Published: 19/04/2014 09:00 - Updated: 18/04/2014 10:19

Moray Council 'is taking bullying seriously'

No danger to pupils said Moray Council.STRONG assurances have been given that Moray Council is taking the issue of bullying and harassment seriously.

And a commitment to a cultural change, which would see such behaviour challenged at all levels, has been given.

The findings of an employee survey, published in November, showed that 8% of respondents (about 100 staff) had experienced harassment or victimisation in their job.

A helpline has since been set up, and a fresh survey was launched this week to gain more detail, such as whether the incidents were perpetrated by colleagues, managers, service users, pupils or the public.

During a report on Moray Council’s 2014 Workforce Strategy and Plan, which went before a meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee on Tuesday, head of human resources Denise Whitworth said those who had experienced issues could be assured the council was acting.

The new survey should identify exactly what the issues are, enabling the area’s councillors – as employers – to decide the best action.

Chief executive Roddy Burns told the meeting: "Senior officers and others are working very hard to define what the issue is, and come back to you with what it is, and how best it can be addressed."

Councillor Mike Shand (Elgin City North), who initially called for action, asked what could be done to encourage everyone to speak out, particularly those fearing for their jobs.

Mrs Whitworth said: "I think you address that by changing your culture, and that is exactly what the employee engagement programme is designed to do. It is about creating that environment where everyone will say, ‘That is not acceptable’.

"It is about all of us, if we see any of that, saying, ‘That is not on, and I’m going to intervene and make sure that it changes’."

Anonymous complaints can be logged with the authority, members heard, and while they would not enable specific action, they could help build up a picture of any issues.

Mrs Whitworth added: "It does means that things have less weight if people can’t give us names or particular examples, and it does mean that we have to take some care about how we deal with it, but we can build up that picture, and we would still tackle it if there was a picture emerging from genuine anonymous complaints."

In recognition of the gravitas of the issue, Speyside/Glenlivet councillor Pearl Paul called for the findings of the survey, and subsequent report, to come back to the authority’s policy and resources committee, instead of going to the Area Based Review group. Members unanimously agreed.

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