HARASSMENT POLICY

The Agricultural Society is committed to a working and learning environment that is free from any form of harassment.

Any incident of harassment will be regarded seriously and may be grounds for disciplinary action.

Persistent or gross harassment and, in particular, sexual or racial harassment, will be treated as grounds for disciplinary action including expulsion from the Society membership and/or in the case of competitors, visitors or any other persons attending a Society event, from the showground or site where the Society is conducting an event/function.

Harassment causes distress and anxiety.

It interferes with people’s ability to work as a volunteer, compete as a Show or event competitor, or contribute in any other way toward the wellbeing of the Society.

The Society will therefore take harassment to include any behaviour that is offensive, intimidating or hostile, which interferes with an individual’s working role or social environment, or which induces stress, anxiety, fear or sickness on behalf of the harassed person.

Being under the influence of alcohol will not be admitted as an excuse for harassment.

Harassment may take many forms, such as violence or bullying, to less obvious actions such as ignoring a person (eg in their role as committee member or contributing volunteer).

Some examples of harassment may include:

  • Physical contact from touching to serious assault

  • Oral and written through offensive language, gossip and slander, jokes and similar

  • Visual display of posters, obscene gestures

  • Isolation or non-cooperation with a person

  • Coercion

  • Intrusion by pestering, sexual pressures

  • Bullying

  • Racial discrimination

Preventing harassment – checklist

  • Make sure all members understand what the rules of behaviour are

  • Make sure all members know how to deal with harassment if it happens to them

  • Know the arguments supporting the need to get rid of harassment

  • Make sure the working environment and work processes do not make it easy for harassment to happen

  • Follow up any member behaviour changes that could indicate harassment is going on

  • Act immediately

Handling complaints of harassment and discrimination

The following is a brief checklist on how to handle a discrimination or harassment complaint. Please note that this checklist is only a very general guide to good complaint handling.

1. Always handle the complaint:

Confidentially

  • Do not talk to anyone except those involved in resolving the complaint and counsel those involved in the complaint from talking to anyone else

  • Impartially

  • Do not prejudge—be fair

Promptly

  • Resolve it as quickly as possible

Sympathetically, sensitively and seriously

  • What may seem silly to you may not seem silly to them

2. Get full information from the complainant about their complaint and how they want it resolved….listen, listen, listen

3. Decide if you are the appropriate person to continue handling the complaint – you may be too junior in the hierarchy or seen to be biased. If you can’t handle it make sure that you refer the complaint to the appropriate person. Don’t let it get lost.

4. If you can continue to handle the complaint, put the information you have received from the complainant to the person/people the complaint is about and get their side of the story….listen, listen, listen

5. Work out whether you now have enough information to know whether the alleged discrimination or harassment happened, or didn’t happen

6. If you don’t have enough information, and the allegation is of a reasonably serious nature, you may need to speak to witnesses. If there are no witnesses, you may need to refer the complaint to the Show Society to decide what to do about it

7. If you do need to speak to witnesses, do this very carefully:

  • Only speak to a witness if you are the appropriate person to do so. You can’t do this if you are too junior in the hierarchy. And you can’t do this if you are biased, or could be seen to be biased

  • In order not to breach confidentiality, do not tell a witness any more than they know already, and make sure they don’t talk with anyone else but you

  • Also, never speak to any more witnesses than you need to in order to work out whether the discrimination happened or didn’t happen

8. Decide how the complaint should be resolved:

  • Where the complaint involves an allegation of a relatively minor nature it may be possible to mediate the complaint by getting both parties together and coming to a joint agreement about how the complaint should be resolved

  • Where the complaint involves an allegation of a more serious nature the Show Society will need to work out whether the discrimination or harassment did or didn’t happen, and then make a decision about how the complaint should be resolved. The type of discipline will obviously depend on the level of discrimination that has happened. Discipline could range from a verbal apology for a less serious incident through to expulsion for a very serious incident or series of incidents. Naturally, discipline should be imposed in a fair and consistent manner across the Society.

9. Act on your decision, letting both sides know what is going to happen and why, and telling them about other internal or external avenues of complaint if they’re not happy with your decision

10. Monitor the outcome:

  • Affected persons—you—should make a note of the details of any relevant incidents, and should include a note of the way in which the incidents cause you to change the pattern of your role or social life

  • If the harassment continues, you are urged to seek the help of a harassment adviser, enabling you to discuss the nature of your complaint in confidence and to arrive at an acceptable solution on an informal basis

  • If the harassment is serious or has not been resolved by the above means then you or someone acting on your behalf has the right to make a formal written complaint to the Society and/or relevant authority

Vexatious complaints

The Society should note that anyone making mischievous complaints may result in disciplinary action being taken against them.

What do you do if you are accused of harassment?

  • An accusation of harassment does not signify a judgement of guilt

  • You may contact a member of the Society Executive dissociated with the complaint. The aim of the person you contact will be to facilitate discussion with a view to resolving the problem at the source if possible

  • You have the right to be accompanied throughout any discussion by a friend of your choice

  • A simple discussion between you and the person with the complaint may set matters right

Throughout any formal or informal procedures the principal objective is that of identifying the underlying issues and eliminating the cause of the offence as quickly as possible and with minimal recrimination.

Any harassment or discrimination complaints should be advised to the Insurers.

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