Under the section for Employees, the NBH website says:
"Would you rather have an independent investigator look into your grievance or appeal - or a manager at work? If you want to request an independent, impartial, investigation - call us."Bear in mind the National Bullying Helpline does not conduct investigations - these are done by HR & Diversity Management Ltd. So the National Bullying Helpline is promoting the commercial services of HR & Diversity Management Ltd. The latter is neither a charity, a trade union nor a law firm, and it is not authorised (by the Ministry of Justice under the Claims Management Regulations 2006) to advise individuals on their potential claims.
If you call the National Bullying Helpline for advice because you think you are being bullied at work, you may be told that you need to write out your grievance and give it to your employer, and that the fairest way to have your grievance dealt with is for HR & Diversity Management to conduct an independent investigation. If you're lucky, you'll be advised by the CEO and founder, Christine Pratt. You will likely be sent some printable material including a "what to do guide" and a "step by step guide".
The “What To Do Guide” says:
"If your employer does not agree to an Independent Investigation it is likely they have something to hide. As a final resort you should consider the recommendations contained in the FREE Step By Step Guide issued by the National Bullying Helpline (HR & Diversity Management Ltd). Your statutory rights are explained fully in this document."
The step by step guide includes this advice:
"If you still need help, before invoking a Tribunal claim or instructing a solicitor, consider using us as a Third Party Dispute Resolution Service. The DTI recommend this approach (See Page 20: Michael Gibbons Review). We have helped resolve many situations through an employee going to their Executive Management and asking for an independent investigation into their dispute/grievance. Most of our work is done in this area and we have proved extremely successful in ‘taking the heat out of a situation’ and persuading both the employer and employee to settle out of Court. Talk to someone you trust at work, at a senior level, and recommend this as a ‘way forward’. Generally, employers will welcome a positive approach to a problem and by recommending this service you will acquire a real feel for whether your employer is a ‘caring’ employer, or not."
Bearing in mind that you probably rang the helpline because you were out of ideas, you might be persuaded that this is a good idea. If you are, you'll be sent a template letter complete and send to your employer. In 2007 the letter included these words:
"Following my letter / grievance letter submitted on …… (provide some details), I have been feeling increasingly unwell and have now been signed off work for Work Related Stress by my GP for a period of ….. The treatment I am enduring presently is making me feel unwell.
"I would therefore like to formally request that you authorise/ instigate an independent investigation or mediation in respect of concerns I have regarding my employment situation. This approach is less confrontational than a formal process as both parties may be able to reach an amicable solution.
"I have identified a Company, HR & Diversity Management Limited (HR&DM) who specialise in providing a complete Dispute Resolution service (both independent investigations and/or a mediation service). I ask that you now authorise this company to assist in this case..."
The letter goes on to set out the virtues of HR&DM, whose portfolio was provided to complete the introduction. This is not the same as you being referred to one of the charity's "sources of help" of which it says HR & Diversity Management is just one. In fact it is the opposite. By sending this letter to your employer you are in fact referring HR & Diversity Management Ltd to your employer.
It is implicit that if you call a charity that calls itself the "National Bullying Helpline", you will be helped. It is implicit that the worst they could do is say "sorry, we cannot help you". The very last thing you would expect is that the helpline operator would team up with the person or organisation you feel is bullying you. So, if you are sure you have been bullied, and when the registered charity has advised you that this investigation is in your best interests, you would only recommend them in the belief that your grievance will be upheld. You would never recommend them if they told you that YOU might turn out to be the bully - would you?
The selling point that the National Bullying Helpline makes to you is probably quite different from the selling point they make to your employer. HR & Diversity Management's web site says:
"At HR&DM we have designed a model which ascertains, very early on, whether an employee grievance is vexatious or not. This model also assists employers with their line of defence as it identifies where policies need reviewing and where training or diversity initiatives are required to ensure problems do not occur again."
"Use a Third Party to Investigate cases of Grievance where you suspect Bullying or Harassment has taken place. An acceptance of a third party decision by an employee, is far less expensive than an internal decision which is not accepted by the employee who takes the case to an Employment Tribunal." [HR&DM's emphasis]
HR & DM's "bullying business" investigations page also tells employers is this:
"During 2006 25% of cases found that the instigator, the alleged victim, was in fact, the bully."The same firm's "bullying business" statistics page says:
"During 2006 32% of the complaints investigated by HR&DM were found to be vexatious."
These statistics are not backed up by data but the claim that HR & DM's investigation process "assists employers with their line of defence" is probably not something that is said to people who call the National Bullying Helpline. At least it isn't in large print until HR & DM writes it in their "investigation report".
If your employer is lucky, the investigation will be done by HR & Diversity Manangement's founder, former MD and HR management expert Christine Pratt - the same person who advised you when you rang the National Bullying Helpline.
SO... What do you do if you call the helpline, feeling bullied, recommend the investigation services to your employer and you're then deemed to have committed gross misconduct by doing what the helpline advises? (blog post on this topic to follow) If you have any energy, who do you get in touch with? The Helpline or HR & Diversity Management Ltd?
The National Bullying Helpline website says:
"There is a complaints procedure on this website. Write in with any concerns and our Trustee's will always respond." [sic]So you search the website and find a section headed “COMPLAINTS POLICY” which says:
"If you have any complaints about our Charity, or any members of our staff, please write to the registered office of our Charity at 29 Devizes Road, Swindon, SN1 4BG. Mark your letter for the attention of The Trustee's of The National Bullying Helpline." [sic]As policies and procedures go, that is quite short. Note that the NBH shares the registered office with HR & DM Ltd, and Christine's husband David is a director of both. It's also their home address.
If you complain that the NBH is being used as a front to gain business for HR & DM, the trustees may determine that your concerns are outside the remit of the charity, and say you should refer your complaint to the Directors of HR and Diversity Management Ltd. If you do that, they may say that you were not their client. If you write to the Charities Commission, they will probably ask the trustees to investigate. If you write to the Claims Management Regulator, they will say HR&DM is not providing regulated services, and the NBH is exempt from the regulations.
In other words, if you call the National Bullying Helpline for help, because you believe you're being bullied at work, and you follow their advice, they might tell your employer that you are the bully, call your grievance vexatious, and leave you in a worse position than when you started, with no comeback at all. That's why this blog is here.