In times of trouble or distress, individuals may act out of character. It is essential to acknowledge that there may have been distressing circumstances leading up to a constituent approaching my office. However, while we understand these challenges, we cannot condone unacceptable behaviour or actions that excessively burden our staff, hindering us from effectively carrying out our duties. This policy aims to address and manage such behaviours and actions.
Aggressive or Abusive Behaviour
We recognise that constituents may become upset or angry due to the issues they raise. Nonetheless, we consider any escalation of anger into aggression towards our staff as unacceptable. Violence or abuse, whether verbal or written, that causes our staff to feel offended, afraid, threatened, or abused will not be tolerated. While we appreciate that individuals contacting us may be upset, shouting, or swearing at anyone in our office is not acceptable.
Unacceptable language includes offensive, derogatory, or patronising remarks, discriminatory comments (racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic), and unsubstantiated allegations of criminal or corrupt conduct. Comments directed at third parties may also be deemed unacceptable if they adversely affect our staff.
All threats against our staff will be treated with the utmost seriousness, and if we feel scared or threatened, the communication may be terminated at any time.
A demand becomes unacceptable when it substantially impacts our staff’s ability to perform our duties. Examples of such behaviour include repeatedly demanding responses within unreasonable timescales, insisting on seeing or speaking to specific staff members when it is not feasible, or repeatedly altering the substance of a complaint or raising unrelated concerns. Unreasonable demands, by consuming excessive staff time, disadvantage other constituents, and impeding the swift resolution of their complaints or refusing to accept a decision with explanations provided.
Our staff have the right to perform their duties free from harassment or threats of harassment. We urge everyone to respect that our staff represent our office’s service, which may not necessarily reflect their personal views or preferences. Harassment may involve recording telephone discussions and sharing them online, contacting staff using personal details or social media, or disclosing personal, sensitive, or private information about staff in public domains.
Unacceptable and Persistent Levels of Contact
Persistent contact, whether continuous or characterised by numerous calls in a short period, lengthy and repetitive telephone discussions, excessive email or postal submissions, or unnecessary copying into communications with other parties, can become unacceptable when it hinders our ability to manage complaints efficiently.
Refusal to Co-operate
When investigating a complaint, our office may need cooperation from the individual who initiated the complaint. This cooperation can involve agreeing on the complaint’s scope, providing additional information or evidence, or summarising concerns. Refusal to cooperate, without a specific, valid reason, can impede our ability to address the complaint effectively.
We understand that some constituents may have difficulty expressing themselves clearly, especially when anxious or upset. We encourage them to communicate their needs for reasonable adjustments to access our services better whether that by on the telephone, email, or letter correspondence, or at our advice surgeries. We are committed to considering such adjustments, which may include alternative communication methods, large print or translated documents, or clear warnings during unproductive conversations.
However, we do not condone aggressive, offensive, threatening, or abusive behaviour towards our staff, even when reasonable adjustments are made. We may still apply this policy if actions or behaviours negatively impact our work, despite reasonable adjustments.
Actions We May Take
In response to unacceptable behaviour or demands, we may take various actions, including:
- Warning the Constituent: Requesting that the constituent modifies their behaviour in future interactions.
- Appointing a Specific Point of Contact: Designating a specific staff member to handle communication with the constituent.
- Communicating Only in Writing or Via a Representative: Restricting communication to written correspondence or through an appointed representative.
- Not Investigating a Complaint: Declining to investigate a complaint pursued in an unacceptable manner.
- Ceasing All Communication: Halting all communication with the constituent.
- Restricting or Limiting Contact: Imposing restrictions on the volume and nature of contact.
When formal action is deemed necessary, we will inform the constituent in writing, and a record of this decision will be maintained.
Our office strives to ensure a respectful and productive environment for our constituents and staff, promoting effective communication and the fair resolution of complaints.