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Explains what Welsh Government considers to be unacceptable customer behaviour and how we will respond to this.

First published:
11 February 2020
Last updated:

1. Introduction

1.1 Welsh Government is committed to providing a fair, consistent and accessible service for all of our customers but it is also important we provide a safe working environment for our staff to operate within, to ensure our work is undertaken in an efficient and effective manner.

1.2 We recognise that, unfortunately, there will be times when members of the public do not feel their expectations have been met in relation to services provided by us and therefore feel the need to raise a complaint or concern, or feel particularly distressed, frustrated or angry. We appreciate communication with us may relate to issues of great, personal significance and the necessary processes and procedures in place can, at times, be a cause of frustration. We want to ensure we can continue to support you where it is appropriate for us to do so but also to ensure all issues are dealt with, in an appropriate and respectful manner.

1.3 All members of the public have the right to be heard, understood and respected. However, our staff also have the same rights. We expect the highest standards from our staff in terms of their interactions with the public and therefore expect members of the public to be polite and courteous in their dealings with us, in return. We reserve the right to manage customer contact in an appropriate manner to protect our staff and maintain the effectiveness of our service to other customers.

1.4 The aim of this document is to let staff and members of the public know what we consider unacceptable behaviour to be, and what actions we may take as a result.

2. Equality and diversity

2.1 Welsh Government recognises that some members of the public may have a mental health problem and/or disability where it may be difficult for them to either express themselves or communicate clearly and/or appropriately. Where this is the case, we will consider the individual needs and circumstances of the customer and our staff before deciding on how best to manage the situation.

3. What is unacceptable behaviour?

3.1 All of our staff have the right not to be subjected to aggressive, abusive or offensive language, or behaviour, regardless of the circumstances and therefore, we will not tolerate aggressive or abusive behaviour, unreasonable demands or unreasonable persistence, or threats against individuals or the organisation. This relates to all forms of contact including (but not limited to) face-to-face, via phone, via electronic means, via social media and via written formats.

3.2 From time to time, members of staff have been subject to behaviour and communications that are unacceptable because of their nature. This may be because the nature of the communication is malicious, vexatious or persistent, even after the issue raised has been addressed.  Examples of this behaviour may include, but not be limited to:

Aggressive, abusive or offensive behaviour:

  • threats of, or actual, physical violence, including behaviour or language (written or spoken) that may cause staff to feel distressed, threatened or abused
  • emotional, abusive or manipulative behaviour
  • swearing or making derogatory remarks
  • communications that are offensive in tone or language, including inappropriate cultural, racial or religious references
  • rudeness, including derogatory remarks or those of a sexual nature
  • threats of harm to individuals, the organisation or to others that may include bomb or suicide threats
  • continual phone calls or letters which may or may not take the form of hoax calls or contain abusive, sexual or malicious content

Unreasonable demands and persistence:

  • demanding responses within an unreasonable timescale or information not relevant to your issue or complaint
  • excessive telephone calls, emails or letters
  • sending duplicate correspondence
  • repeatedly changing the substance of a complaint or raising unrelated concerns
  • persistent refusal to accept a decision or explanation
  • expecting services to be available outside of what is considered as usual office hours or the publicised times
  • repeatedly contacting or insisting on speaking to a member of staff who is not directly dealing with your issue or complaint
  • repeatedly contacting or insisting on speaking to a member of staff who has been dealing with your issue or complaint after the matter has been closed or the issue has been addressed
  • demanding action relating to items we have no jurisdiction over

4. Actions and restrictions

4.1 Where a member of the public continues to communicate and/or behave in an unacceptable manner, via any method, Welsh Government will exercise its right to restrict contact and/or take suitable action it deems appropriate for the situation.

Face-to-face contact

4.2 In most instances when we consider that someone’s behaviour is unreasonable, we will, when appropriate, explain why and ask them to change it. Customers and members of the public will be advised if their language is offensive, unnecessary and unhelpful, and asked to stop. If unacceptable behaviour continues, members of staff can terminate the meeting. If a member of staff feels threatened or in danger at any stage, they are advised to call 999 immediately for police assistance.

4.3 Physical assaults will be reported to the police and all assaults, attempted assaults or threats will be reported to the Welsh Government Security Unit for further consideration and action.

4.4 Where the police are not called following an assault, or if they have been called and are not prepared to prosecute, then legal proceedings can be started by the person towards whom the violence was directed or by the Welsh Government if that action is considered proportionate and appropriate. 

4.5 Repeated threats, verbal abuse and persistent annoyance against staff, outside Welsh Government premises, at other locations at which a member of staff may be carrying out their duties, or at their home, will not be tolerated and will be reported to the Welsh Government Security Unit for further consideration and may result in more formal action being taken, including police action if appropriate.

Terminating a telephone call

4.6 In most instances when we consider that someone’s behaviour is unreasonable, we will, when appropriate, explain why and ask them to change it. Customers and members of the public will be advised if their language is offensive, unnecessary and unhelpful, and asked to stop; otherwise, the person receiving the call will end the conversation immediately.

4.7 The threat, or use, of physical violence, verbal abuse or harassment towards Welsh Government staff will result in the termination of the telephone call and will be reported to the police.

4.8 In the event that a member of the public does not modify their behaviour, further consideration will be given to formally managing ongoing contact between them and the Welsh Government.

Considering when to manage contact

4.9 In the very small number of cases where the actions or behaviours of individual members of the public challenge our ability to deliver an effective service for all, the Welsh Government may also consider more formal action to manage contact.

4.10  Welsh Government may decide to, amongst other considerations:

  • block telephone calls and/or emails from being received
  • limit future contact to a particular form and frequency
  • insist on customer meetings at our premises only
  • inform individuals that items will be considered to ensure no new issues have been raised but then filed, without further acknowledgement
  • terminate all contact
  • classify the customer as potential risk or threat
  • ensure that managers in other customer facing areas are advised and, if need be, alert outside organisations to any potential threat
  • consider reporting behaviour to the appropriate regulator where potential professional misconduct may be a concern
  • refer the matter to the Police, Social Services or other appropriate organisation
  • take legal action such as applying for an injunction or court order to prohibit contact or poor behaviour

5. Data protection and record keeping

5.1 Deciding that contact or correspondence is unacceptable or vexatious can only be done on a case-by-case basis. Where decisions are taken to implement action as above, a record will be kept on file and the individual will be formally written to and informed of the action and any review date. Where appropriate, and in line with Data Protection legislation, records of incidents may be shared with the appropriate internal department or external authority.

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