Anti-bullying and harassment procedure

How to respond to bullying and harassment

Last reviewed: 12 January 2022

We believe that bullying and harassment are never justified. 

This procedure explains how to apply our anti-bullying and harassment policy, and how and when to make a report. Make sure you refer to the policy to find out how to recognise and tell the difference between bullying and harassment. 

This procedure is for volunteers. Girlguiding employees should use the staff procedure on the intranet. 

Reporting bullying or harassment 

It’s not always easy to spot bullying and harassment and we don’t expect you to be an expert in recognising it. But if you think bullying or harassment is happening, it’s important that you act locally or let us know by contacting our Safe Practice department to make a report.  

You don't need to manage the situation alone. If you think it can be handled locally, speak to your commissioner for help and support. Your commissioner can also help you decide whether a report should be made to the Safe Practice department. 

To make a report, send an email with your concerns to [email protected]. You don’t need all the facts before emailing, and you don’t need to fill a form in. 

Giving as much information as possible will help the team to fully understand your concerns. You could include: 

  • When and where the event(s) took place 
  • How often it took place 
  • Whether it’s ongoing  
  • Who was involved (including membership numbers and full names, if you have them), how they were involved, and whether you’re in contact with them
  • Whether you’ve reported your concerns to anyone else, and if so, what action was taken 

It can sometimes be hard to put concerns into writing. If you don’t feel comfortable or confident doing this, send the team an email asking for a call back and someone will get in touch. 

We may not be able to keep everything confidential, for example if there are concerns about someone’s safety. But we’ll only share details of your concern with those who need to know. 

After making a report 

A member of our safe practice department will review the information and decide which team should lead on looking into the concern. 

This could be the safeguarding team or the complaints and compliance team. If the bullying or harassment relates to a protected characteristic, as explained in our equality and diversity policy, the inclusion team will be informed and may give advice on next steps. 

Once the concern has been passed to the right team, they’ll contact the person who reported it to get more information and give them details about what will happen next. This should happen within 5 to 7 working days. 

If you have reported an incident that you witnessed, but weren't involved in, we might need to get consent from the person experiencing the bullying or harassment before Girlguiding can look into it. 

We manage all cases in line with our investigation procedure, which explains the process we follow for all internal investigations. If a report about bullying or harassment needs to be referred to a statutory agency (for example, the police, or local authority designated officer), we will manage the case in line with our safeguarding policy and procedure. 

What about inappropriate behaviour that doesn’t fit the definition of bullying or harassment? 

Some conflict you see or experience won't fit the definitions of bullying or harassment, for example, if it's accidental or unintentional. This kind of conflict is known as relational conflict. It can be sparked by a clash of personalities or by a build-up of incidents that cause tension. It can be distressing for those involved, but in a lot of cases relational conflict can be resolved locally, with active listening and honest conversation. 

If it’s not possible to address the conflict locally, or you’ve not been able to resolve it successfully, you can make a report to our Complaints team, who will look at the concern under our complaints policy. 

How should I respond to bullying or relational conflict between young members in my unit? 

Girls taking part in Girlguiding activities are expected to follow our young members policy, and their behaviour should be in line with Girlguiding’s values, promise and laws 

If young members behave inappropriately, the unit leadership team will need to work with them and their parents or carers to try to resolve the issues. Your commissioner will be able to support you to manage the situation and help you talk to the parents or carers. 

You might want to book a session with a peer educator on Think Resilient or Safe the World. Or you could run a unit meeting focused on bullying or being kind to others. For example, you could put together a code of conduct or unit guidelines with the girls, so they understand what’s expected of them and learn to take responsibility for their actions. There are also lots of unit meeting activities which look at working together and supporting others. There’s a table at the bottom of this page to help you find the right activity for your unit. 

Only report concerns to the Safe Practice department if you can’t resolve the issues locally, you’re concerned about the wellbeing of those involved, or if the bullying or relational conflict relates to a young member’s identity or a protected characteristic 

If you’re not sure, get in touch anyway and the department can give you advice. 

Sometimes a parent or carer might tell you that their child is being bullied by another member of the unit at school or in another setting. If you haven’t noticed any issues between the girls, it may be that the problems are not spilling over into the unit. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the girls and how they behave together and reassure the parent or carer that you will do this. 

Ongoing inappropriate behaviour could result in the young person being asked to leave the unit. But this must be a last resort. If you think it might be necessary, make sure you’ve discussed it with your commissioner, and that the parent or carer understands what’s led to this action. If ongoing inappropriate behaviour could be related to a young person’s identity or a protected characteristic, contact the Inclusion and Diversity team through [email protected] to make sure that all opportunities for making reasonable adjustments have been explored. 

How should I address small incidents before they get bigger? 

If you’ve noticed small incidents of inappropriate behaviour or relational conflict taking place in your unit, don’t ignore them.  

Whether it involves young people or adults, talk to them about their behaviour and why it isn’t OK. Try to do this in a non-confrontational and non-judgemental way, even if it seems like one person is in the wrong.  

Some ways you could start a conversation include: 

  • ‘I noticed you and Alex don’t seem to be getting on very well at the moment – is everything OK? Did something happen?’ 
  • ‘You looked like you were getting quite annoyed at Saira earlier – can we have a chat about it?’ 
  • ‘The way you spoke to Nia yesterday was not very kind. As a leader, it’s important you treat everyone with respect, even if you don’t agree with each other. If there are problems, you can talk to me about them.’ 

By recognising and addressing the problems, you can hopefully all work together to make sure they don’t get any bigger. 

What if a parent or carer is bullying or harassing me, another adult volunteer or a young member? 

Volunteers and young members should feel safe and valued as part of the Girlguiding community. They shouldn’t be subjected to bullying or harassment from anyone within this space, including parents and carers. If you, another adult volunteer or a young member is being bullied or harassed by a parent or carer, contact the Safe practice department for advice.  

While parents and carers are not subject to Girlguiding’s policies, we still expect them to set a positive example and treat others with respect and dignity. 

In line with our Young members policy, inappropriate behaviour by parents or carers can lead to the young person in their care being asked to leave the unit. This must only be considered as a last resort after you’ve looked at other options and should be discussed and agreed with your local commissioner. 

If the parent or carer is also a member of Girlguiding then an investigation may take place into their conduct. This could result in a sanction being placed on their membership. 

What should I do if a parent or carer, or member of the public, has concerns about bullying or harassment? 

If a parent, carer, or member of the public shares concerns with you about bullying or harassment, it’s important you take this seriously. If the concern relates to bullying between girls in the unit, you should follow the advice above about how to respond. You should report any other concerns to the Safe Practice department. 

If a parent, carer, or member of the public isn’t comfortable sharing their concerns with you or another volunteer, give them the Safe Practice department’s contact details. 

If they aren’t happy with the response to their concern, ask them to contact the Complaints team at [email protected]. 

What if the bullying is taking place outside of Girlguiding by a non-Girlguiding member? 

If a young member or adult volunteer shares that they’re being bullied outside of Girlguiding, it can be difficult to know how to help.  

Although you may not be able to take any action against the bully, being there as a safe person to talk to can help the girl or adult to feel less alone. Girlguiding can be a safe space for them to feel comfortable and to help build their confidence. 

If a young person has shared that they’re being bullied, you must make their parent or carer aware so they can support their child and take action. For example, by suggesting the parent or carer speak to the school if that’s where the bullying is taking place. 

If the young person is finding it difficult to speak to their parent or carer, you could offer to do this for them, or be there when they do. If they’re distressed by the idea of their parent or carer being informed, contact the Safe Practice department for advice. 

If the parent or carer already knows about the bullying, you might still want to let them know what their child shared with you and offer your support. There are lots of organisations you can suggest that can give support and advice to both young people and adults. You can find some of these at the bottom of this page.  

If an adult is experiencing bullying or harassment, encourage them to contact a specialist organisation for advice. For example, ACAS will be able to give them information if they’re being bullied or harassed at work. And specialist domestic abuse organisations will be able to support them if they’re experiencing bullying as part of a relationship. 

If you have concerns about something happening outside of Girlguiding, you must report this to our Safeguarding team if: 

  • You're concerned about the safety or wellbeing of the young person or adult 
  • A young member is being bullied by an adult. Especially one in a position of trust, such as a teacher or sports coach, or a family member 

Activities for young members

Support organisations 

ACAS – free human resources support and legal help for UK-based employees 

Anti-Bullying Alliance – a coalition of organisations and individuals united against bullying 

BulliesOut – a charity providing education, training and support around bullying, plus a free mentoring service via email for anyone experiencing bullying 

Childline – a free, confidential helpline for children and young people offering advice and support 24 hours a day. There’s a whole section on their website about bullying issues 

Family Lives/Bullying UK – a charity providing advice and support to anyone affected by bullying 

Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum – a charity aiming to put an end to bullying 

NSPCC – the UK's leading children’s charity, providing information on child abuse 

Refuge – a charity supporting women and children who have experienced violence and abuse 

RespectMe – Scotland’s anti-bullying service 

Samaritans – a charity working to make sure there’s always someone there for people in need 

Switchboard – a confidential listening service for the LGBT+ community 

Victim Support – an independent charity for people affected by crime and traumatic events in England and Wales 

YoungMinds – the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people’s mental health 

Further reading 

Respect for All – the Scottish government’s national approach to counter bullying 

Work and mental health (PDF) – a resource published by the charity Mind 

Advice from Mind on workplace bullying