Managing Unacceptable Customer Behaviour Policy


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1.0 Introduction

1.1 The City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council strives to provide services efficiently and effectively and without partiality or unlawful discrimination on any grounds. The Council aims to deal with all its customers in a professional and customer friendly manner and will offer choice and flexibility wherever possible. However, in exceptional circumstances, it may from time to time be necessary to use measures to control or restrict the access of certain individuals to services, buildings or other facilities because of the nature of their behaviour.

1.2 The Council will not tolerate abusive, offensive, threatening or other forms of unacceptable behaviour.

1.3 The procedure for managing unacceptable and unreasonable behaviour describes the action we will take if a customer acts in an unacceptable way and/ or abuses their right to receive an appropriate and proportionate response to a legitimate request. The procedure can be viewed in Appendix 1 of this document.

1.4 This policy should be read in conjunction with:

  • Bradford Council’s Complaint Policy
  • Managing Vexatious Complainants Policy
  • Violence and Aggression at Work Policy
  • Lone Working Policy
  • Accident and Incident Reporting Procedures
  • Local Governance Ombudsman (LGO) guidance on managing unreasonable behaviour

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2.0 Scope

This policy applies to staff dealing with customers by phone, email, on social media or face to face contact. It also applies to all Council buildings, meetings and visits held off site and is aimed to protect staff, elected members and agents acting on behalf of the Council.

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3.0 Responsibilities

3,1 Staff are responsible for:

  • Delivering a high standard of customer service and taking all reasonable steps to avoid a potentially difficult situation from escalating.
  • Considering their own behaviour when dealing with customers and for making sure their skills for handling difficult situations are up to date.
  • Being aware of and following Health and Safety procedures and risk assessments.
  • Reporting any incidents of unacceptable behaviour to their line manager.

3.2 Managers are responsible for:

  • Making sure this policy and procedure is applied within their department.
  • Carrying out risk assessments and assessing the risk to staff of unacceptable behaviour by customers.
  • Having the appropriate systems and procedures in place to protect staff.
  • Liaising with Occupational Safety to maintain accurate records of all incidents reported by staff and reassessing the risks and control measures after each incident.
  • Identifying if any staff have training needs for dealing with unacceptable behaviour and monitoring the effectiveness of any training undertaken.

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4.0 Definition of Unacceptable Customer Behaviour

4.1 Bradford Council has a duty to safeguard the health and safety of its employees, elected members and other agents, and it has a duty of care towards members of the public who come onto its premises. To fulfil these, it may be necessary to take certain actions against individuals, because the nature of their behaviour compromises this duty.

The following types of behaviour fall within this policy; however, this is not an exhaustive list.

  • Actual violence, threatening or intimidating behaviour, insulting or abusive behaviour, or behaviour which is perceived by staff as being deliberately harmful or damaging either psychologically or physically. This is not restricted to those occasions when the Member, employee, or agent of the Council is going about their business on behalf of the Council, but is also applicable where a person is attacked or threatened when not at work, because they are a Member, employee, or agent of the Council.
  • Actual violence, threatening or intimidating behaviour, insulting or abusive behaviour, or behaviour which is otherwise distressing towards other customers or bystanders while on Council premises.
  • Damage to Council property.
  • Disruptive physical behaviour that prevents the efficient and effective delivery of services to other customers. This category includes such behaviours as:
    1. Being noticeably under the influence of drink and/or drugs
    2. Distressing other customers, even if there is not felt to be a risk of actual violence
    3. Inappropriate behaviours
  • Disruptive behaviour which is distressing to staff and/or prevents staff from delivering a service to the customer. This category includes such behaviours as:
    1. Threatening suicide
    2. Self-harming or threatening self-harm
    3. Bullying or harassing staff
    4. Persisting in making unreasonable demands
    5. Refusing to leave premises, stop making phone calls or making other contact when formally requested to do so

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5.0 How we will respond

5.1 The Council will aim at all times to moderate the offending behaviour, in order to allow the individual access to services they need or have a statutory right to, while at the same time maintaining the effective delivery of services in general and preventing potential health and safety issues from arising. If this is not possible, the contact maybe terminated or managed (see section 6).

5.2 If a customer’s behaviour is so extreme that it threatens the immediate safety and welfare of our staff we will report the matter to the police immediately and also consider taking legal action. In such cases, we may not give any prior warning.

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6.0 Terminating and managing contact

6.1 Staff have the right to work in a safe environment, free from abuse, threats, harassment, or bullying behaviour. Where a customer persists in using abusive, threatening, or bullying behaviour, including threats of self-harm or disruptive telephone calls, we will advise that this behaviour is unacceptable and will result in the termination of contact:

  • In the case of a telephone call, the telephone should be hung up if the caller ignores the warning.
  • If the incident takes place on the customer’s premises, the member of staff should leave and the incident reported to their Manager, who in turn can update the Lone Working risk assessment.
  • In the case of a visitor to council premises, the customer should be asked to leave. The staff member should then break off contact with the customer. If they refuse to leave and do not moderate their behaviour, the Police should be called.

6.2 Any incidents of termination of contact must always be reported to a Manager, and be recorded as a staff incident in accordance with the Occupational Safety guidance on Violence and Aggression.

6.3 Managers have the right to ask an individual to leave, or to take action to have an individual removed from Council premises by police or security personnel, if in their opinion it is necessary at the time. Where members of the public are present, the primary concern must be to prevent injury to bystanders. Staff should not take risks merely to prevent damage to Council property.

6.4 Where it is necessary to impose sanctions for future contact some or all of the below maybe put in place:

  • Access restricted to certain individuals which can result in customers not being dealt with by their preferred member of staff
  • Contact and access to services only given by prior arrangement or to one specific staff member only. An explanation will be given to the customer and followed up in writing.
  • Setting out and agreeing future contact expectations with an individual.
  • Home visits risk assessed and as a result staff instructed not to visit alone or if necessary, cancelled.

6.5 The Council will give every support to employees and elected members in the event of them being the victim of, or a witness to a crime. This will include where necessary counselling and legal advice.

6.6 How to impose and manage sanctions and restrictions is set out in the procedure shown in Appendix 1.

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Appendix 1: Procedure to Manage Unreasonable Behaviour

1: Staff Action

What to do if you are experiencing unacceptable behaviour either on the telephone, face to face or via written communication

  • Politely explain that the Council expects its staff to be treated with respect and ask the customer to moderate their behaviour
  • If the behaviour continues warn the customer what will happen if they do not stop. For example, you may have to pass the telephone call to your manager to deal with or to end the telephone call or to ask them to leave.
  • Call for support from your line manager if the customer’s behaviour does not change.
  • Where contact is ended explain the reason for this. For example, ‘I am no longer prepared to continue our conversation because you are swearing and shouting at me’.
  • Record the incident including the date and time of the incident on the online Incident Report Form which is located within the Occupational Safety pages Violence and Aggression Reporting

What to do if a customer is behaving in a violent, abusive or aggressive way towards you or other people

  • End the meeting or telephone call with the customer.
  • Take action to protect the customer’s own safety and the safety of other staff and customers. This action can include:
    1. Requesting support from a Manager
    2. Pressing the internal panic alarm to summon assistance where these are located in interview rooms
    3. If the behaviour is threatening the safety of staff or other people call the Police on 999 immediately
  • Report the incident to the relevant line manager
  • Record the incident on the online ‘Incident Report Form’, including the date and time of the incident.

2: Manager Action

Any reported incident must be reviewed by a manager who was not involved in the initial incident.

The manager will

  • Investigate the case including talking to the staff member involved and the customer.
  • Decide what further action is required. The following actions can be considered:
    1. Restricting the method of contact to a particular form (for example, telephone). This would mean stopping all contact which is not in the designated form for a period of time.
    2. Limiting agreed contact to certain times and/or days.
    3. Specifying a named officer to be the sole point of contact for the customer.
    4. Asking the customer to enter into an agreement about their future behaviour.
    5. Prevent access to certain buildings or limit access to a service via one designated building.
    6. In a limited number of cases, taking legal action against the customer.
  • Inform the customer of their decision in writing, explaining the reasons and the date when the sanction will be reviewed.
  • Keep a record of the investigation and its outcome and inform other relevant front line services.

3: Senior Management Action

Once a decision has been made to limit access to Council services a Senior Manager such as a Head of Service can take the following action

  • Formally review the case / decision following a request to do so by the customer and make recommendations for future contact.
  • Review the case should the customer continue to behave in an unacceptable Manner and extend the timescale or impose further restrictions.

4: Prosecution

  • Where a crime has been committed against a member of staff or elected member by a member of the public, the Council should wherever possible see that prosecution is initiated.
  • Where there has been damage to Council property, the Council should wherever possible see that prosecution is initiated.
  • Employees of the Council are required to give evidence to the police, and if necessary to give evidence in court, in respect of events witnessed while engaged on Council business.

5: Customer Appeal

  • An individual on whom a sanction has been imposed must be offered a right of appeal against the decision. This right should be advised to the customer when the sanction is imposed.
  • An appeal should be made in writing to the Assistant Director of the service within 20 working days and include a full review of all the evidence available as well as a statement from the customer.
  • Records of any appeal and decisions must be included in the case file.

Where a court order has been obtained, there is no right of appeal to the Council as the right of appeal falls to the Court.

There is no right of appeal against the decision to prosecute.

Throughout the process it is important to ensure that Occupational Safety are kept informed so that the incident register can be accurately updated.