Bullying and Harassment Pages
Raising a Formal Complaint
If an employee in unhappy about the outcome of the informal stage of the process, they can then lodge of formal complaint. This should normally be in writing. However, in particular circumstances this may not be possible (e.g. if English is not a first language). Employees should seek help from a Trade Union representative or colleague if required.
A formal complaint should include:
- Who the accused employee is
- The behaviour that is causing distress and the impact that it is having on the complainant
- Dates, times and places where the alleged bullying or harassment took place
- Name(s) of any witness(es)
- Details of any action taken by the complainant or others in an attempt to cease the incidents of bullying or harassment
- The accused employee’s response to the informal approach where that was taken
Who does the complaint go to?
The complaint should be sent to the employee’s line manager. However, where the complaint is against the line manager, it should be sent to a more senior manager.
Managing a Formal Complaint
The manager who has received the formal complaint will need to respond to the complainant acknowledging receipt of the letter and explaining details of the next steps to them within 5 working days. There is a template letter for this:
The Service Manager / Chief Officer should be advised of the formal complaint and should appoint an investigating officer. This could be the person who received the complaint or someone else. The details of the formal complaint should not be disclosed to the Service Manager / Chief Officer as they will need to remain objective should the next stages of the procedure be followed.
At this stage, People and Organisation should be advised that an investigation is to be started so that this can be recorded accordingly.
You have been appointed as Investigating Officer, what does this mean?
Your role is to gather all of the relevant evidence, information and facts in order to substantiate or disprove a complaint of bullying and harassment. You must remain impartial, non-judgemental and objective throughout your investigation. At the end of the investigation, you need to write a report outlining your findings and must evidence why you recommend the case be progressed to a disciplinary hearing or not.
1. Meeting with the Complainant
Invite the Complainant to a meeting to discuss their complaint in detail. There is a template letter for this:
This meeting should be conducted in a safe environment where the employee feels comfortable discloses the details of their complaint. This meeting is attended by the Investigating Officer, the complainant, a minute-taker (if required), and the complainant’s representation.
You should prepare some questions in advance. Please find below a guide on questioning techniques:
2. Meeting with the Accused
Invite the Accused to a meeting to discuss the complaint and to understand their version of events or any mitigation that they can provide. There is a template letter for this:
You must also include a copy of the Managing Bullying and Harassment policy. It is important to remember that the Accused should be afforded the same safe environment to discuss. This meeting is attended by the Investigating Officer, the Accused, a minute-taker (if required), and the complainant’s representation.
Complainant / Accused FAQs
- What if an employee or their representative cannot attend the meeting?
The employee will have to let you know as soon as possible and then suggest a suitable alternative day and time within 5 days of your original meeting request.
Should the employee or their representative be on annual leave, then you should allow them to take this and arrange their meeting for when they have returned to work.
If they cannot suggest a reasonable alternative date or time, then the process can be continued without this.
- What if an employee is off sick?
This is not necessarily a barrier to prevent you from continuing with the bullying and harassment investigation. However, should you or the employee be concerned about their ability to fully participate in the investigation, you can make a referral to occupational health and ask them to determine if the employee is fit to attend the investigation meeting or not. You should also ask if any adjustments can be made so that the employee can participate in the process. Please note that the Maximising Attendance policy is still applicable but the employee’s line manager should take them through this.
The process cannot be held off indefinitely. You should make a decision about what is reasonable in terms of delay.
- What if the employee does not want to attend the investigation meeting?
We require that all employees participate in formal processes. However, in exceptional circumstances you can accept a written statement by the employee and hold the meeting without them present.
3. Meet with Witnesses
If there are witnesses, they should also be interviewed as part of the investigation. There is a template letter for inviting them to a meeting:
Please note that witnesses cannot be forced to take part in an investigation. However, some witnesses may just be reluctant to get involved or may fear repercussions. The Investigating Officer should reassure these employees and encourage their participation.
4. Gather any further evidence required
5. Write up an investigatory report
Once you are satisfied that you have all of the information you need to make a factual and objective determination as to whether or not you are upholding or not upholding the complaint(s), you will need to write a robust investigatory report. Please find the template for this below:
This report needs to have clear arguments that are backed up by evidence and factual information. Please note that you must not bring any subjectivity or your own personal opinions into the report or your decision-making. For further information, please see the guide below:
6. Write up an executive summary
You will also need to write an executive summary of your report. This will be important for the next steps you take when advising the Accused and the Complainant of the outcome of the investigation. The template for this can be found below:
This does not include copies of witness statements etc.
7. Communicating the Outcome
- Informing the parties
At the earliest opportunity, the investigating officer will meet separately with the complainant and accused to provide a verbal summary of the findings, advise whether the complaint is upheld or not and the reason for this decision and explain how the matter will be taken forward, taking care to maintain confidentiality.
There are 3 possible outcomes from a Bullying and Harassment investigation.
- Decision to take no action
If there is no evidence of a case to answer, then no action needs to be taken. An executive summary and letter is then issued to both the Complainant and the Accused.
- Decision to take informal action
If there is evidence that the bullying and harassment took place, but it was either minor or due to lack of understanding and awareness of the expected standards of behaviour, then informal action can be taken instead. This can include counselling, mentoring, training or referrals to occupational health etc. An executive summary and letter is then issued to both the Complainant and the Accused.
- Decision to progress the case to a disciplinary hearing
If there is evidence that the bullying and harassment took place, and informal action would not be sufficient, then the case can progress to a disciplinary hearing. An executive summary and letter is then issued to the Complainant and a letter is issued to the accused by the investigating officer. The chair of the hearing will write to the employee with details of the disciplinary hearing enclosing a copy of the investigation report and related documentation.
Template letters can be found below:
8. Next Steps
Once everything has been finalised, you will need to send a copy of your report and summary to your Service Manager / Chief Officer. If you have recommended that the case progress to a disciplinary hearing, you will be required to present your findings at the hearing. More details about this can be found on the Managing Discipline pages.
If you have decided that there is not a case to answer or that informal action should be taken, the Complainant has the right to appeal this decision. If this is the case, you will be required to attend the Appeal Hearing.
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