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Alexander & Co Solicitors LLP – Policy for the management of unreasonable behaviour towards staff

The majority of individuals who contact us communicate with us in a polite and courteous manner.  This policy is aimed at how we manage the small number of individuals whose behaviour, actions or general conduct we consider to be unreasonable making it very difficult for us to conduct their matter or deal with their enquiry.

We understand that times of stress can cause people to act out of character.  We do not view behaviour as being unacceptable simply because it is forceful or assertive.  However, conduct is considered to be unacceptable if it becomes aggressive or abusive behaviour, expresses unreasonable demands or calls for unreasonable levels of contact or is considered by the recipient to be harassment.

 

Aggressive or abusive behaviour

Aggression or abuse towards a member of our staff will not be tolerated.   This would include behaviour or language, whether verbal, written or via social media that makes a member of staff feel intimidated, threatened or abused. 

We also consider inflammatory statements, remarks of a racial or discriminatory nature and unsubstantiated allegations to be abusive behaviour.

We understand that dealing with a stressful or frustrating problem may cause an individual to feel angry but it is unacceptable if such anger manifests itself as aggression directed towards our staff.

 

Unreasonable demands

A demand is considered unreasonable if complying will result in excessive time and work and potentially impact on our standards of service.

Whether a demand is considered to be unreasonable will vary depending on the nature of the matter involved.  Some examples are:

  • Repeatedly requesting responses within an unreasonable timescale;
  • Contacting several staff members on the same topic;
  • Demanding on seeing or speaking to a particular member of staff when it is not possible or necessary;
  • Insisting that the matter is dealt with in ways that are unprofessional and incompatible with regulatory codes of conduct;
  • In the absence of new information and/or evidence, repeatedly posing a question when a response has already been given.
  • Refusal to reasonably communicate with a member of our team.

 

Unreasonable levels of contact

Sometimes the volume and duration of contact made to our office can cause problems.  This can happen over a short period of time or for the duration of a matter.  We consider the level of contact unreasonable if the amount of time responding to an individual hinders our ability to deal with the matter, affects our ability to conduct the matter within the time and costs budget estimated at the outset or impacts on other client matters.

 

Harassment

Harassment is unwanted conduct that is intimidating, hostile, degrading or creates an offensive environment or violates a person's dignity.

Harassment can take many forms – occurring in face-to-face settings, by telephone, or in written or electronic communications.  Some examples of behaviour that can amount to harassment are: -

  • Unwelcome physical contact including uninvited, unreciprocated and unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature, which is offensive to the person involved and causes that person to feel threatened, humiliated or embarrassed.
  • Unwanted verbal conduct - including lewd comments and offensive jokes, verbal abuse, offensive remarks about a person's personal characteristics.
  • Intrusive questioning.
  • Unwelcome written or visual communications.

 

Managing unacceptable actions

There are a number of steps that we may take due to unacceptable behaviour towards our staff.

Phone calls – if a member of staff experiences unacceptable behaviour over the telephone, they are entitled to place the caller on hold or terminate the call.  The caller will be informed how their behaviour is considered to be unacceptable and that the call will be ended if the behaviour persists.

In the event that a caller's behaviour is considered to be extreme or highly offensive our staff are permitted to end the call without warning.  In certain circumstances, we may report incidents to the police.

If there are multiple instances of unacceptable behaviour we may impose more permanent restrictions.

In the event that we deem the nature of a person's conduct poses an immediate threat to a member of staff's wellbeing (whether mental or physical) we will not hesitate in contacting the police.

 

Correspondence

In all circumstances of unacceptable communication, including letter, email and social media, we will contact the individual to explain why the behaviour is considered unacceptable and that the behaviour must change for contact to continue.  If the behaviour does not change, we will consider permanent restrictions.

 

Actions we may take

If we consider a person's action or behaviour to be unacceptable, we may:

  • Limit future contact to a particular form or advise how often we may be contacted;
  • Allow contact to a specified staff member only;
  • Require that contact is made through a representative;
  • Terminate our instructions and cease acting in a matter;
  • Take any other action we believe to be appropriate, including reporting matters to the police.

 

Communicating our decisions

When we end contact immediately, due to aggressive or abusive behaviour, the person will be told at the time of the incident.

If we have decided to impose restrictions or cease acting, we will always inform the person of the decision in writing and the reasons for the decision including their right to appeal.  Any appeals should be made to the Complaints Partner for the Practice within 10 working days of the date of the notification to restrict/terminate contact.  A written letter of appeal should clearly set out why the appellant feels the decision to be unreasonable. 

The appellant will be notified in writing of the outcome of the appeal within 10 working days of receipt of the letter of appeal. 

 

Recording unreasonable actions

All incidents of unreasonable actions are recorded.  When we decide to restrict contact, a note is made on the relevant file and in our centralised computer records.

 

Subsequent instructions

If we have restricted contact and contact is made in the future regarding new instructions we reserve the right to consider our original decision and the circumstances involved before making a decision as to acting on future instructions.

 

Equality & diversity

In some cases, individuals may have mental health issues and/or disabilities where it may be difficult for them to communicate clearly and appropriately.  If there is evidence of this we will consider the individual's needs and our staff before deciding on how best to manage the situation.  We will always consider making reasonable adjustments for the individual if we are asked to do so but we may still need to manage contact if necessary.