PCS harassment protocol

Our policy

PCS believes that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect and that any kind of behaviour that undermines these basic rights will not be tolerated.

We are committed to ensuring that all of our members, elected representatives, and staff are able to participate in union events and social activities in an atmosphere that is free from discrimination, bullying, harassment or intimidation.

We also believe that workers in hotels, restaurants, bars and other establishments where PCS events may take place have the same right to be treated with dignity and respect by PCS members, representatives and staff.


Standards of behaviour

We believe that all of us have a responsibility to enable everyone to participate in union activities and events and to enjoy them by treating others with dignity and respect and in particular by:

  • Avoiding personal remarks or behaviour that may cause offence or distress
  • Avoiding abusive or discriminatory language, or behaviour or harassing others on the grounds of age, sex, gender, race, colour, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief, or any other personal characteristic
  • Checking that the language we use is appropriate including the correct pronunciation of names
  • Encouraging others to participate, particularly new or less experienced people
  • Challenging inappropriate language or behaviour if you see it or hear it

What to do if you experience or witness harassment or inappropriate language or conduct

  • The chair, event organiser or course tutor has a particular responsibility to ensure that acceptable standards of behaviour are maintained and should intervene if s/he becomes aware of any instance of inappropriate language or conduct that may cause offence
  • At the beginning of all PCS events including courses and conferences, you should be told who to contact if you wish to report or complain about an incident of harassment, inappropriate language or conduct. This may be the event organiser, the course tutor or another named person.
  • We recommend that you should report or raise concerns about an incident of harassment as soon as possible so that immediate and appropriate action can be taken.
  • Our primary concern is your health and safety and wellbeing and our commitment is to deal with complaints of harassment as soon as they occur.

The role of the contact officer is to work with you, in confidence, to identify the options open to you and to help you to achieve an outcome that you are comfortable with.

This is not an exhaustive list, but some of the options available might include:

  • Speaking to the person or persons concerned yourself and asking them to stop the harassment
  • Asking the harassment contact officer or some other person to speak to the harasser on your behalf
  • Asking that everyone at the event should be reminded about the expected standards of behaviour without mentioning details of the specific incident if you wish
  • Making a complaint under your employer’s equal opportunities complaints procedure if the person concerned is in the same employment
  • Where a crime has been committed e.g. an assault, making a complaint to the police
  • Making a formal complaint against another PCS member under the union’s rule book (see below)

Breaches of this policy

Participants at union organised events should be aware that harassment on the grounds of gender, race, disability, age or sexual orientation is unlawful and that harassment on these or any other grounds may also be a breach of their employer’s equal opportunities policy under which disciplinary proceedings may be taken.

Complaints of harassment may also lead to disciplinary proceedings being taken under the PCS Rule Book (see below).

Formal complaints against PCS members

In law, PCS cannot subject a member to any detriment or impose any disciplinary penalty without following the disciplinary procedures laid down in the union’s rule book.

These are set out in rule 10 of the PCS rules.

Rule 10 states that:

10.1 - Where, on receipt of a complaint from a PCS branch or any individual member, the NEC considers there are grounds for considering whether a member has seriously prejudiced the union's interests, and is not a fit or proper person to remain a member and/or hold union office, it may start action under this Rule.

10.2 - Any complaint against a member under this rule shall be made in writing to the general secretary who shall, having considered if it relates to a matter seriously prejudicial to the union’s interests, refer it to the NEC. The NEC shall require such enquiries to be made, as it considers necessary to establish whether or not a disciplinary offence appears to have been committed. If it considers that there is such a case it may instruct the general secretary to convene a disciplinary committee meeting.

The procedures for the disciplinary committee can be found in the PCS rule book rules 10.3 to 10.8

If the disciplinary committee decides that a member has seriously prejudiced the union’s interests it should report to the NEC in writing giving the reasons.

The NEC may then impose one or more of the following disciplinary penalties:

  1. Censure the member in writing
  2. Disqualify the member from holding one or more offices for any period
  3. Suspend the member from membership for a period, with the loss of any benefits and rights
  4. Expel the member from the union

There is an appeal process against the decision and this is outlined in Rule 10.9 to 10.21 of PCS rules.

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