The Sefton Park Palm House Preservation Trust was formed in 1996 to restore and develop a Grade II listed Victorian palm house in Sefton Park near Liverpool. The Trust raises income through commercial hires of the building, to ensure a sustainable future and support the development of an events programme for visitors. Director Elizabeth-Anne Williams describes how a review led to the introduction of a new policy to prevent workplace bullying.
What I did
Recognise the need for a formal policy
"We recently reviewed all our policies, to make sure we were legally up to speed and to reflect the growth of the business. We also wanted to build on our culture of openness and good communication.
"One area that hadn't been properly addressed was bullying and harassment. The management team decided to develop a formal bullying and harassment policy, not because we had a problem in that area, but because we wanted staff to know where they stood."
Write a policy
"We gathered information from sources like the Acas website and also used a model policy supplied by Tourism HR to get us started. The document sets the scope of the policy upfront and explains why it's important. For example it aims to give employees a clear sense of what behaviours are acceptable and what are not, to support and protect them in the workplace and to encourage teamwork.
"The policy also includes sections on the principles behind the policy, legal responsibilities and the procedures to be followed in the event of an allegation. For example, it's important to show how it dovetails with related policies such as disciplinary and grievance procedures.
"We included examples of what constitutes bullying and harassment. We especially wanted to highlight the less obvious forms, such as circulating offensive jokes or consistently setting unachievable deadlines. We also developed a simple flow-chart to show the lines of reporting and procedures at-a-glance."
Communicate with staff
"For staff to have faith in a bullying and harassment policy you have to involve them and make it more than just a document. We consulted staff about the new policy via team meetings and individual discussions to make sure they understood the principles and procedures involved.
"We've made the policy very much a part of our company culture and we look for ways to reinforce the message during day-to-day activities. Having the policy in place has already proved useful. Not only does it support our goal to create an open and team-spirited environment, we've actually referred to it formally to help resolve a minor incident."
What I'd do differently
Introduce a policy sooner
"We believe our bullying and harassment policy is thorough and comprehensive and sets clear guidelines for acceptable behaviour. In an ideal world, we would have put it in place from day one."