Anti-bullying and harassment policy

We strongly believe that no form of bullying or harassment is ever justified.

Approved: 29 October 2020
Version: 1
Content owner: Safe practice

Girlguiding strongly believes that no form of bullying or harassment is ever justified.

This policy defines bullying and harassment and it explains the roles and responsibilities of our volunteers, members and staff in upholding our organisation’s inclusive ethos.

It applies in the UK, Crown dependencies and to British Girlguiding Overseas (BGO), including their branches.

It applies to all Girlguiding settings, including unit meetings, local meetings, events, residential events, camps, workplaces and face-to-face training, as well as digital and online communication.

How Girlguiding deals with bullying and harassment

Girlguiding is committed to giving all our members, volunteers and staff a safe space where they’re treated with dignity and respect.

Incidents of bullying and harassment are viewed as a breach of our organisation’s inclusive ethos. They also risk violating discrimination, employment, criminal and civil laws.

We’re committed to preventing and managing incidents and will take a clear and robust approach to dealing with them. We do this by:

  • Creating a culture where bullying and harassment aren’t tolerated
  • Providing guidance on how to manage incidents with volunteers, members and staff
  • Supporting volunteers, members and staff if they’ve been affected by bullying and/or harassment
  • Creating a positive and inclusive environment.
  • Ensuring appropriate and clear reporting routes for all volunteers, members and staff
  • Managing reports and incidents of bullying and harassment in a robust and transparent way

We’re dedicated to preventing all types of bullying and harassment. This includes prejudiced behaviour based on characteristics like physical appearance.

It also includes abusive or offensive behaviour or actions related to the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010. These are:

  • Ethnic origin, nationality (or statelessness) or race
  • Age
  • Disability, including mental health
  • Religion or belief, including the absence of belief
  • Marital or civil partnership status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Gender reassignment
  • Sex

You can read more about these in our Equality and diversity policy.

We may contact services such as the police or social services where appropriate in cases that involve:

  • Hate crime. This covers a range of criminal behaviour where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards the victim based on a protected characteristic
  • A child protection issue, when there's reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm
  • Violence or assault, theft or harassment and intimidation over a period of time
  • Cyberbullying, which could be a criminal offence under a range of laws

What is bullying?

Bullying is repetitive and intentional behaviour that makes someone feel hurt, threatened, intimidated or left out.

One person or a group of people can act as bullies, and it can happen within a wide range of relationships and situations where there's an imbalance of power.

This persistent and upsetting behaviour can take many forms and can have a long-lasting impact on the victim’s physical and emotional wellbeing.

Bullying can include, but isn’t limited to:

  • Physical contact such as hitting, slapping or pushing
  • Verbal abuse, like name calling, gossiping, or threatening, intimidating or humiliating someone
  • Offensive hand signs or gestures
  • Cyberbullying via messages over text, email or social media
  • Excluding, ignoring or isolating someone
  • Undermining, controlling, constant criticism or spreading rumours
  • Taking personal possessions or damaging property
  • Making silent, hoax or abusive calls
  • Baiting with the intent of making someone angry or annoyed
  • Creating false friendships with the intent to manipulate or gain power over someone

When is it not bullying?

To be bullying, there are key elements that need to be concurrently present:

  • An imbalance or misuse of power or perceived power
  • Repeated or persistent behaviour
  • Deliberate behaviour
  • Behaviour that's hurtful to another person

Single episodes of social rejection, dislike, disagreement or a random act of aggression or intimidation are not classed as bullying. But we will assess incidents and address any issues in line with all relevant policy and procedures.

What is relational conflict?

Relational conflict is any kind of conflict that occurs between two or more people. It can be sparked by a clash of personalities or by a build-up of incidents that cause tension. This can lead to hurt which can be accidental and unintentional.

Relational conflict can be resolved if the people involved are willing to take part in a resolution process, are honest and show remorse.

What is harassment?

Harassment is unwanted behaviour which someone finds offensive or which makes them feel intimidated or humiliated.

It has the purpose or effect of violating their dignity, or creating a degrading, humiliating, hostile, intimidating or offensive environment for them.

Harassment is unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 if it’s related to a protected characteristic.

Roles and responsibilities

We expect all Girlguiding volunteers, members and staff (including contractors and consultants) to:

  • Treat everyone with dignity and respect in accordance with our Equality and diversity policy
  • Promote positive, inclusive behaviour by behaving appropriately and challenging those who don’t
  • Report incidents of bullying and harassment using our formal routes
  • Follow the effective safeguarding behaviours
  • Be aware of behaviour that indicates possible bullying or harassment
  • Deal with any incidents in a timely and transparent way, where appropriate

Reporting bullying or harassment

If bullying or harassment happens it needs to be dealt with appropriately and immediately. So it’s important that you know the correct process to follow.

Volunteers and members should immediately report the incident to our Safe practice department at [email protected].

  • If you feel you need more support or advice you can always contact your regional safeguarding lead or county commissioner or refer to our safeguarding procedures.
  • The Safe practice department will assess how to deal with the incident. Depending on the type of incident, they’ll keep you up to date on how it will be managed.
  • The Safeguarding, Complaints, Compliance and Inclusion teams may work together on the case.

Staff should speak informally to your line manager or Human resources in the first instance to share your concerns and establish the facts.

  • If the person perpetrating the bullying or harassment is your direct line manager, approach the next manager in line.
  • You can send incident reports to Human Resources at Girlguiding HQ at [email protected]

The law

Relevant laws include:

For relevant legislation concerning BGO, of which Branches is part, please contact the BGO chief commissioner for details.

Support organisations

Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) - The Anti-Bullying Alliance is a coalition of organisations and individuals that are united against bullying.

ACAS -  Free HR support and legal help for UK-based employees.

ChildLine - ChildLine is the UK's free, confidential helpline for children and young people. They offer advice and support 24 hours a day. They have a whole section of their site about bullying issues that includes a video about building up your confidence after bullying.

Family Lives/Bullying UK - A leading charity providing advice and support to anyone affected by bullying.

NSPCC - Protecting children today to protect against abuse tomorrow to transform society for every childhood.

RespectMe - Scotland’s anti-bullying service.

Samaritans - Samaritans works to make sure there’s always someone there for anyone who needs someone.

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 Mind.

Advice from Mind on workplace bullying