Two senior employees found guilty of bullying staff, have been cleared in a second investigation.
Two Ledbury town councillors, Liz Harvey and Andrew Harrison were found guilty of bullying town council staff following a town council investigation. However, they have since been cleared of allegations by Herefordshire Council.
Harvey and Harrison challenged the legality of the outcome from the town council investigation, saying that it was the duty of Herefordshire Council to investigate.
The town council, however, said that their investigation was correct under employment law and they took guidance from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and ACAS – according to the Ledbury Reporter.
Code of conduct rules instruct councillors not to "bully, harass or intimidate or attempt to intimidate any person," yet correspondence from the county's monitoring officer, sent to the two councillors, states: "There is no basis to support a finding that you have breached the code of conduct." Thus, Herefordshire Council cleared the two of being guilty of bullying.
In a town council statement, they said: "We are fully aware that the town council cannot deal with code of conduct complaints against its members.
“The town council does however have a duty in law to protect its staff and to consider grievance complaints under employment legislation. Code of conduct and employment law are two completely separate and distinct areas in law.”
Whilst this case dealing with Local Government Law is complex, the responsibility of workplace bullying is incumbent to HR.
According to ACAS guidelines, workplace policies should be in place to deal with any bullying or harassment, with the steps taken to prevent such behaviour clearly written. The guidelines read that: “complaints of bullying and harassment can usually be dealt with using clear grievance and disciplinary procedures.” They offer a number of ways to prevent cases from escalating to an employment tribunal, including informal discussions, counselling and mediation.