Purpose, Objectives & Scope
Trinity Church recognises that situations can occur where the behaviour or actions of individuals can have an adverse effect on its employees or other members of the Church.
Trinity Church is committed to the dignity and fair treatment of its employees and members.
This policy includes a Harassment Procedure designed to resolve any harassment issue between its employees and members.
In implementing the policy, Trinity Church is committed to ensuring that the following underpinning principles are adhered to:
- Fair and objective investigation of any complaint.
- Right to accompaniment.
- Complaints are handled sensitively and appropriate confidentiality is maintained.
The Dignity policy applies to all employees and members.
All individuals have the right to be treated with dignity and respect and Trinity Church regards harassment as totally unacceptable conduct.
Harassment complaints are usually of a sensitive/personal nature and are defined as occurring where an individual, either intentionally or unintentionally, behaves in a manner which is humiliating, threatening, demeaning, or otherwise offensive to the recipient.Allegations of harassment or bullying as defined in this policy will be dealt with under the Harassment Procedure.
All involved have the duty to treat matters in confidence during the investigation.
Complaints will be dealt with confidentially, sensitively and objectively, and as quickly as fairness permits.
Appropriate corrective actions will be taken as soon as possible.
Issues and resulting procedures will be dealt with in a loving and prayerful manner. Always seeking to discern the Will of God.
Right to accompaniment
At informal stages, matters are usually best resolved between the individuals concerned. However, at formal stages the individuals are entitled to be accompanied during every formal stage of the grievance or harassment procedures.
Trinity Church recognising that all concerned may find the process/issues distressing during the investigation and may need support.
It should be noted that while the harasser is described in the singular, a complaint may be raised against a number of individuals.
Responsibilities under the procedures
Harassment can cause fear, stress and anxiety and even sickness amongst employees and members. Trinity Church expects everyone to carry out their responsibilities to prevent harrassment and to deal with it appropriately when it occurs.
Everyone has a personal responsibility for their behaviour to others and need to be sensitive to and respectful of each other.
Trustees have a particular responsibility to identify and eliminate harassment, whether in the more obvious forms of physical contact or verbal and written harassment or in its more subtle forms, such as unjustified personal criticism or abuse of power or position.
The following principles will apply in all harassment cases:
Complaints should be handled impartially, seriously, without discrimination and with careful consideration being given to the individual circumstances in each case.
At all stages in the process those involved should respect the confidentiality of the issues and people involved
All formal meetings will be organised at a time agreed with all parties concerned.
Individuals may be accompanied at the meeting
Recording devices of any nature will not be permitted in meetings, unless prior permission has been expressly given.
What is harassment?
Harassment is unacceptable behaviour, including actions and comments, which are unwanted and unwelcome by the person who is the subject of it and which creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating environment for the recipient.
Harassment is defined by the perception of the victim (i.e. how it feels to be the recipient) rather than the intent of the person causing the offence – action which may be acceptable, even welcome to one recipient, may be harassing to another. However, in concluding whether harassment took place, consideration must be given as to whether the perception by the complainant, that harassment has occurred, is reasonable in all the circumstances.
Harassment includes unwelcome physical contact, behaviour or comments which are offensive or unacceptable to the person subjected to it.
Non-malicious behaviour with a lack of intent may be a mitigating factor when considering appropriate resolution or disciplinary action.
Distinction between bullying and performance management
The application of reasonable pressure to meet targets or tight deadlines, or delivery of constructive criticism designed to help employees develop and improve in the future is appropriate. This is distinct from personal criticism, abuse or derogatory remarks, either in public or in private, which humiliates the individual and undermines their self-esteem, which could amount to bullying.
The Procedures to follow if you feel you are being harassed
If you are being harassed, you will want the harassment to stop. It is important to deal with it at an early stage as the individual who is behaving in this way towards you may not realise the impact of his/her behaviour. There are two possible options available to you:
Ask the harasser to stop
If you are comfortable in doing so, inform the harasser that you dislike their behaviour and want it to stop.
Ask for help
It is sometimes very difficult to approach the harasser in person. If this is the case, then raise the matter with the Minister and/or a Trustee.
The Minister or Trustees will then decide on a course of action even if you do not wish to formalise a complaint.
Dealing with a complaint of harassment
A complaint of harassment should never be ignored, and should always be taken seriously.
The victim may need support and re-assurance, and it must be made clear to the alleged harasser that any recriminations or victimisation in connection with the investigation will be regarded as a serious disciplinary matter.
Where possible complaints should be resolved quickly and informally, with formal investigation and action taken only as a last resort. In many cases the mere fact of bringing the matter to the attention of the person against whom a complaint of harassment has been made / alleged, will be sufficient to bring the problem to the end. Where it does not, mediation between the complainant and the alleged harasser may be appropriate.
Mediation should always be consideration as a method of informal resolution. The purpose of mediation is to try to agree a common ground and ways of restoring normal relationships. Mediation can only take place with the consent of all concerned; and that consent can be removed at any time. Mediation should be undertaken by a neutral third person. The role of the mediator will be to work with those in disagreement or dispute to help them reach an agreement that will sort out their problems.
If either party refuse to participate in any informal mediation no adverse inference should be drawn against them. However, it is appropriate to indicate to them that by accepting the recommendation for informal mediation, they are demonstrating a willingness to seek an amicable solution, which will enable the working relationship between the relevant parties to be restored.
Where informal resolution or mediation is not successful or is not appropriate due to the seriousness of the complaint, the formal procedure should be followed.
The Trustees should immediately be informed of any complaint and will investigate claims of harassment. Appropriate advice and guidance will be offered.
The nature of personal harassment investigations means that it is not appropriate to impose prescriptive timescales. However, investigations should always be completed as quickly as possible. All parties should be advised of the likely timescales and of the progress of the investigation.
Investigating the Complaint
The Trustees will determine who conducts the investigation.
The alleged harasser(s) will be informed that a complaint has been made, that it will be investigated, and that they will be given the opportunity to hear and respond to the full allegations once the initial stages of the investigation are complete.
All individuals being interviewed will be required to attend a formal fact find meeting and should be made aware of their right to be accompanied.
When investigating a formal complaint, the logical order of interviews is normally:
- The complainant
- Witnesses named by the complainant
- The alleged harasser
- Witnesses named by the alleged harasser
- Re-interview the complainant if necessary (e.g. where allegations are denied/unsubstantiated)
This order should enable the investigator to present the alleged harasser with all the evidence against them and answer the questions fully. It also reduces the chances of the alleged harasser being able to influence witnesses if they are the last one to be interviewed.
Interviews must never be tape recorded and although there is no requirement to prepare a signed statement notes of the interview must be taken.
All parties should be reassured that what they say or submit will be treated as confidential and shared only on a strictly ‘need to know’ basis, but they also need to understand that there may be a need to produce it as evidence.
When all the interviews are concluded and the full investigation is complete, witnesses will be given a copy of the notes and the opportunity to confirm it is an accurate reflection of their interview.
In the case of employees it may be appropriate to suspend the alleged harasser with full pay during the investigation. The alleged harasser should be informed verbally and then in writing of their suspension. They should be advised that any attempt to influence others during the investigation is a serious matter and will be dealt with as such.
It may be necessary to adjust the working arrangements of the alleged harasser to avoid unnecessary or awkward confrontations during the investigations. These arrangements should be confirmed in writing.
It may be necessary to ask the alleged harasser to stay away from Church to avoid unnecessary or awkward confrontations during the investigations. These arrangements should be confirmed in writing.
Reaching a decision
The outcome of the investigation will be reported to the Trustees.
A decision will be made on the balance of probabilities, bearing in mind that the alleged behaviour may be often not witnessed by third parties. In cases where the evidence is limited or inconclusive this should not prevent the matter proceeding.
The key question is – from the facts available, could the alleged harassment have taken place? If the answer is yes the outcome should be discussed.
Any decision made will be based on love considering both the needs of individuals and the Church. God’s Will will be sought as a result of prayer and considered thought. Outcomes will be based on the determination of “What would Jesus do?”.
Genuine complaint – not upheld
If the complaint of harassment is not upheld, i.e. because the behaviour did not occur or because there is insufficient evidence to support the complaint but it is satisfied that the distress is genuine and/or that there has been a serious breakdown in relationships, it may still be possible to offer a transfer of job or role or mediation. In these circumstances, any transfer would be by agreement with the individual(s) concerned because it would be important to avoid any implication that the complaint had been upheld.
Inappropriate behaviour short of harassment
If it is decided that the alleged harasser has behaved inappropriately, but it was not harassment, then the Trustees will counsel them about their behaviour.
Genuine complaint – upheld
If the case is upheld the Trustees will determine what action will be taken based on the decision making process.
Whilst either party may wish to appeal against any decision, it should be noted that the decision has been made by the Trustees following prayer and deliberation on God’s will and the best interest of Trinity Church and its members.
An appeal can be made on grounds of:-
- perceived unfairness of the decision
- disputing the facts of the case including new evidence coming to light
The appeal should be made in writing to the Trustees.
The Trustees will meet to consider the grounds of the appeal and whether an appeal meeting is required.
If an appeal is declined the Church Secretary will provide a written reply to the matters raised within 7 days of this decision.
If an appeal meeting is required the date should be as soon as possible and agreed by all parties.
The right to accompaniment and other terms of the meetings are still applicable.
At the appeal meeting the Trustees will consider the points on which the appeal is based together with any supporting evidence provided by the individual and their representative.
The Church Secretary will provide a written reply to the matters raised within 7 days of the meeting. This decision will be the final stage in the Harassment Procedure.
This Policy and Procedure is authorised by Trinity Church Trustees.
Approval and Version Control Status: Draft By: Trinity Church Trustees Version Review Date: 23/04/2017