Unacceptable behaviour towards staff policy

Introduction

  1. Registers of Scotland (RoS) understands that our core business is the registering of ownership rights. Over the course of our work we deal with a wide variety of stakeholders and in the vast majority of these cases these interactions are both positive and productive for all parties.
  2. Occasionally, the behaviour or actions of some individuals that we have dealings with make it impossible for us to continue our role as an effective registration authority. In these small number of cases, RoS must consider taking steps to protect our staff and ensure that our ability to provide an effective registration service is not undermined. This policy explains how we will approach these situations.

    Policy aims and objectives

  3. RoS believes that we should interact with our customers via the communication channel of their choice and that all feedback on our products and services, positive and negative, has a right to be heard.
  4. In all of our communications with customers we will:
    • Deal fairly, honestly, consistently and appropriately with all customers
    • Set expectations for what RoS can and cannot do to meet their concerns
    • Provide services that are accessible to all
    • Ensure that no one using our products and services is disadvantaged as a result of the unacceptable behaviour of others.

    Defining unacceptable behaviours

  5. RoS understands that customers who correspond with us are normally dealing with an issue in relation to the registration of their or their client’s land or property. We acknowledge that this can be hugely stressful and that they sometimes may act out of character.  However, RoS takes the importance of our work very seriously and whilst we will provide the best customer service we can to our customers, we do not expect our staff to tolerate unacceptable behaviours.
  6. Dealing with behaviours such as those defined below, detract from the service that RoS offers and places a significant burden on the organisation. Dealing with unacceptable behaviours diverts necessary resources from delivering our core business and services.

    These include the following:

    Offensive, threatening or abusive behaviour

  7. Violence is not restricted to acts of aggression that may result in physical harm. It also includes behaviour or language (whether written or verbal) that is offensive, threatening or abusive. Language that is designed to insult or degrade, is racist, sexist, homophobic or language that causes offence, will be viewed as unacceptable.

    Unacceptable demands

  8. RoS provides an impartial registration service for the people and property owners of Scotland. Sometimes people can make unacceptable demands on our resources by the nature and scale of the service that they expect. Examples of such behaviour include:
    • Repeatedly demanding responses within an unrealistic timescale
    • Insisting on speaking to a particular member of staff, even when it is not possible
    • Refusal to follow the proper processes in relation to decisions taken by  RoS in relation to their land or property (i.e continuing to contact RoS rather than follow next steps in the appeal process)
    • Causing disruption by excessive contact in relation to information about their land and/or property without clear acceptance of updates previously given. (see point 9)

    Unacceptable persistence

  9. Sometimes an individual will contact RoS repeatedly about the same issue or closely related issues. Whilst individually these contacts may be quite acceptable, the persistence of the approach takes up a disproportionate amount of time and resources in exchanges that are unproductive to either party. Sometimes this will take the form of serial complaining – lodging complaints about the handling of their complaints, often across different parts of the organisation.
  10. When persistence has reached the point of disrupting our ability to undertake our work (i.e inundated with unnecessary information) or if it is amounting to harassment and unacceptable treatment of our staff, this will constitute unacceptable behaviour.

    How we will manage unacceptable behaviours in practice

  11. There are three main ways in which to correspond with RoS. By telephone, in writing (by email or post) and face to face. Each of the paragraphs below explains how RoS expect our staff to manage these communications.

    Telephone

  12. If a customer contacting or being contacted by RoS over the telephone displays unacceptable behaviours as narrated above the member of staff should do the following:
    • Warn the person immediately that their behaviour unacceptable and if their tone or language persist, that the contact will be terminated.
    • If this does not resolve the matter and the person continues to display these unacceptable behaviours then contact will be terminated
    • Inform their manager or a team leader with the full details of what happened
    • The manager will then bring this to the attention of the Complaints Manager.

    Face to face

  13. If a customer  displays unacceptable behaviours as narrated above in a face to face situation, the member of staff should do the following:
    • Warn the person immediately that their behaviour unacceptable and if their tone or language persist, that the face to face contact will be terminated.
    • If this does not resolve the matter and the person continues to display these unacceptable behaviours then the face to face contact will be terminated and the person will be escorted from the premises by security.
    • Inform their manager or a team leader with the full details of what happened
    • The manager will then bring this to the attention of the Complaints Manager.
  14. The Complaints Manager will then record these instances and where there has been repeated instances of unacceptable behaviour over the telephone or in person, will make a recommendations of restricting contact to in writing only.

    In writing

  15. If a customer contacting RoS in writing is offensive, threatening or abusive, these should be reported to your manager immediately. The manager or heads of function will then consider if and how future communication is appropriate and advise the customer in writing of the outcome of this decision.
  16. If a customer contact RoS in writing that is placing unreasonable demands on RoS, or when RoS has already taken a decision on the following :
    • an application for registration
    • a potential inaccuracy in the register
    • processed an application in rectification
    • processed a compensation payment
  17. These should be reported to your manager who will inform them in writing of our expected service levels and/or the next steps which may include the customers’ right of appeal to the Lands Tribunal of Scotland.
  18. Once RoS has taken a final decision, and as advised the correspondence of that decision and their right of appeal against it, we will not enter into further correspondence about the decision in the absence of relevant new evidence that has not previously been considered. After we have advised the individual of this and any relevant rights of appeal we will not therefore acknowledge or reply to any further correspondence which simply repeats issues or arguments that have been dealt with in previous correspondence.

    Terminating or limiting contact

  19. RoS will carefully manage the process of terminating contact with an individual and the decision to terminate contact will not be taken lightly. We will carefully consider the form of such a termination in order to balance the rights of the individual against the Keeper’s duty to perform her statutory functions, protect RoS staff and avoid any disruption to our work.
  20. We will consider a range of options in relation to how we would terminate or limit contact. The decision to restrict or terminate contact will be taken by a Director or the Keeper.

    How we will monitor and track these unacceptable behaviours

  21. RoS will use its complaints process to manage the collation of information in relation to unacceptable behaviours and actions.
  22. A separate flow-chart and handling instructions have been developed to support RoS staff when dealing with these situations.

    Recording a decision to restrict contact

  23. RoS will record incidents involving unacceptable actions and behaviours as they occur, but will retain those records only to assist in the decision-making process for further action, if required. If a resolution is found then this information will be held for a period no longer than 90 days, but if no resolution is found then this will be retained by RoS in line with our records management policy.
  24. When RoS decide to terminate or restrict contact with an individual, we will record that decision and the reasons for it. This will be held centrally by RoS and shared with areas within RoS that have contact with customers.

    Training

  25. This policy takes account of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman’s Unacceptable Actions Policy and the Scottish Information Commissioner’s briefing on vexatious requests.
  26. RoS will issue guidance on the processes required to implement this policy and in particular cases, some simple text for use in communications relating to unacceptable actions and guidance on how to record information about unacceptable behaviour.
  27. We will also provide separate training for front line staff dealing with customers detailing how to handle instances of this nature.
  28. Training for all will be incorporated into RoS’ Information Governance training programme and will be completed at least annually for all staff.

Regular review of unacceptable behaviour policy

RoS’ unacceptable behaviour policy will be reviewed at least annually.

Gillian Martin
Customer Services Manager
May 2018