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The Harmony Partnership (UK) Ltd

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Combating Bullying and Harassment – Policy Responsibilities

While all HR policies and procedures stand or fall at the individual behavioural level, effective policies and procedures are still crucial to set boundaries and to help ensure a common understanding.

To be effective policies require employee involvement, feedback mechanisms, effective communication to ensure awareness and understanding, clear behavioural guidelines, and continuous dript feed 'marketing'.

Guidelines can provide important clarity around individual responsibilities, for example a policy designed to combat discrimination, bullying and harassment might include the following points:

1. It is HR's responsibility to:
  • Provide policies and procedures which meet the needs of the complainant and the respondent;
  • Ensure policies and processes:

    • Provide clear examples of unacceptable behaviour, in factual terms
    • Provide examples of gross misconduct
    • Outline individual responsibilities and rights:

      • Emphasise the individual's responsibility to seek an informal approach first if at all practicable (and it won't always be!)
      • Emphasise the respondent's right to know what the behaviour is that requires changing, and to have the opportunity to apologise and to alter the behaviour, before an investigation.(unless the behaviour is gross misconduct)
    • If an informal approach has not been tried first, ensure any written formal complaint includes the reason why not.
  • Reserve the right to use alternative dispute resolution processes, e.g.:

    • an investigation process which includes the right for the organisation to 'broker' mediation pre investigation or to temporarily halt an investigation once both parties have been interviewed in favour of offering mediation.
2. Unless the behaviour falls within the gross misconduct definition provided in the relevant policy, it is the complainant's responsibility to:
  • ensure that the respondent is aware of the negative impact of the behaviour/ language complained of, that it is unacceptable, and what behaviour they would like to see instead; and
  • to do so in a manner which is acceptable to the respondent
  • before accessing the first informal stage of the complaints procedure.
If they are unable to do so face to face, or even in a letter, they have a responsibility to speak with a colleague for support or from another designated source, e.g. occupational health, union representative, employee assistance programme, HR. They also need to retain the right to go immediately to a formal complaint if they see fit.

3. It is the respondent's responsibility to:
  • listen actively to any complaint;
  • to seriously consider the required changes in behaviour;
  • to meet a practicable request and if that is not possible to provide counter-solutions to resolve the issues;
  • to respond in an manner acceptable to the complainant.
4. It is the line manager's responsibility to:
  • act as a role model for staff and colleagues;
  • pro-actively tackle any behaviour which might be construed as inappropriate and to do so immediately such behaviour is witnessed or a complaint made;
  • coach staff who complain of or who are complained about, to bring about a common understanding and help to resolve the differences;
  • adhere to, and actively support HR policies and procedures;
  • keep HR advised of any concerns and issues before they become a problem.
5. It is the employer's responsibility to:
  • provide clear, practical policies and guidelines for managers and staff;
  • ensure individuals' concerned about inappropriate behaviour know where to go for support which reflects the diversity of the work force, in addition to their line manager, e.g. designated support staff, employee assistance programme, HR, union representative;
  • ensure managers have the skills;

    • to coach staff in such situations, whether respondent or complainant,
    • to respond appropriately to complaints and constructive feedback
    • to give and receive feedback constructively
    • to manage performance in an manner acceptable to the individual.
Additionally while employers cannot require an employee to change their values or beliefs, they can require them to change inappropriate behaviour. We may not like or respect everyone we work with; however we all have the responsibility to treat colleagues, suppliers and customers with courtesy and consideration – and the right to receive the same.

Introducing a Diversity with Dignity Policy.