The Fellowship of Animal Behaviour Clinicians
Bullying and Harassment Policies and Procedures – Jan 2020
(Based on ACAS guidelines)
Bullying or harassment definitions and examples
Bullying and harassment are terms used interchangeably, and often refer to something which has happened to an individual which is unwelcome, unwarranted and causes a detrimental effect. This may occur, for example, via face-to-face contact, written communications, visual images, email or telephone. There are many definitions of these terms, but often they are characterised by offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, or by an abuse or misuse of power that undermines, humiliates, denigrates or injures the recipient.
Most people will agree on extreme cases of bullying and harassment, but there can be less clear areas. For example, behaviour that is considered bullying or harassment by one person may be considered firm management by another. Bullying or harassing actions can range from unintentional misunderstandings and lack of awareness through to deliberate and malicious acts. Recipients of bullying or harassment may struggle to decipher the extent and intentions of behaviour directed towards them, and they may appear to over-react to a seemingly trivial situation which is ultimately the ‘last straw’ following a series of incidents. There may be fear of retribution, which also extends to witnesses.
The ‘Equality Act 2010’ defines harassment as unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual. This may relate to age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. The ‘Equality Act 2010’ is criminal legislation. Either the recipient of harassment can pursue a case under this legislation, or those who are witness to this or associated with the recipient and are therefore affected, may also pursue a case. In contrast, the ‘Protection from Harassment Act 1997’ has criminal and civil remedies.
The impact of bullying or harassment on individuals
Bullying and harassment may have the effect of making the recipient or those associated with the recipient feel anxious, stressed, frustrated, humiliated and de-motivated. This may have self-confidence, self-esteem and social consequences, and may lead to mental or physical health issues, absence from work, loss of income and reputational outcomes.
The impact of bullying or harassment on the organisation
Bullying or harassment is not only unacceptable on moral grounds, but if unchecked or poorly handled, this may have consequences for the organisation. These may include poor morale and colleague/peer relations, loss of respect for peers, supervisors or managers, poor performance or productivity, absence or resignations, damage to organisational or industry reputation and court cases and financial outcomes. It is therefore in every organisation’s interests to promote a safe, healthy and fair actual or remote environment in which people can conduct their work.
The rights of the individual
Those feeling they are being bullied or harassed, or other individuals affected by this, may formally notify their organisation and/or they may take legal criminal or civil action. If an individual is considering taking legal criminal or civil action, FABC recommend that they seek advice from a suitable advisor – for example, a Solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
FABC position statement regarding bullying and harassment
In defining a bullying and harassment policy, the Fellowship of Animal Behaviour Clinicians (referred to as FABC within this policy) has sought guidance from resources made available by the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). This guidance has formed the framework upon which our bullying and harassment policy is developed.
FABC are committed to ensuring a safe and supportive environment for its members, and to fairly, objectively and sensitively investigating any complaints of bullying or harassment made by its members or those witness to or affected by bullying or harassment. FABC recognises that deliberate acts of bullying and harassment are unlawful, and will also not be tolerated on ethical and duty-of-care grounds. Bullying and harassment may be treated by FABC as a disciplinary offence in accordance with its stated complaints procedure. FABC will provide support to those reporting bullying or harassment, where possible. This may involve testimonies being heard in private and separately at conduct meetings, and directing individuals to appropriate human counselling organisations.
The organisational framework of FABC means that bullying or harassment between members is most likely to occur via (although is not limited to) the FABC forum, remote or virtual online communications, external media communications, in-person communications at industry conferences or other meetings, or between or in relation to individual members working in close proximity. The FABC bullying and harassment policy applies to all forms of communication.
FABC definition of bullying and harassment
FABC define bullying and harassment as behaviour or an activity, conducted by one or more persons, and on one or more occasions, which causes distress or mental or physical injury to the recipient, whether this is intentional or unintentional. This may take the form of malicious or demeaning communications, exclusion or victimisation, unfair treatment, constant criticism, misuse of power, unwelcome sexual advances and unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic. However, this list is not exhaustive and FABC will investigate all bullying or harassment complaints regardless of whether the complaint accords with FABC or widely-used definitions of bullying or harassment.
Code of conduct regarding FABC members communications
- Discussions and communications between FABC members are encouraged, in line with FABC’s supportive and information-sharing ethos. FABC members may engage in discussions with each other and provide fair, constructive and justifiable feedback, but members rights to fair and ethical treatment should always be maintained.
- Polite disagreement with viewpoints between FABC members, and related debate, is acceptable providing this is justifiable and all members receive fair and ethical treatment. Disagreements and debates should be conducted without personal criticism or innuendo and with consideration for the wellbeing and self-esteem of the individual being disagreed with. Criticism about spelling, grammar or punctuation is not acceptable on the FABC forum.
- Discussions and communications between FABC members should always consider confidentiality. Private, individual communications should not be discussed outside of this private remit without explicit consent, and FABC forum discussion content should not be shared outside of the FABC forum without explicit consent of those involved.
- FABC members should consider the fair and ethical treatment of other FABC members if discussing any aspect of them outside of FABC platforms (i.e. if discussing or recommending their services to members of the public). This includes related to reputation. Confidentiality, as appropriate, should similarly be considered if FABC members discuss other FABC members outside of FABC platforms.
- FABC members must refrain from making unwanted sexual comments or advances to other FABC members.
- FABC members must refrain from discriminating against or making comments about other FABC members that demean them related to age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, race, religion or beliefs (including political), pregnancy or maternity status, and marriage or civil partnership status.
Bullying or harassment complaints procedure
Note; the following complaints procedure timescales may be extended by the Complaints Manager(s) under extenuating circumstances.
- Bullying or harassment complaint details should be directed to the FABC Secretary or Complaints Manager. This should be marked as private and confidential. The FABC committee will then consider the complaint details. If the complaint relates to one or more members of the FABC committee, those member(s) may be excluded from the complaint handling. Other FABC committee members may then consider the complaint, or external appropriate individuals will be instructed to arbitrate. The precise complaint details will be ascertained, documented by the complaint handler(s) and submitted to the complainant for agreement within 14 days of full complaint details being received by the FABC Secretary or Complaints Manager. The complainant will be asked to confirm agreement of the documented complaint within 7 days. Disclosure of the nature of any complaint against a FABC member to another FABC member, or outside of FABC, shall constitute a breach of confidence and may be subject to separate disciplinary action.
- If the complainant refers to independent parties who may be able to support the complaint, the FABC complaint handler(s) will clarify the validity of these.
- The FABC complaint handler(s) will contact those independent parties in writing, where appropriate, to clarify their supporting evidence. Independent parties will be contacted within 7 days of stage 1 of the complaints procedure being completed, and the independent parties will be asked to respond within 14 days. The complaints handler(s) will also review any other relevant supporting evidence that is available to them, such as FABC forum communications.
- The FABC complaint handler(s) will then contact the member that is the subject of the complaint in writing, within 7 days, to explain the complaint details: to include the name of the complainant, those who have provided supporting evidence and any other potential evidence. Relevant documentation will be forwarded to the subject of the complaint. The subject of the complaint will not be asked to provide a response until in receipt of this information. When in receipt of this information, the subject of the complaint will be asked to respond in writing to the allegations within 14 days.
- Once it has received a response, the complaint handler(s) will consider all the evidence to hand within 14 days of stage 4 of the complaints procedure being completed. They may recommend one or more of the following:
- That further investigation is not required because there is no evidence of misconduct or cause for disciplinary action;
- That the member reporting feeling bullied or harassed is provided with support, where possible. This may involve directing them to appropriate human counselling organisations.
- Any offensive material, for example posts on the FABC forum, may be removed. The author of this material will be notified of this and associated reasons;
- That the complaint handler(s) undertake further enquiries into the allegations;
- That negotiation or non-judgemental mediation between the complainant and complainee should be attempted. This scenario may apply, for example, if issues are based on misunderstandings or lack of awareness;
- That the complaint handler(s) should write to the subject of the complaint to advise them that they have concerns about their conduct. The letter should set out their concerns and will remain as a permanent record on the FABC’s members membership record. The complaint handler(s) may request greater understanding from the subject of the complaint regarding their future conduct, and an agreement that behaviour causing offence cease. This scenario may apply, for example, if the complaint subject was not aware that their behaviour was unwelcome.
- That a full hearing of the allegations of misconduct should take place.
- If a full conduct hearing is required, the complainant and complainee will be asked to attend a chaired FABC meeting. Testimonies will be heard privately and the complainant and complainee will provide evidence separately. They may present their own case and are entitled to be accompanied by one other person, or they may be represented by a person of their choice. Where possible, this meeting will occur at a location and on a date and time which best considers all parties. Attendees will be given at least 28 days notice. Conduct hearings will be heard no later than 8 weeks after stage 5 of the complaints process is completed. If the complainant or complainee declines to attend this meeting, the meeting may proceed in their absence. Where appropriate, the complaint handler(s) have the power to organise a conduct sub-committee to assess the complaint either in-person or remotely, comprising FABC committee members or members such as representatives from ASAB-Acc, ABTC, the British Psychological Society or RCVS.
- Following a conduct hearing, the complaint handler(s) or invoked sub-committee will decide whether the subject of the complaint is guilty of bullying or harassment. They will be guided by the FABC Bullying and Harassment Code of Conduct, but the mention or lack of mention in the code of conduct of a particular act or omission shall not be taken as conclusive on any question of conduct. The complaints handlers will write to the complainant and complainee to explain the outcome of the conduct hearing within 14 days of the hearing taking place. In the event that the complaint subject is found guilty of bullying or harassment, one or more of the following courses of action may be taken:
- The FABC member may be reprimanded or severely reprimanded, and details of their conduct held on their membership record;
- They may be required to give written undertakings as deemed appropriate, for a period not exceeding three years. The undertakings, which may include refraining from continuing or repeating the offence, may be reviewed no sooner than one year after they commence, by referral to a further in-person or remote sub-committee hearing;
- Any offensive material, for example posts on the FABC forum, may be removed. The author of this material will be notified of this and associated reasons;
- The member’s access to the FABC forum may be suspended for a stated period;
- The member may be suspended from the FABC membership list, the period of suspension to be determined but not to exceed three years. Unusued membership fees will not be refunded;
- The member may be permanently expelled from all types of FABC’s membership categories. Unused membership fees will not be refunded;
- The member may have conditions placed on their membership as deemed appropriate. These conditions may be appealed, removed or varied by way of a committee hearing;
- Any breach of conditions will be referred to a further hearing, where the complaint handler(s) or sub-committee may remove, amend or replace the conditions with any penalty available.
- Following a conduct hearing, if the complaint subject is found not guilty of bullying or harassment, one or more of the following courses of action may be taken:
- That there is no evidence of misconduct or cause for disciplinary action;
- That the member reporting feeling bullied or harassed, or the member accused of this, is provided with support, where possible. This may involve directing them to appropriate human counselling organisations.
- That negotiation or non-judgemental mediation between the complainant and complainee should be attempted. This scenario may apply, for example, if issues are based on misunderstandings or lack of awareness.
- The complainant and the subject of the complaint have a right to appeal against any decision of the conduct committee, as per FABC’s full published Code of Conduct procedures.
- If a FABC member is found guilty of bullying or harassing another FABC member in a legal criminal or civil court, they will be considered to be bringing FABC into disrepute and may be expelled from FABC. If this applies, they will not be refunded unused membership fees.