The Metropolitan Police Service is to overhaul its internal grievance processes for all staff complaining of discrimination, bullying,or victimisation, following recommendations made in an independent report by Professor Roy Lewis working with the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
New procedures will be implemented and additional resources, expertise, and training devoted to investigating and resolving these kinds of complaints more effectively.
The move follows an independent review commissioned by the Met of its Fairness at Work (FAW) (staff grievance) policy prompted by the Employment Tribunal case brought by former PC Carol Howard. The Tribunal recommended an independent review after the case highlighted deficiencies in the way her complaints were handled.
Professor Lewis' report recommends a number of areas of improvement particularly how we deal with allegations of discrimination, bullying or harassment which are raised through the FAW process rather than through more formal misconduct processes.
The report also recognises progress already made since the Carol Howard case but highlights results from a survey conducted with more than 11,000 officers and staff which showed a lack of confidence in the current system, particularly when dealing with allegations of discrimination or bullying and harassment.
Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, who leads on professionalism for the Met, said: "It became clear during the Carol Howard case that our internal processes had failed and needed to be improved in a number of key areas.
"The report recognises that we responded straight away by improving our oversight and management of these cases but Professor Lewis and ACAS's work gives us a clear framework from which we will build a better system from the bottom up - one that everyone can have confidence in and has fairness built in.
"We need to recognise that only a very small proportion of our staff and officers feel the need to make complaints about treatment linked to discrimination, bullying or harassment - only 61 colleagues out of a workforce of nearly 50,000 in 2014/15.
"Nevertheless there is complete commitment from the Met's management board to do this properly and devote the necessary resources to it. Over the coming months we will address the recommendations in full and then continue to consult and improve.
"We are especially concerned by the number of people who told us that they fear being victimised if they raise a complaint, regardless of whether that fear is justified. That has never been acceptable but we will be making it very clear to our staff that victimisation will never be tolerated, will be investigated, and will have serious repercussions if it occurs."
Professor Lewis has also shone a light on the way that the effective management of staff grievance policies, under Employment Law, conflicts with the statutory framework for dealing with misconduct under Police Regulations when responding to discrimination complaints. What this means is that staff concerns can be forced too quickly into a misconduct process that is not always well-suited to reaching a satisfactory resolution for workforce disputes. We intend to press the Home Office to make changes so that our grievance procedure can work more effectively.
Other actions which will be taken include:
o Creating specialist teams of highly trained individuals to investigate all complaints of discrimination and victimisation. This will include the use of external experts.
o A toughened response and clearer warnings to staff that any form of victimisation towards anyone raising a grievance or reporting misconduct could result in disciplinary action.
o The establishment of a telephone advice line for officers and staff who wish to raise grievances.
o Greater responsibilities, and training and support, for local managers to deal with complaints relating to discrimination or bullying and harassment.
o A new framework for managing workplace disputes or grievances.
Professor Lewis, who reviewed the operation of the Met's grievance procedure in conjunction with ACAS, said: "A grievance process that is fit for purpose is an important aspect of working life in which the Met and its workforce must have full confidence. This is especially the case where grievances involve allegations of discrimination, bullying and harassment. Our report does not pull any punches. Its aim is to provide a frank and constructive analysis in order to enable the Met, in consultation with its officers and staff, to address and remedy the many issues arising in the aftermath of the Carol Howard case. The review is encouraged by the fact that, in carrying out this review, it has received unstinting cooperation from the Met."
Over the next 28 days the Met will undertake a formal consultation process with internal and external stakeholders to seek views on the action plan. Over the next six months the Met will implement these changes. Professor Lewis has been invited to oversee the plan.
The Met will also continue consultation with Staff Associations and Unions regarding the changes to ensure it is doing all it can to improve the system and address the concerns raised in the report and any and all concerns in the future.
Key findings of the survey:
- 69% of those surveyed who made an FAW complaint felt it was not handled fairly.
- 53% of those surveyed who made a FAW were very dissatisfied with the way the FAW procedure has worked.
- 50% of all surveyed who made a FAW were very dissatisfied with the outcome of their case.
- 56% of those surveyed who made a FAW using said they were subject to some form of victimisation.
- 34 % of all surveyed would like someone outside of the MPS to review any further grievance procedures.
- 78% of all surveyed said they would have informal conversations with their manager to begin with.
- 6% of all surveyed reported that they had been the subject of a formal complaint raised by somebody else using the FAW procedure.
- 41% of those who were the subject of a complaint agreed that the complaint against them had been handled fairly.