The vast majority of people who contact us act in a calm and reasonable manner. However, if someone does not act in a reasonable manner, our staff are instructed to follow this policy. Our staff are not expected to tolerate behaviour which is abusive, offensive, threatening or, due to the frequency of contact, accounts for a disproportionate use of time and resources that could be spent more effectively dealing with other issues or other queries.
What kind of behaviour is unacceptable?
The following types of behaviour are not acceptable:
- Unreasonable persistence - Persisting with an issue which has already been considered and closed. It may be manifested in different ways; for example, insisting that the issue be looked at again, re-framing it so as to present it as a new issue, persevering with an argument that has earlier been addressed or making contact numerous times over a short period of time, through one or more channels.
- Unreasonable demands - Expecting an outcome or approach that is unrealistic or disproportionate. An example would be demanding we consider an issue which is outside of our remit.
- Unreasonable lack of co-operation - For example, not identifying the issue clearly, not providing details in writing when requested, sending large volumes of potentially unnecessary material and expecting an immediate response, changing the nature of the issue midway through the query process or dishonesty in relation to the facts.
- Unreasonable arguments – Examples include exaggerating issues, presenting irrelevant or unreasonable arguments, focusing on small details, insisting your version of events is accepted as fact where there is no objective evidence to support it, refusing to consider other versions of events, or being guided by unfounded conspiracy theories or by desire for revenge or a grudge against another person, public body or business.
- Unreasonable behaviour - For example, threatening violence, abusing staff, rude or aggressive conduct or threatening self-harm.
What happens if a person behaves in this way?
If we consider a person’s behaviour to be unreasonable, we will tell them why and ask them to change it. If the unreasonable behaviour continues, we will take action to put limits on their contact with our office. This decision will only normally be taken after a manager (or director) has reviewed the situation. Restrictions will be appropriate and proportionate to the nature of the behaviour. The options we are most likely to consider are:
- asking them to contact us by letter or email only
- asking them to only make contact with a named staff member
- asking them to call by telephone only on certain days and times
- as a final option, terminating all contact with them if this behaviour shows no signs of stopping (a manager, in consultation with a director, will make this decision). We may also refer the matter to the appropriate authorities, if necessary.
Regardless of a person’s behaviour, our staff will act respectfully towards them at all times.
* The FSAI acknowledges that this policy is based on that of the Office of the Ombudsman.