HARASSMENT – DEFINITION
Harassment takes many forms, occurs on a variety of grounds and may be directed at one person or many people.
Harassment can be defined as “unwanted behaviour, which a person finds intimidating, upsetting, embarrassing, humiliating or offensive”.
It is essential to remember that it is not the intention of the perpetrator that is important in deciding whether harassment has occurred, but whether the behaviour is unacceptable by normal standards. The main determining factor of harassment should be the perception held by the recipient of the conduct rather than the conduct in isolation.
It is difficult to provide a comprehensive list of conduct which manifests itself in harassment, but the essential characteristic of any harassment is that it must be unwanted. It can fall in the following areas:
Racial/Ethnic - against members of an ethnic or racial minority.
Bullying and victimisation.
Other forms - against persons who differ in any way such as nationality, accent, religion, age, social status, etc., management harassment, sexual orientation.
The procedures of the Llangyfelach Primary School aim to combat any such harassment, by:
Harassment can lead to the recipient to feel threatened, offended, persecuted or victimised. Job performance, security and satisfaction can be undermined.
There are also adverse consequences arising from harassment for employers. It has a direct impact on the efficiency of the enterprise where staff take sick leave or resign their posts because of harassment, or where employees’ productivity is reduced by having to work in a climate in which individuals’ integrity is not respected.
Harassment at work is totally unacceptable and must not be permitted or condoned. Recipients of harassment should make it clear to the perpetrator that the behaviour is unwanted. If the harassment persists, the employee has the right to complain about it. Any complaints must be raised reasonably swiftly after the event so that evidence can be examined - it does not affect the individual's statutory right to complain to a tribunal.
It is necessary to take action to ensure that:
Allegations of harassment will be treated as potential cases of gross misconduct. The Authority also has the right to commence proceedings against an employee to recoup any damages awarded against the Authority due to an employee’s actions of harassment.
Equally, an employee found to be making malicious allegations may be subject to disciplinary action.
In view of the sensitive nature of complaints, any allegations should be taken seriously and dealt with fairly, in confidence and as quickly as possible.
Before proceeding with any action, complainants may wish to seek the confidential advice and guidance of the Education Personnel Manager or School Development Adviser. A confidential record will be made to register the complaint, which will be used only if the complainant wishes to proceed with formal action. Complainants may also wish to inform their trade union representative.
It is often sufficient to raise the issue informally with the person who is creating the problem. Employees are therefore advised, wherever possible, in the first instance, to notify the alleged harasser that the behaviour is unwelcome, offensive or interfering with work and request him/her to desist It is, however, acknowledged that there may be circumstances where it is too difficult or embarrassing for the employee to approach the alleged harasser directly. Complainants should keep a record of incidents as they occur and of any action they have taken to deal with the problem.
The employee may wish to make his/her Headteacher aware of the problem. If the Headteacher is the alleged harasser, the employee should notify the Chair of Governors.
If the informal approach has proved ineffective, or if the complainant prefers to use the formal procedure, the complainant may request, in writing, that the matter be dealt with formally. Any such request should be made to the Headteacher or the Director of Education if the alleged harasser is the Headteacher.
In the interests of fairness and to assist investigation, complainants should, where practicable, act reasonably and promptly in registering a formal complaint, normally within 7 days. The outside limit is no more than 3 months from the incident occurring except for complaints of continuing harassment.
The Headteacher of the School will arrange for the matter to be investigated. An investigating officer will be nominated and the complainant informed. Should there be any objections regarding the investigating officer, then a mutually agreed alternative will be nominated. If the Headteacher is the alleged harasser then the Director of Education (or his/her representative, if appropriate) will investigate the complaint on behalf of the Governing Body.
The Headteacher/Director of Education would then hear all pertinent evidence. A written response will be given by the Headteacher or Director of Education as soon as possible, indicating his/her intended action. If it is decided that there is a case to answer then the matter would be dealt with in accordance with the school discipline policy. If an alternative solution is proposed this will be outlined to the complainant. The letter will clearly state the right of the complainant to appeal to a Complaints Sub-Committee of the Governing Body, normally within 7 days of receipt of the letter.
If the unwelcome behaviour persists, the complainant may raise the complaint, in writing, with the Chair of Governors. This can be made only if the complainant has:
Sought to resolve the complaint through earlier stages detailed in this procedure;
In order to hear an appeal the Governing Body will appoint a panel of three Governors to act as a Complaints Committee, the constitution of which must be in accordance with the provisions of the School Standards and Framework Act, 1998 and none of whom having had prior involvement in the investigation nor are members of the Disciplinary or Disciplinary Appeals Sub-Committee.
A hearing will be arranged as soon as possible and normally no later than 14 days after receipt of the complainant’s request for appeal.
All relevant documentation from all relevant parties and the names of witnesses to attend, should be received by the Clerk at least 7 days before the meeting.
Both the complainant and the individual(s) about whom the complaint has been made may be accompanied by a Trade Union Official or colleague to the meeting.
The committee will consider the complaint on the basis of the evidence submitted both oral and written. In the event of any party not attending the meeting, the Committee will resolve whether to proceed or adjourn at any stage.
The decision of the Committee will be made known to all relevant parties within 7 days of the meeting. The decision of this Committee is final.
Possible outcomes of the investigation may be:
Where disciplinary action is to be taken against the harasser, the complainant should be told this, but has no right to be told the detail of the action.
Timescales may be varied by mutual agreement or if there are special circumstances which justify a longer period.
This policy will be reviewed when necessary.