Party culture

Investigating complaints and disciplinary procedures

There is a temptation to always deal with incidents of bullying and harassment within the party and not involve the police. However, whilst bullying itself isn’t illegal, harassment because of a person’s race, religion, impairment, gender identity or sexual orientation is classed as a hate crime. If someone has been a victim of a hate crime, you should help and encourage them to report this to the police.

However, party members who have been a victim of bullying or harassment may also want to report or make a formal complaint about it to party officials or they might decide they don’t want the police involved. It should be up to the individual to decide whether they want to report incidents, but making it clear that individuals will be supported through the process will increase the number who do. Your party will probably have a complaints procedure in place already and it would be helpful to familiarise yourself with in. You should make sure that up to date information about your complaints process is available to all members.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) also has excellent guidance about how to carry out a fair investigation of complaints and what your legal obligations are if a staff member complains about harassment. It is good practice for investigations to be carried out by someone who is independent of the incident and people involved. To achieve this, you could think about using someone from another section of the party to help you investigate and run the disciplinary process.

Guidance from ACAS about complains and disciplinary processes can be found here.

To understand whether bullying or harassment is a problem in your party, it is a good idea to record the number of reports and complaints each year and have this information widely available. You can also use the information to investigate whether you need to make further changes to your complaints procedures. For example, if a very low number of people who report an incident of bullying then go on to make a formal complaint, it could be because your procedure is complex or people don’t have enough confidence that the outcome of the process will solve their complaint. In this instance you might want to consider simplifying the process.

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