This policy document is the general Code of Conduct for all members of An Taisce. In addition, Directors will be bound by the Code of Conduct in the Handbook for Directors.

  1. Statement of Principles

 1.1 An Taisce is committed to maintaining and promoting a harmonious environment whereby members treat each other with dignity and respect. An Taisce recognises the importance of this in terms of achieving the objectives of the organisation, but also for improving performance, raising morale, reducing stress and making the organisation a welcoming and attractive organisation.

1.2 An Taisce recognises its duty to ensure that members are not harassed or bullied on the basis of their ethnicity , gender, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, disability, age, religious belief, membership of the Traveller community, or for any other reason.

1.3 An Taisce undertakes to ensure that procedures are in place to enable allegations of harassment and bullying to be investigated and considered in a fair, timely, confidential and sensitive manner. At all times it will have regard to the need for such allegations to be dealt with in a way that ensures an impartial investigation and hearing for all parties.

1.4 An Taisce is committed to ensuring that complaints brought under these procedures will not lead to the victimisation of any individual or individuals.

1.5 An Taisce recognises that any member who feels that they have been treated with a lack of respect, harassed or bullied within the meaning of this Policy are entitled to pursue their case in a safe and non-threatening environment.

1.6 An Taisce will ensure that members will be made aware of this Policy and of their obligation to respect the dignity and diversity of their colleagues and, in particular, not to engage in behaviour that may be interpreted as harassment, bullying or showing lack of respect.

1.7 An individual acting under any stage of this Policy who knowingly makes a statement that is untrue, malicious, frivolous or in bad faith may be subject to the relevant Disciplinary Procedure.

1.8 At all stages of these procedures the complainant, the person against whom the complaint has been made and any witnesses have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or other representative.

 

  1. Policy Objectives

2.1 To promote and disseminate that An Taisce is committed to developing a culture whereby individuals are able to raise concerns about harassment and bullying, confident that their issues will be dealt with appropriately, consistently and fairly.

2.2. To assist in developing a safe working and learning environment in which harassment and bullying are known to be unacceptable and not tolerated.

2.3 To foster a collegial environment where individuals treat one another with dignity and respect.

2.4 To eliminate all forms of offensive and inappropriate conduct, raise awareness of the effects of such conduct on individuals and their environment, and provide a culture where individuals feel able to raise complaints of harassment and bullying without fear of ridicule or victimisation.

2.5 To prevent acts of discrimination, exclusion, unfair treatment, bullying and demeaning behaviours.

2.6 To have adequate and accessible mechanisms in place for handling harassment and bullying effectively.

2.7 To ensure that members are aware of behaviour that may constitute harassment and bullying and their responsibilities for avoiding and/or preventing such behaviour.

2.8 To ensure that members understand that harassment and bullying are unacceptable, and that such behaviour will be challenged.

2.9 To provide arrangements to enable complaints of alleged harassment and bullying to be fully investigated in a manner that recognises the sensitivity of the issues raised and the rights of all parties involved.

2.10 To ensure that all complaints and allegations are dealt with fairly and equitably with appropriate and strict confidentiality to all parties concerned and, wherever possible, to encourage the internal and informal resolution of complaints.

2.11 To raise awareness of dignity and respect by educating members in the development of positive relationships.

2.12 To ensure that effective monitoring and evaluation systems are in place.

 

  1. Responsibilities of members

Members must adhere to and support the Vision and Mission documents of An Taisce.

Members must also adhere to the Conflicts of Interest policy of the organisation.

In meetings of An Taisce or when representing An Taisce at other meetings or via any form of communications, or in any dealings with the staff of An Taisce, members must:

3.1 Respect the rights, dignity and worth of everyone, regardless of gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race or membership of the Traveller community and encourage inclusivity within An Taisce.

3.2 Adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding bullying, harassing or sexually harassing within An Taisce. Members must act quickly and appropriately if any form of bullying is identified and notify the Chair and Complaints Officer of An Taisce.

3.3 Avoid foul language and behaviour that could be misinterpreted by others. Never make racist, sexist, sectarian or defamatory remarks or signs.

3.4 Must act with due regard for the safety of others.

3.5 Must not commit an unlawful act.

3.6 Must not bring An Taisce or its associated structures into disrepute.

3.7 Must not act with dishonesty or with intent to defraud or deceive.

 

  1. Definitions of inappropriate or unacceptable behaviour

4.1 Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

4.2 Harassment, in general terms, may be defined as unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or an isolated incident. The key is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable by the recipient.

4.3 Unacceptable behaviour (including bullying, harassment and victimisation) may involve actions, words or physical gestures that could reasonably be perceived to be the cause of another person’s distress or discomfort. Bullying or harassment may be by an individual against an individual or involve groups of people.

An Taisce defines behaviour as being unacceptable if:

  • It is unwanted by the recipient.
  • It has the purpose or effect of violating the recipient’s dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, and
  • Having regard to all the circumstances, including the recipient’s perception, it was reasonable for the behaviour to have that effect.

Unacceptable behaviour does not have to be face-to-face, and may take many forms such as written, telephone or e-mail communications or through social media. 

Some examples of unacceptable behaviour are:

  • Aggressive or abusive behaviour, such as shouting or personal insults
  • Spreading malicious rumours or gossip, or insulting someone
  • Discrimination or harassment when related to a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010
  • Unwanted physical contact
  • Stalking
  • Offensive comments/jokes or body language
  • Publishing, circulating or displaying pornographic, racist, sexually suggestive or otherwise offensive material or pictures
  • Isolation, deliberate exclusion and/or non-co-operation at work
  • Persistent and unreasonable criticism
  • Unreasonable demands and impossible asks
  • Coercion, such as pressure to subscribe to a particular political or religious belief

For the avoidance of doubt and for the purposes of this policy, invoking An Taisce procedures where such procedures are applied reasonably and appropriately will not constitute unacceptable behaviour. 

It is important to note that behaviour that is considered bullying by one person may be considered acceptable by another. For instance, legitimate, constructive and fair feedback on a member’s performance or behaviour in activities undertaken on behalf of the organisation is not bullying. 

Isolated incidents of unreasonable behaviour such as abruptness, sharpness or rudeness whilst unacceptable, will generally not be considered to amount to bullying.  However, individuals may want to let the other person know how their behaviour has made them feel in order to avoid a repeat of such behaviour.  If the behaviour does continue over a period of time this may be considered to be bullying/harassment.

  1. Responsibilities of the Board

5.1 The ultimate responsibility for the implementation of this policy and associated procedures rests with the Board of Directors of An Taisce.

5.2 The Board has ultimate responsibility to promote a culture of mutual respect, professionalism and tolerance and to ensure the principles and objectives detailed above in Section 1 & 2 are honoured and upheld. However, this does not detract from the personal obligations of members to respect and promote dignity in their activities related to the organisation as detailed above.

6. Disciplinary Rules and Procedures

This part of the Code sets out the procedures to be followed in the case of a complaint regarding the actions of an individual member of An Taisce.

Disciplinary issues can arise when problems of conduct by members are raised and An Taisce seeks to address them through the agreed procedures below.

 6.1 Complaints Officer

The An Taisce Board shall appoint a Complaints Officer and Deputy to supervise procedures under this Code. Both of these will be empowered to exercise any and all of the duties outlined herein. The Complaints Officer shall annually report to the An Taisce Board on the operation of this Code or from time to time as required.

 6.2 Disciplinary Panels

The An Taisce Board shall also appoint a pool of people from which to form panels for Disciplinary Hearings and Disciplinary Appeals. Each panel shall be made up of three people selected by the Complaints Officer from the approved pool. The selection shall be made in a manner that avoids conflicts of interest and ensures the integrity of the process to be followed.

 6.3 Complaints

Complaints and grievances should be addressed to the Complaints Officer ([email protected]). Complaints should preferably be in writing, using the online form. The person making the complaint is known as ‘Complainant’ and the person complained about is known as the ‘Respondent’. The complaint will be formally acknowledged by the Complaints Officer or the Chair within one week of receipt. The Board reserves the right to follow the complaints procedure process if suspected non adherence to the code of conduct is brought to the attention of the Board.

6.4 The Complaints Officer shall first determine whether this Code is appropriate for the issue(s) being raised, and then, if the Code is applicable, decide whether to initiate an informal or formal procedure as laid out below.

6.5 Informal Procedures

Mindful of the need to avoid escalating disputes when seeking to resolve cases of an alleged breach of this Code, An Taisce is committed to achieving a fair and workable solution at the lowest level possible, preferably informally. The Complaints Officer will endeavour to resolve any complaint informally in the first instance by direct communication with the parties concerned. If possible, all parties to any dispute have an obligation to seek resolution at the lowest level possible that is compatible with the principles outlined in this Code, unless the nature of the complaint requires formal action following an investigation.

Some breaches of the code are best dealt with informally. It may be necessary to issue an informal warning, but the Complaints Officer will ensure that the relevant matters are discussed with the objective of helping to make appropriate changes in behaviour.

It will sometimes be necessary to suspend the membership of individuals involved in complaints during the period of investigation. These steps may be taken to protect the interests of one or both parties and do not constitute disciplinary action.

In the event that the person whose behaviour is alleged to be unacceptable should make a counter complaint this will be treated as part of the same investigation and and addressed through the relevant procedure.

Disciplinary action may be taken against any individuals who are found to have brought complaints knowingly based on false information or with malicious intent.

Respondents will be informed as soon as possible and within one month of what action will be taken if they fail to improve their conduct. Informal warnings are not part of the formal disciplinary procedure and Respondents will be made aware of this.

The Respondent will be made fully aware of what steps need to be taken to address the issue. They will also be told how and when this will be reviewed and over what period.

At the informal level the following outcomes are possible:

No further action,

Confirmation of there being ‘no case to answer’ by the Respondent or

Informal resolution, e.g. conciliation,

Commencement of formal procedures

6.6 Formal Procedures

6.6.1 If the above informal procedures fail to bring about a satisfactory outcome, or if the initial complaint raises issues that are considered by the Complaints Officer to warrant being subject to a formal procedure, then the following process applies.

6.6.2 The Complaints Officer or Deputy will initiate formal investigation procedures. The investigation will centre on establishing the facts and where appropriate obtaining statements from any available witnesses. The Complaints Officer will decide whether to arrange for the matter to be dealt with further under the disciplinary procedure.

6.6.3 At the start of the investigation, the Complainant and Respondent will receive a letter of formal notification detailing the complaint being investigated and the name and contact details of the person dealing with the investigation.

6.6.4 Respondents are encouraged to submit a written statement in response to the complaint. The deadline for doing so is one week after the date of formal notification of the investigation. The statement should attach copies of any other documents on which the Respondent wishes to rely.

6.6.5 Should the Respondent not respond to communications or refuse to engage with the investigation process, this will be noted and the Respondent will be deemed to have nothing to add to the investigation, and the investigation will continue.

6.6.6 The Complaints Officer will consider statements and any other documents received from the Complainant and Respondent as soon as practicable. An Taisce aims to confirm the outcome of its investigation to the Complainant and the Respondent within one calendar month from the date of the formal notification of the investigation, subject to having been able to contact all relevant parties within this time. If it is not practicable to comply with this timeframe, for example due to relevant parties being unavailable, the complainant will be informed of the anticipated timeframe within which An Taisce hopes to resolve the complaint.

6.6.7 It should be recognised that being the subject of a complaint can be a difficult time for an individual and so An Taisce will undertake the investigation with appropriate discretion, care and consideration. An Taisce will endeavour to ensure all steps in the process remain fair and in line with all company codes and procedures.

6.6.8 The matter should always be treated confidentially and, accordingly, no An Taisce officer or employee should comment publicly on any incident that is being dealt with under this procedure. Failure to observe this requirement will result in disciplinary action being taken under this Code.

6.6.9 The outcome from the investigation should then be shared with both the Complainant and the Respondent. Both parties will be offered the opportunity to request a review of the outcome. Following this the Complaints Officer will write to the parties informing them that a disciplinary hearing is to take place.

 7. Disciplinary Hearings

7.1 Before a decision is reached, or any disciplinary action taken, there will be a disciplinary hearing at which the Respondent will have an opportunity to state their case and answer the allegations that have been made. The appointed Investigator will present their findings at the disciplinary hearing.

7.2 The Panel will hear the case. The Respondent will be notified of a disciplinary hearing in advance and will be provided with copies of statements given by any witnesses or other written evidence to be used. Hearings will be arranged as far as possible at a mutually convenient time and place and the Respondent or their representative will have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or representative of their choice.

7.3 During a disciplinary hearing, the case against the Respondent, and any counter complaint made by the Respondent, will be presented in detail by the appointed Investigator. If the Respondent or Complainant challenges the substance of the witness statements then witnesses may be invited to the hearing where the Respondent, Complainant or their representative will have the opportunity to ask them questions.

7.4 Where disciplinary action is deemed necessary the Respondent and Complainant will be informed of the decision. This will be in writing and will state:

7.4.1 Details of the misconduct that has resulted in the disciplinary action

7.4.2 The level of disciplinary action

7.4.3 Any actions required to prevent future disciplinary action

7.4.4 The consequence of failure to carry out the actions required

7.4.5 Details of the appeal mechanism

7.4.6 If appropriate the length of time the warning will last before it is disregarded.

8. Types of Disciplinary Action

8.1 There are different types of action that can be taken that vary in their severity. The disciplinary hearing will decide the severity of the misconduct and the appropriate action.

These are:

  • Formal Verbal warning
  • Written warning
  • Termination of Membership of An Taisce

8.2 Formal Verbal Warning

This will occur in cases of minor infringements and can be given by a member of the Panel. A note of the warning will be kept on file for 12 months but then disregarded for future disciplinary purposes. The warning will be given in the presence of the Panel and the Respondent will be entitled to have a colleague or representative present when the warning is given.

8.3 Formal Written Warning

This will occur when the infringement is more serious or is a failure to improve behaviour during the currency of the previous warning and can be given by the Panel. It may involve suspension of membership for a defined period. A copy of the written warning will be kept on file for 24 months but will then be disregarded for future disciplinary purposes.

8.4 Revocation of Membership

This removes all rights and privileges including holding office and representing An Taisce in any capacity.

9. Appeals

9.1 A Respondent or Complainant must notify the Panel of their intention to appeal against disciplinary action within one week of receipt of the confirmation letter. The appeal should be made in writing stating the grounds upon which the appeal is to be made and be received by the Panel within a further two weeks.

9.2 The Appeals Panel will consider the report of the Investigation Officer and the report of the Disciplinary Panel. Consideration as to the need for further hearings will be at their discretion and will only apply in exceptional circumstances. The Respondent will have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or a representative of their choice at any such hearings that may be held. Both the Respondent and the Complainant will be notified of the results of the appeal in writing within one week of the hearing.

9.3 Members should note that an appeal can be used only to remedy any defects in the disciplinary process itself rather than to repeat the investigation of the disciplinary process. Therefore, grounds for appeal are:

  • The severity of the penalty
  • New evidence coming to light
  • Procedural irregularities
  • Extenuating circumstances
  • Bias of panel member
  • Unfairness of the interview

9.4 The possible outcomes of an appeal are

  • The appeal is upheld and the disciplinary sanction reduced or removed
  • The appeal is upheld and there is a request for a re-investigation or rehearing
  • The appeal is denied and the original decision is upheld
  • The appeal is denied and the severity of the original disciplinary action is increased

10 Recording Disciplinary Actions

10.1 Records will be kept detailing:

  • Any breach of disciplinary rules or unsatisfactory performance
  • The Respondent’s defence or mitigation
  • The action taken and the reasons for it
  • Whether an appeal was lodged, its outcome and any subsequent developments10.2. Whilst the overall outcome of the process will be made known to An Taisce members the above records are to be kept confidential and retained in line with the above disciplinary procedure and the Data Protection Act 2018. Copies of any meeting records will normally be given to the individual(s) concerned.

Please remember: All An Taisce Members are obliged to comply with this Code of Conduct