Unacceptable and Unreasonable Behaviour Policy
Our staff are expected to treat individuals with courtesy, respect, and fairness. Similarly, we expect our staff to be treated in the same way.
We have a duty to protect the welfare and safety of staff and have a zero-tolerance policy where abusive behaviour is concerned. Where individuals behave unacceptably or unreasonably, we will refer to this policy.
We understand that people may act out of character in times of distress or due to frustration. However, if that frustration develops into aggression or abuse towards our staff, we will not accept that.
Our staff have the right to undertake their work free from aggression or abuse and we expect them to be treated with courtesy and respect. Aggressive or abusive behaviour may include:
- behaviour or language (verbal or written) that may cause staff to feel offended, upset, afraid, threatened or abused
- insulting or degrading language
- personal grudges toward certain staff members
- making serious allegations against staff without any evidence
- threats of physical harm or actual physical harm
We may also decide that comments aimed not at us but at third parties are unacceptable because of the effect that listening to or reading them may have on our staff.
Examples of unacceptable behaviour:
- verbal abuse, shouting, obscene / derogatory remarks, and rudeness
- commenting on a person’s ability to do their job
- racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, disablist comments, or other harassment based on personal characteristics, whether direct or indirect
- repeatedly demanding disciplinary action be taken against staff
- recording meetings or telephone conversations without consent
How we manage unacceptable and unreasonable behaviour
If we feel behaviour is unacceptable or unreasonable, we may take any of the following actions:
- restrict or end contact on the matter
- restrict contact on all matters
- ask that all future contact is made through a third-party advocate
- end contact entirely for a period of time
- report incidents to the police or other relevant authorities (for example, if verbal abuse has taken place or if violence has been threatened)
- Reporting incidents to companies whose products have been used as a means of communication ie email provider.
- take any other action that we consider appropriate (in extreme cases, this may include blocking calls/emails and returning correspondence)
In making our decision, we may consider:
- how the behaviour has affected our staff
- how it has affected the individual (including their personal circumstances and any reasonable adjustments)
- the extent to which we are able to engage or assist
- the extent to which the transaction or subject matter has been exhausted
This process may be reconsidered by us if the individual commits to behaving with courtesy, respect, and fairness and:
- some time has passed
- an apology is made where unacceptable behaviour towards an individual member of staff has occurred
- there is a more suitable alternative available
- we receive evidence that there were exceptional reasons for the behaviour.
Policy and procedure for persistent and vexatious complainants
- Persistent and vexatious complaint policy
- Persistent and vexatious complaint procedure
A very small minority of customers make or pursue complaints in a persistent or vexatious way which can either slow down the investigation of their complaint or can have significant resource issues for us. This policy is to ensure unreasonable and unreasonably persistent complainants are dealt with fairly. It sets out clearly for staff and complainants what is expected of them, what they can do, and who can authorise actions. It will help us assess and monitor how we deal with and respond to unreasonable and unreasonably persistent complainants.
In considering when to use this policy it is critical that we firstly consider and ensure we understand a customer’s circumstance, how and why they feel as they do and what it is that would resolve the matter for them. We must be sure that we have given them the right opportunity to express their views and opinions and that we have listened and given appropriate thought and effort to resolving and explaining the position and our actions.
If a customer’s behaviour adversely affects our ability to do our work and provide services to others, such behaviour may need to be addressed by restricting contact with the company.
The final decision to restrict a customer’s access to the Company and staff can only be taken by the Manager or Head of Department in consultation with Directors of the company. Before deciding whether the policy should be applied Directors should be satisfied that:
- • the complaint is being or has been investigated properly;
- • any decision reached has been reviewed and is found to be appropriate;
- • communications with the complainant have been adequate; and
- • the complainant is not now providing any significant new information that might affect our view on the complaint.
Persistent and vexatious complaint policy
A vexatious complainant is someone who contentiously raises a complaint, without grounds, in order to cause annoyance or disruption.
A persistent complainant is someone who contacts the Company and raises the same complaint or similar complaints many times. Many times is defined as more than three separate occasions. This could be regardless of whether the complaint has been dealt with.
Examples of persistent and vexatious behaviour are as follows:
- Persistently approaching the Company through different routes about the same issue;
- Persistently seeking an outcome which we have already explained is unrealistic for policy, legal or other valid reasons;
- Complaining about or challenging an issue based on a historic and/or irreversible decision or incident;
- Making an unreasonable number of contacts with the Company, by any means, in relation to a specific complaint or complaints;
- Making persistent and unreasonable demands or expectations of staff and/or the complaint process after the unreasonableness has been explained to the complainant (an example of this could be a complainant who insists on immediate responses to numerous, frequent and/or complex letters, telephone calls or emails);
- Refusing to specify the grounds of a complaint despite offers of assistance;
- Refusing to co-operate with the complaints investigation process while still wishing their complaint to be resolved;
- Refusing to accept that issues are not within the remit of the corporate complaints policy and procedure; (eg issues which are not within the scope of the services we provide);
- Refusing to accept that issues are not within the power of the Company to investigate, change or influence (examples could be a complaint about a third party, or something that is the responsibility of another organisation);
- Insisting on the complaint being dealt with in ways which are incompatible with the corporate complaints policy and procedure or with good practice (e.g. insisting that there must not be any written record of the complaint);
- Refusing to accept the outcome of the complaint process after its conclusion, repeatedly arguing the point, complaining about the outcome and /or denying that an adequate response has been given;
- Making the same complaint repeatedly, perhaps with minor differences, after the complaints procedure has been concluded and insisting that the minor differences makes these ‘new’ complaints which should be put through the full corporate complaints procedure; and
- Combinations of some or all of the above features.
Some individuals that staff may consider to be vexatious or persistent complainants may be behaving as such because of a specific circumstance or difficulty such as mental health problem. Where this is indicated any concerns that staff may have about a customer’s vulnerability must be raised immediately with the Head of Department. If the complainant has special needs, an advocate might be helpful to both parties.
Based on the circumstances and behaviour of the customer and their complaint, restrictive actions will be tailored accordingly.
Actions that could be taken to restrict access and contact:
- Requesting contact in a particular form only (e.g. letters only);
- Placing restrictions on telephone calls to specific times and days of the week;
- Requesting that the customer enters into a contact agreement for their future contact with the Company;
- Placing restrictions on the amount of time staff will spend investigating their complaints;
- Where relationships have broken down, requesting that the customer uses an appropriate advocate to act and contact the Company on their behalf;
- Banning the complainant from sending emails to some or all staff and insisting they only correspond by letter or a designated email contact;
- Banning the complainant from visiting the Company premises except by appointment;
- Requiring contact to take place with one named member of staff only;
- Restricting telephone calls to specified days/times/duration (this may also include installing call recording software to record conversations, with the customer being made aware of this);
- Requiring any face to face contact to take place in the presence of an appropriate witness; and
- Letting the complainant know that the Company will not reply to or acknowledge any further contact from them on the specific topic of that complaint.
- In some circumstances, the Company may decide that it is appropriate to severely reduce or completely stop responding to a particular customer.
The decision to restrict or stop a customer’s access to the Company and staff can only be taken by Directors.
The Manager or Head of Department for the service area affected will contact the Directors to discuss why the complainant’s behaviour is causing a concern, giving evidence to support this and outlining how the behaviour needs to change.
The Directors will send a letter or email to the customer. The letter or email will clearly explain to the customer the actions that the Company may take if their behaviour does not change.
If the behaviour continues, the Directors, will make a decision as to the action to take. A letter or email will then be sent to a customer outlining this decision. The letters will include:
- Why we have taken the decision we have;
- What specific action we are taking;
- The duration of that action;
The right of the customer to contact The Property Ombudsman (TPO) as a part of the complaints process about the fact that they have been treated as a vexatious/persistent complainant.
The decision made and letters sent will be logged accordingly.
All customers have the right of appeal. All appeals will be heard by the Managing Director.
The Company will keep a record of all customers who have had this policy applied to them.
Harassment and bullying
Persistent and vexatious complainant behaviour may amount to bullying or harassment. All staff have the right to be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace. Behaviour by third parties that bullies, harasses or intimidates employees of the business is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The Company will take all reasonable steps to prevent such behaviour.