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Positive Staff Working Relations Procedu

Casa Caterina's Policy on Positive Staff Working Relations Procedures

Working Together

The Principal Management Bodies of the CPSMA, NABMSE, CIBE and Educate Together schools have informed the preparation of this policy.

Aims:

  • To raise awareness among school staff about the importance of fostering positive working relations with one's colleagues;
  • To recommend guidelines to address staff relations difficulties, adult bullying or harassment.

A. Recommended Good Practice

The school tries to promote positive working relations through the following;

a) Internal Communication

Regular, transparent, open and direct communication is encouraged in the school. There are at least three staff meetings a term, teacher meetings every week, SNA meetings every two weeks and classroom staff meetings once a month. Staff are encouraged to hear and address opposing points of view. There is an agenda for these meetings and minutes are recorded of same. There is also communication through the school's WhatsApp group as a safety measure and if staff support is urgently needed. Children's names are not shared on the WhatsApp.

b) Decision Making

All staff should review their processes of decision making. Some decisions will be automatic and others based on existing custom and practice. Existing school policies should inform decision making and these should be made through consultation and consensus within the school community. With due regard to the role of the Principal and the BOM, staff should be willing to listen to and respect each other's viewpoints and to compromise if necessary to uphold the majority decision. This will be done in order to foster collaborative decision making.

c) Effective School Policies and Procedures.

All staff have access to copies of the school's policies and procedures in their classrooms. Many of these are also available on the school's website. All policies and procedures are implemented collaboratively and all partners consulted prior to approval and ratification by the BOM.

d) Mutual Respect

Staff should treat each other with dignity and respect regardless of their role within the school. Teachers have overall responsibility for their individual classes and for the implementation of school policies and procedures in their classes.

e) Sense of Fairness

Individual staff should be aware of the importance of demonstrating a sense of fairness, tolerance and good will. They should use sound judgement when working with each other based on relevant information, common sense and reasonableness.

f) Unacceptable Behaviour

Adult Bullying and sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the school. Other unacceptable behaviours include rudeness, aggressiveness, offensive language, threatening or intimidating behaviour, victimisation or harassment. Staff should respect the dignity and integrity of their colleagues.

A complaint of sexual harassment or bullying may result in disciplinary action. However, if a complaint is not upheld following investigation, no action will be taken against the complainant provided that the complaint was made in good faith. If a complaint is brought maliciously, it will be treated as misconduct under adult bullying/harassment and the disciplinary procedure may be invoked.

g) Conflict Resolution

Conflict is inevitable over a period of time in a workplace and it should be resolved at the earliest opportunity before it is allowed to fester. It is recommended that staff use conflict resolutions skills informally, effectively and constructively. Some of these skills are:

  • listening;
  • identifying the source of conflict;
  • addressing the issue early and constructively;
  • putting forward options for resolution which may include compromising;
  • acknowledging any errors made or misunderstandings that may have occurred;
  • accepting solutions;
  • closing the matter;
  • moving on.

B. Key Principles Underpinning the Procedures

1. Identify the Difficulty

The main areas responsible for breakdowns in staff relations are;

  • bullying and/or harassment;
  • lack of consultation in the process of decision making;
  • unwillingness to reach consensus or be involved in decision making;
  • lack of decision making or indecisiveness;
  • unwillingness to follow policy or work with the team;
  • cliques;
  • ongoing disgruntlement by staff members who applied for but were not promoted, resulting in a lack of cooperation with the new post holders;
  • a new principal introducing sweeping changes without proper consultation or planning;
  • members of staff not talking to each other or not engaging in constructive communication;
  • personality factors;
  • lack of appropriate involvement by the BOM;
  • insecurity and uncertainty among staff in the absence of the support of effective school polices, especially in dealing with problematic areas such as complaints against and disruptive behaviour;
  • perception that some members of staff are favoured by management;
  • feelings of being systematically undermined;
  • staff members afraid to speak openly.

 

2. Observe Due Process

The procedures to address each type of conflict resolution are outlined in Sections C1, C2 and C3. If issues are raised against a member of staff they are entitled to be fully appraised of the issues concerned and given an adequate opportunity to respond before any conclusions are drawn.

3. Keep Records

Records are useful in identifying or establishing a pattern of offending behaviour. Principals of fairness and due process must be applied, especially if a third party may be relying on them in making a judgement. The following guidelines should be considered;

  • Records should be clear, honest and accurate accounts of relevant matters in chronological order, including details of concerning behaviour, attempted resolutions, meetings and discussions;
  • They may form the basis of written submissions to the BOM;
  • They are generally confidential to the party keeping the record except when he or she is relying on them or including them in a written submission to the BOM or other appropriate 3rd party. In this case copies of these records may have to be given to all parties involved;

Generally when formal procedures are invoked, written submissions and/or responses should be obtained from all relevant parties and copied to same.

4. Set Realistic Goals and Parameters

Goals should be realistic. If they are not they can frustrate the process. In this context the following should be borne in mind;

  • changing the dynamics of working relations from negative to positive may take time and will require ongoing effort, compromise, constructive interaction and flexibility. Therefore, it is reasonable to draw a plan for resolution of issues over an agreed and realistic time frame;
  • The primary responsibility for promoting positive work relations lies with individual staff members;
  • As this process may involve awareness raising and possible behavioural changes; staff should have access to appropriate literature and training;
  • Management should support initiatives that lead to positive staff relations such as training, facilitation and staff mental health checks;
  • In some cases management may responsible for invoking disciplinary action as well as monitoring any initiatives put in place to restore/promote positive working relations.

C. Choosing the Appropriate Disciplinary Procedure

Having identified the difficulties, the individual staff member/s concerned should decide on whether it is possible to address matters informally among themselves or to initiate one of the following procedures;

  • Staff Relations Difficulties (C1)
  • Adult Bullying/Sexual Harassment of Harassment on Other Specified Discriminatory Ground, arising in the workplace or otherwise in the course of employment (C2)
  • Grievance (C3)

It is advisable that management or staff should seek advice before invoking any of these procedures.

 

C1. Procedures to Address Staff Relations Difficulties

Stage 1: Informally Address Matter Between the Parties

It is open to an individual staff member/group of staff to raise the matter of internal working relations in the school (Party A). This staff should raise the matter with the staff (Party B) who it is considered is the source of or is contributing to the difficulty. The following steps should be taken:

  • Party A identifies the areas where staff relations difficulties exist or where they can be improved;
  • Party A should raise matters at the earliest opportunity with Party B;
  • Party B should make every effort to respond in a constructive manner to the issues raised by Party A;
  • The onus is now on both parties to engage constructively to sort out matters. It is expected that the parties would be prepared to reach solutions and, if appropriate, move their position in order to resolve matters at the earliest opportunity;
  • Parties should agree realistic time frames (not later than 20 days) for a framework of resolution to be achieved;
  • The outcome of the discussion should be mutually recorded by both parties
  • By agreement the 20 day period may be extended if agreed by both parties, making note of the new time frame.

(If the principal is one of the parties, then the procedure should move directly to Stage 3 on completion of Stage 1).

Stage 2: Role of the Principal Teacher

If it has not been possible to resolve matters informally and directly between the parties, the principal should be consulted by both parties as follows;

  • The principal should be briefed by both parties on the discussions which occurred at the informal stage;
  • The principal should hear the parties and seek to mediate to resolve the staff-relations difficulty;
  • The principal should act fairly and impartially and may exercise judgement and make decisions that s/he deems necessary to resolve matters;
  • The onus is on both parties, facilitated by the principal, to engage constructively to resolve matters and should, if appropriate, move their position in order to resolve matters at the earliest opportunity;
  • The principal may raise the matter at a staff meeting and seek to initiate a framework through full staff dialogue, if appropriate. A neutral staff member, acceptable to both parties, should chair the staff meeting;
  • The outcome of the discussions should be agreed and recorded by all parties;
  • 20 school days are provided to resolve matters at this stage and the parties should note the time frames, which can only be extended by agreement.

(If a resolution is not reached at this stage it is open to parties to move to Stage 3 or directly to Stage 4)

Stage 3: External Intervention

Where a resolution has not been achieved, the parties and/or the principal may request the BOM to appoint a mediator, agreeable to the parties. Prior to entering mediation, each member of staff concerned will be required to supply the following background information for the attention of the mediator only:

  • A written account of the issues involved;
  • A written account of the initiatives taken to resolve matters, detailing any progress made with a general outline of the sequence of dates. Where the principal teacher has been involved at Stage 2, she should also supply an account;
  • A list of the outstanding issues and the resolutions sought by both parties;
  • A written and signed undertaking that s/he will constructively participate in the process, be flexible in order to achieve resolution and abide by and act on the recommendations of the mediator.

The mediator shall:

  • Review all the documentations;
  • Arrange to meet with the parties;
  • Decide on whether it is possible to reach a framework for resolution in light of the attitudes of the parties

The conclusion of the mediator shall solely state whether the mediation has either achieved or failed to achieve a framework for resolution and shall be available to the parties and to the BOM. As a rule the mediator will complete the work in 20 school days.

The cost of mediation will be shared by the parties (i.e. the INTO/union and the relevant management body). The CPSMA and the INTO have a panel of mediators for the purpose of facilitating independent mediation.

Stage 4: Formally Address Matters with the Board of Management

Where it has not been possible to agree a framework for resolution at previous stages, the matter should be referred by the parties to the BOM for investigation. This referral should be made in writing. A referral from the mediator is also acceptable. It will generally proceed as follows:

  • The Board enquires into the background of the difficulties, including details on the sequence of initiatives taken at previous stages;
  • The Board or Chairperson may meet staff members individually or collectively and may request written submissions from both parties;
  • The Board may ask the principal to give them a written submission;
  • Both parties may be asked to present an oral submission at a Board meeting, in each other's presence;
  • Following these presentations, the Board may designate the Chairperson to meet with both parties again for further clarification;
  • The BOM may convene a number of meetings in order to achieve a resolution;
  • The BOM is entitled to reach conclusions and to request the parties to agree a framework for resolution in which the parties fully and constructively participate;
  • If parties fail to voluntarily agree a framework for resolution, the BOM is entitled to decide on an appropriate framework for resolution and may direct both parties to do the same;
  • The BOM should complete its investigation within 20 school days of receipt of written referral;

The steps taken at Stage 4 should be recorded, reviewed and monitored and made available to all parties.

 

 

C2: Procedures to Address Adult Bullying/Harassment

The School has an Anti-Bullying Policy. Adult Bullying, sexual harassment and harassment on other specified grounds are not acceptable behaviours. These types of behaviours will be described below.

1. Adult Bullying

Adult Bullying in the workplace is repeated aggression, verbal, psychological or physical, conducted by an individual or group against another person or persons. Bullying is where aggression or cruelty, viciousness, intimidation or a need to humiliate, dominate the relationships. Isolated incidents of behaviour, while to be condemned, should not be described as bullying. Only aggressive behaviour which is systematic and ongoing should be regarded as bullying. Other forms of aggression should be addressed using procedures for Staff Relations (C1).

2. Harassment on Specified Discriminatory Grounds

Harassment on specified discriminatory grounds is unlawful under The Employment Equality Act (1998). It is any act or conduct which could be reasonably regarded as unwelcome and offensive, humiliating or intimidating to the employee concerned on a discriminatory ground, including spoken words, gestures, or the production, display or circulation of written material or pictures.  The Department of Justice and Law Reform has a code of practice in relation to unwanted conduct and harassment in the workplace. The grounds for discrimination are gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, age disability, race or membership of the traveller community.

As with other procedures there are four stages to the process. It should be noted that the emphasis should be on ensuring that the party who feels harassed or bullied considers that his/her complaint will be acknowledged and that the matter will be investigated sensitively and in accordance with due process. If it is found that bullying or harassment has occurred, the primary emphasis should be on ensuring that the behaviour stops immediately. The offending party should be helped to acknowledge that the behaviour is unacceptable and steps should be taken to prevent a recurrence. Resolution should be achieved at the earliest opportunity. Both parties should contact employee assistance and/or their unions for counselling and/or support if appropriate.

Stage 1: Decide to Address the Matter

The person/s who consider/s they are being bullied or harassed (Party A) should decide to address the matter. However, Party A may consider contacting their union or Employee Assistance in light of the effects of such behaviour may have on a person.

Party A should keep a written record of the pattern of behaviour or incidents where s/he considers that harassment or bullying has occurred. This record should contain details such as dates, times, persons present and details of what was said or occurred. (Refer to section B.3 on record keeping).

Stage 2: Informally Address the Problem

1. Party A should request a meeting with the other party (Party B) in order to discuss matters. Where necessary the meeting may be facilitated by a third party, generally a colleague. The following should apply;

  • Party A should clearly outline his/her difficulties and should clearly object to the bullying/harassment and ask it to stop;
  • Party should bear in mind that Party B may not be aware that his/her behaviour is causing difficulty;
  • Both parties should seek to resolve their differences and establish a pattern of interaction exclusive of any forms of harassment/bullying.
  • Party B should be given an opportunity to respond to Part A. This can be done at the meeting or Party be can request more time to give a response. This response should be constructive in manner.

2. The resolution may include any of the following;

  • a commitment to cease the particular behaviour;
  • modify the behaviour;
  • plan to eliminate situations where the parties would be in conflict;
  • monitoring.

Alternatively, it may emerge that there was a degree of misunderstanding in relation to certain behaviours and the resolution may make provision for compromise or appropriate explanation or acknowledgement.

3. If there is no satisfactory indication of resolution parties may move onto the next formal stage of procedures.

Stage 3: Principal Teacher or Chairperson of the Board of Management

1. Stage 3 provides a mechanism for the principal to intervene to resolve the matter. If the Principal is one of the parties, the Chairperson will be involved in the resolution/intervention. If the Chairperson was involved at Stage 2, another member of the Board may be designated instead;

2. Part A advises Party B that s/he is proceeding with Stage 3.

3. Party A should state his/her complaint in writing and request that the principal/chairperson investigate the matter.

4. The Principal/Chairperson should;

  • get background details;
  • consider the pattern of behaviour and the timescale;
  • hear the parties and seek to resolve the matter;
  • act fairly, impartially and sensitively in the matter;
  • exercise his/her judgement to make the necessary decisions to resolve matter.

5. The outcome of the discussions should be noted by the parties.

6. The matter should be confidential.

7. If resolution is not possible, especially if the offending behaviour is likely to continue, either party or the Principal/Chairperson should refer the matter to the BOM

Stage 4: The Board of Management

1. It is open to any of the parties to refer the matter to the BOM for investigation. The referral should be written and dated and should include a copy of the written complaint.

2. The Board should consider the issues and investigate the matter;

  • The Board enquires into the background of the difficulties, including details on the sequence of initiatives taken at previous stages;
  • The Board or Chairperson may meet staff members individually or collectively and may request written submissions from both parties;
  • The Board may ask the principal to give them a written submission;
  • Both parties may be asked to present an oral submission at a Board meeting, in each other's presence;
  • Following these presentations, the Board may designate the Chairperson to meet with both parties again for further clarification;
  • The BOM may convene a number of meetings in order to achieve a resolution;
  • The BOM is entitled to reach conclusions and to request the parties to agree a framework for resolution in which the parties fully and constructively participate;

3. Having considered all matters, the BOM should reach a view within 20 school days of receipt of written request/referral.

4. Where the BOM finds that bullying/harassment has occurred, both parties should be informed accordingly. No action will be taken against the complainant provided that the allegation was made in good faith. If the complaint was malicious, it should be treated as misconduct and appropriate action taken.

5. Where the BOM finds bullying/harassment has occurred, it should deal with the matter directly and appropriately. This may include;

  • the issuing of a clear warning that the behaviour is not acceptable and will not be tolerated;
  • a demand that all forms of bullying/harassment cease and that acceptable patterns of interaction be established between the parties;
  • an instruction to the offending party that s/he apologises/expresses regret or assures that the bullying/harassment behaviour will cease;
  • seeking a commitment to attend counselling or another welfare service;
  • more serious disciplinary sanctions may be appropriate such as; oral warning, written reprimand, written warning, final written warning, suspension or dismissal.

6. The BOM should monitor the situation and put systems in place to ensure that it is kept informed that the resolutions are being implemented. This should be kept under review.

C3: Grievance Procedure

This procedure is for the resolution of a grievance which a staff member has against;

  • The BOM in respect of its responsibilities for the governance of the school;
  • The Chairperson of the Board in an individual capacity;
  • The Principal in respect of his/her duties and responsibilities for the organisation, conduct and day to day activities of the school.

It generally relates to breaches of school rules, policies, procedures or practices. If a referral concerning a grievance is made to the Labour Court this procedure will be terminated.

Stage1: The Principal

The aggrieved staff member gives notice in writing to the principal that the grievance procedure is being invoked. S/he will discuss it with the principal with a view to resolving it. If unresolved within 10 school days, the staff member (Party A) may invoke stage 2.

 

Stage 2: The Chairperson

The aggrieved party shall give notice in writing to the principal and chairperson that Stage 2 is being invoked. Party A will discuss the grievance with the chairperson with the view of resolving it. If unresolved within 10 days, stage 3 of the Grievance Procedure is invoked.

Stage 3: The Board of Management

1. Party A shall give notice in writing to the chairperson that Stage 3 of the Grievance Procedure is being invoked.

2. Party A shall make a written submission which includes details of the grievance and the redress being sought to be presented to the chairperson for the consideration of the BOM.

3. The normal rules of due process will be followed which means that persons against whom a grievance have been taken will receive copies of the submission.

4. Where the grievance involves the principal and/or chairperson, s/he will be requested by chairperson to prepare a written response to the points made in the submission within 10 school days.

5. Party A will be invited to attend a hearing of the BOM to be held within 10 school days from the date of the written response. Both parties are afforded an opportunity to hear what the each other has to say and/or respond to each other.

6. Where the grievance is against the principal or chairperson, s/he shall attend the hearing in an individual capacity and shall withdraw from the Board's deliberations and decision making about the matter.

7. If appropriate both parties may bring witnesses. Principles of due process apply.

8. The Board will try to resolve the grievance by conciliation. If the grievance is resolved the matter is concluded. If Board cannot resolve this, the matter Party A may invoke stage 4 if;

  • The Board fails to give him/her a hearing;
  • The chairperson fails to give the outcome of the hearing within 5 school days of the hearing;
  • Party A is unwilling to accept the outcome of Stage 3.

Stage 4: An Independent Tribunal

1. If Party A wants to appeal to Stage 4 based on any of the three reasons outlined in Stage 3.8, s/he shall give notice of same in writing to the chairperson within ten days. The date of that letter is the date of appeal and Party A may include any additional arguments to put forward in that submission.

2. On receipt of the appeal letter, the chairperson shall notify the CPSMA and the General Secretary of Party A's union and invite them to; select an agreed independent person to act as chairperson of a tribunal, appoint a person each un-associated with the school to serve on the tribunal and arrange a meeting of the tribunal within 15 school days of the date of appeal.

3. The chairperson of the BOM shall furnish each member of the tribunal with a report on the proceedings at each previous stage, a copy of the appeal letter and a copy of the submission and the written response. The tribunal shall arrange a hearing for the parties and shall ensure that the normal rules of due process apply. These include;

  • that all parties are give reasonable notice of the hearings and an indication that decisions may still be made if parties fail to appear without reasonable cause;
  • that each party will be able to access the relevant documentation;
  • that each party will be afforded the opportunity to hear at first hand what the other has to say and to question and respond to them;
  • that witnesses may attend as appropriate
  • that the Tribunal shall be entitled to question each party or seek further information;
  • that the Tribunal may agree to adjournments if required.

4. The Tribunal is a domestic forum and no parties should have legal representation at the hearings. The tribunal will try to reach a friendly settlement. If this is not reached, the decision will be determined by majority vote and conveyed in writing by the chairperson of the tribunal to all parties concerned. The costs of the tribunal will be shared by the CPSMA and Party A or Party A's union.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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