The Office of Tan Dhesi MP recognises that people may act out of character in times of trouble or distress and that there may have been upsetting or distressing circumstances leading up to a constituent approaching Tan’s office.
However, Tan Dhesi MP will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour nor actions that result in unacceptable or excessive demands on his staff which prevent them from carrying out their duties effectively.
It is these behaviours and actions that this policy aims to manage. The following outlines Tan Dhesi MP’s position on these issues.
Refusal to co-operate
When looking at a case, my office will need to ask the individual who has contacted my office to respond to correspondence from us and provide information. This can include:
- clarifying the issue we will look at;
- providing us with further information, evidence, or comments on request;
- helping us by summarising their concerns.
For example, if an individual who has asked me and my team for help repeatedly refuses to co-operate, this can make it difficult for us to proceed. My office will always seek to assist and make accommodations for someone if they have a specific, genuine difficulty complying with a request.
However, it is unacceptable to request assistance from my office and then not respond to clear and appropriate requests from my office. This not only takes up time, but further delays other constituents getting help from my office. Where this happens, it is likely that such cases will be deprioritised or simply closed with no further action from my office.
A demand becomes unreasonable, unacceptable, or excessive when it starts to (or when complying with the demand would) impact substantially on the work my staff carry out on my behalf.
Often such demands take up an excessive amount of staff time, which not only prevents the individual’s complaint from being dealt with promptly but also disadvantages other constituents who also have pressing problems.
Examples of this behaviour include:
- repeatedly demanding a response within an unreasonable timescale;
- insisting on seeing or speaking to a particular member of staff when that is not possible;
- repeatedly changing the substance of a complaint or raising unrelated concerns;
- making repeated requests for particular actions which, as a UK Member of Parliament, I am not permitted to take, or where I have no jurisdiction (e.g. interfering in issues before a court or issues which are the responsibility of a foreign government);
- making repeated and unnecessary contact during the course of my office dealing with a case;
- refusing to accept a decision where explanations for the decision have been provided.
Unacceptable levels of contact
Sometimes the volume and duration of contact made to my office by an individual can cause problems. This can occur over a short period or over the duration of a case.
I or my Office Manager may consider that the level of contact has become unacceptable when the amount of time spent talking to a constituent on the telephone, or responding to, reviewing, and filing emails or written correspondence negatively impacts on my office’s ability to deal with that constituent’s own case, with other constituents’ casework, or my office’s ability to support me in discharging my duties as a Member of Parliament.
Unreasonable or persistent levels of contact include:
- continuous contact while my office is in the process of considering a matter;
- repeated telephone calls over a short period, for example, a high number of calls in one day or week;
- lengthy telephone calls repeating the same points of discussion;
- high volumes of information provided by email or post referencing the same issues;
- unnecessarily or excessively copying my office into emails to other parties.
My staff have the right to carry out their duties free from harassment or threats of harassment. I ask everyone to respect that my staff are public servants working on my behalf, and therefore my views or actions may not reflect their own views or preferences.
Examples of behaviours I consider to be harassment against my office include:
- recording telephone discussions and publishing the information online such as through online platforms like YouTube, Vimeo or Twitter;
- contacting staff using their personal details or social media presence such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn;
- publishing personal, sensitive, or private information about staff online or other public domains such as noticeboards or newsletters.
Aggressive or abusive behaviour
I understand that many constituents are often upset and angry about the issues they have raised in their case. If that anger escalates into aggression towards my staff, I consider that unacceptable. Any violence or abuse towards me or my staff will not be tolerated and may be reported to the police.
Violence is not restricted to acts of aggression that may result in physical harm. It also includes behaviour or language (whether verbal or written) that may cause staff to feel offended, afraid, threatened or abused.
I or my Office Manager will judge each situation individually. While I accept that those who contact me may feel angry or upset, it is not acceptable to shout or swear at anyone in my office.
Unacceptable language is that which:
- is offensive, derogatory, or patronising;
- is discriminatory in any way, including racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic comments; or
- makes serious allegations that individuals have committed criminal, corrupt, or perverse conduct without any evidence.
I may decide that comments aimed not at my staff but at third parties are unacceptable because of the effect that listening or reading them may have on my staff.
All threats made against either me or my staff will be taken seriously and if staff feel scared or threatened at any point during a conversation with a constituent, the interaction may be ended at any time. It is also my policy to report all threats made towards me or my staff to the Police.
Actions I may take
When my office experiences behaviour or demands which are unacceptable, I may consider taking more formal action. The actions I will consider can include the following:
- warning the constituent about their behaviour and requesting that the constituent modifies their behaviour in future contact with us;
- appointing a specific point of contact for the constituent;
- communicating with the constituent only in writing or via a representative;
- deciding not to progress with a case;
- restricting or limiting contact;
- reporting to the Police or other relevant authorities;
- stopping all communication with a constituent (and therefore not accepting further casework from that constituent on any matter).
Where it is decided that formal action must be taken to manage someone’s behaviour, I or my office will inform them of the decision in writing. A note will be placed on our records to this effect.