurs on a number of grounds and may be directed at one
individual or many people. ACAS define it as: unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and
women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, nationality or any
personal characteristic of the individual and may be persistent or an isolated incident. The key is
that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient.
(b) Harassment extracts a high price from employees and employers alike. Employees can be subject to
fear, stress and anxiety, which can put strains, not only on general workplace relationships, but also
on personal and family life. By the same token, harassment can lead to illness, absenteeism, an
apparent lack of commitment, poor performance and, ultimately, resignation.
(c) The disruption, tension and workplace division which harassment creates can have tangible adverse
effects in terms of, for example, poor morale, higher staff turnover and reduced productivity.
(d) Harassment may be constituted by a course of conduct or a series of actions - connected or
unconnected. Single occurrences of the kind of unacceptable behaviour identified are similarly
inappropriate in the workplace and will lead to disciplinary action being considered.
(e) The three main types of potential workplace harassment are: sexual harassment; disability
harassment; and racial harassment.
(1) Sexual Harassment
(a) There is no single precise description of sexual harassment, nor is there a legal definition,
as it can take a variety of forms. It is, however, regarded as a form of sex discrimination
and, therefore, unlawful behaviour contrary to the Sex Discrimination Act (1975) and the
regulations in relation to sexual orientation
(b) In general terms, sexual harassment refers to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or
conduct based on sex which is offensive to the recipient. It concerns behaviour that is
unsolicited, personally offensive and which fails to respect the rights of others. A form of
behaviour which may be acceptable to one person may be very upsetting and demeaning to
(c) The following are examples of inappropriate behaviour in this regard:
• Physical conduct of a sexual nature: unwanted physical contact, including touching,
patting or pinching or brushing against another employee's body, assault, coercing
• Verbal conduct of a sexual nature: unwelcome sexual advances, propositions or
pressure for sexual activity, continued suggestions for social activity outside the
workplace after it has been made clear that such suggestions are unwelcome,
offensive flirtations, suggestive remarks, innuendoes or lewd comments.
• Non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature: the display of pornographic or sexually-
suggestive pictures, objects or written materials, leering, whistling, or making
• Sex-based conduct: conduct that denigrates or ridicules or is intimidatory or
physically abusive of an employee because of his or her sex, such as derogatory or
degrading abuse or insults which are gender-related and offensive comments about
appearance or dress.
(2) Racial Harassment
(a) Racial harassment may be considered to be any single or persistent action directed at an
individual or group of individuals which cause(s) them emotional/physical distress and
which occurs only on racial grounds (Racial grounds are grounds of race, colour,
nationality including citizenship or ethnic or national origins).
(b) Included within the range of objectionable behaviour which could be involved are the
• racial abuse/jokes
• name calling
• racial remarks that individuals consider humiliating and object to
• deliberate exclusion from conversations or social activities
• displaying racist material/posters and/or racist graffiti
• unfair allocation of work on racial grounds
• making stereotypical assumptions about colleagues or members of the public
(c) Racial harassment is outlawed by the terms of the Race Relations Act (1976) and
(3) Disability Harassment
(a) Disability harassment can be regarded as any unwanted act directed at a person who has a
disability, which is evident or not by physical or behavioural or learning difficulties.
(b) This form of harassment can include:
• Mimicking the particular disability
• Jokes about disability and disabled people
• Deliberate exclusion from conversation or social activities
• Belittling comments or behaviour
(c) The Disability Discrimination Act (1995) protects people with disabilities against
(f) As previously stated, the grounds for harassment are wide. In addition to the foregoing categories,
other examples include harassment in relation to:
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender reassignment
- Employment Status
- Religious or Political Beliefs
- Membership or non-membership of a Trade Union
- Status as an ex-offender
- Physical characteristics
The existence of harassment at work can be recognised using the criteria in the areas described
(g) It will also be noted that, despite its separate treatment for the purposes of this Policy, bullying is
itself a particularly serious form of harassment.
(h) Whatever its form, the harassment of any employee will not be tolerated
(a) All Council employees are responsible for their individual compliance with the terms and the spirit
of this Policy: in short, for respecting the dignity of their colleagues.
(b) Heads of Department have a responsibility for ensuring the implementation of this Policy within
their departments and for establishing and maintaining a departmental culture which mirrors the
corporate culture, where bullying and harassment are regarded as wholly inappropriate forms of
behaviour. The designation of a mentor in departments where there is a perception of a potential
for complaint is recommended as a means of managing difficulties as they arise on an informal but
(c) Supervisors are responsible for the maintenance of a high standard of professional conduct between
all colleagues under their direct authority. They are further responsible for eliminating any
harassment, bullying or intimidation of which they become aware, and for taking all reasonable
steps to prevent harassment in circumstances where certain employees may be vulnerable. Failure
to do so will be regarded as a failure to fulfil all of the responsibilities associated with their
(d) Bullying, harassment and inappropriately aggressive behaviour are disciplinary offences in terms
of the Council's staff rules and agreed Disciplinary Procedure. Those on the receiving end have the
right to seek a resolution to their situation.
(e) The Council will arrange for training for managers and supervisors in recognising and dealing with
cases of bullying and harassment at work.
6 BULLYING AND HARASSMENT COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE
(a) Any employee who considers that they have been subjected to bullying or harassment by a fellow
employee has recourse to the following procedure. It is, however, recognised that these are likely to
be highly sensitive issues which may be difficult for individuals to complain about (they may, for
example, be embarrassed or unsure as to how to proceed with a particular complaint or concerned
that it may be trivialised). Any employee who wishes confidential advice, support and assistance in
this regard should contact the Head of Personnel Services who will, on a strictly confidential basis,
seek to assist the individual form a decision as to how or whether to proceed with the complaint. In
the event that the employee may find such an approach potentially embarrassing due to the gender
of the Head of Personnel Services, another senior officer of a different gender will be nominated. In
addition, the employee concerned may obviously seek assistance from his or her trade union in
progressing the matter.
(b) It is recognised that the Grievance Procedure may not be suitable for every category of complaint
under this Policy. An amended procedure for the purpose of this Policy is therefore necessary.
(c) An employee subjected to bullying or harassment has two options in seeking a resolution; an
informal approach and a formal approach.
(1) Informal Approach
In the first instance, an informal attempt to stop the harassment may resolve the problem.
As people vary in their perceptions as to what constitutes unacceptable behaviour, simply
indicating that a particular action is regarded as offensive by the recipient may be
sufficient to dissuade the perpetrator from repeating the behaviour.
An employee who considers that he/she is being bothered or harassed should usually make it
clear to the perpetrator his/her views on the matter. This can be done by employing any one
of the following methods:
• Approaching the perpetrator personally, making clear the effects of the behaviour and
stating clearly and firmly his/her objections. A warning should also be given that if
the behaviour continues, then the matter will be dealt with formally.
• Raising the matter with the perpetrator along with a colleague or trade union
• Requesting a colleague, manager, or trade union representative to approach the
(2) Formal Approach
Where the informal approach proves to be unsuccessful or is considered inappropriate or
where the bullying/harassment is of a more serious nature, then formal action may be
• The complainant should put the complaint in writing to the line manager who must
notify the Head of Department so that an appropriate person to investigate the
complaint can be appointed. In the event that the complaint is against the line
manager, the complainant should write direct to the Head of Department.
• Complaints can be raised either by an individual or group of employees
• The complaint should be formally acknowledged and every effort made to address the
issue as quickly as possibly and normally within twenty working days from the
receipt of the complaint. The complaint will be handled sensitively, having due
respect for the rights of both the complainant and the accused.
• Heads of Department are required to notify the Head of Personnel Services when
complaints of bullying/harassment are received who will provide advice and guidance
in the event of such complaints.
• Heads of Department (or their nominated Investigating Officer) should ensure that a
full and fair investigation is made into any allegations of bullying or harassment -
ensuring, for example, rights of representation.
(d) Bullying/Harassment Has Taken Place
(1) If, following investigation, it is found that bullying/harassment did take place, appropriate
use should be made of the Council's agreed Disciplinary Procedure unless an alternative
course of action is more appropriate.
(2) Both parties will be advised, in writing, as to the next stage as soon as practicable after the
conclusion of the investigation (in any case within five working days).
(3) Disciplinary action up to and including the possibility of dismissal may be taken.
(e) No Bullying/Harassment Has Taken Place
(1) If, following investigation, it is considered that no bullying/harassment has taken place,
any record of the accusation should be removed from the accused's personal file.
(2) Both parties should be advised of the outcome of the investigation as soon as practicable
after the conclusion of the investigation (in any case within five working days).
(1) Confidentiality for both the victim and the accused is of paramount importance. Exceptions
to this may be considered only in extreme circumstances (e.g. where legal proceedings are
(2) Consultation with both parties and the Head of Personnel Services must take place before
confidentiality is breached.
(g) False Allegations
(1) Any case of false allegations being made maliciously will be treated very seriously and will
lead to disciplinary action against the individual concerned as this is regarded by the
Council as equating to bullying conduct against the employee falsely accused.
(h) Follow-up and Monitoring
(1) Following a complaint, the Head of Department (or a senior nominee) should ensure that
the bullying/harassment has completely ceased. The complainant should be contacted
following the formal resolution to the problem to establish whether the solution has been
effective. Where it has not, further action may be necessary.
(2) The Head of Department (or a senior nominee) should take steps to ensure that
victimisation does not occur, either to the perpetrator or the complainant. This should be
carefully monitored. This will equally apply when the allegation of bullying/harassment
has not been substantiated through the investigation.
(3) Follow up and monitoring should take place whenever the Head of Department (or a senior
nominee) is aware that there is a problem (i.e. whether the complaint has been dealt with
formally or informally).
In order for the Policy to be effective and to remain effective; employees must be made aware of its
existence. A copy of the policy will be included in the induction pack for all new employees and the
revised policy circulated to all members of staff.
This policy will be reviewed after a period of two years.