Office Standards

Chris Evans MP Office Standards

People may act out of character in times of trouble or distress. There may have been upsetting or distressing circumstances leading up to a constituent approaching my office.
However, I will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour nor actions that result in unacceptable or excessive demands on my staff in that it prevents them from carrying out their duties effectively.

Aggressive or abusive behaviour

I understand that many constituents are often upset and angry about the issues they have raised in their complaint. If that anger escalates into aggression towards my staff, I consider that unacceptable. Any violence or abuse towards staff will not be tolerated.

Aggressive or abusive behaviour language (whether verbal or written) that may cause staff to feel offended, afraid, threatened or abused at any point during a conversation with a constituent, the interaction may be ended at any time.

I of course appreciate individuals who come to my office may be upset. While I accept that those who contact me may feel angry, it is not acceptable to shout or swear at anyone in my office.

Any comments aimed not at my staff but at third parties may also be considered unacceptable because of the effect that listening or reading them may have on my staff.

Examples include rudeness, offensive comments, derogatory remarks, making inflammatory statements, or raising unsubstantiated allegations made towards these third parties.

Unreasonable levels of contact

Sometimes the volume and duration of contact made to my office by an individual causes problems

when a constituent repeatedly makes long telephone calls to us or inundates us with copies of information that has been sent already or that is irrelevant to the complaint.

I 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 impacts on my offices’ ability to deal with that complaint, or with other constituents’ complaints.

Unacceptable 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 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 excessive copying us into emails to other parties.

Refusal to co-operate

When looking at a complaint, my office will need to ask the individual who has contacted us to work with us.

This can include agreeing:

  • on the complaint we will look at,
  • to provide us with further information, evidence or help us by summarising your concerns in writing.
  • Where assisting a family member or friend we will require a signed letter of authority.

Sometimes, an individual repeatedly refuses to co-operate and this makes it difficult for us to proceed. My office will always seek to assist someone if they have a specific, genuine difficulty complying with a request.  However, it is unacceptable to bring a complaint to my office and then not respond to clear and appropriate requests by staff.

Unreasonable demands

A demand becomes unacceptable when it starts to impact substantially on the work my staff are able to carry out on my behalf.

Examples of this behaviour include:

  • repeatedly demanding 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 and unnecessary contact during the course of us dealing with a complaint or making enquiries,
  • Refusing to accept a decision where explanations for the decision have been provided.
An example of such impact would be that the demand takes up an excessive amount of staff time and in doing so disadvantages other constituents and prevents their own complaint from being dealt with quickly.

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 delivering a service on my behalf and therefore this 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.
  • asking my staff for their own personal opinions or comments.
  • 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.

Reasonable adjustments

I understand that some constituents may find it difficult for them to express themselves or communicate clearly, especially when they are anxious or upset.  In order to do this, we ask that they explain what adjustments they’re looking for and how this will ensure they can access the service my office offers.  My office will always consider making reasonable adjustments for a constituent asked to do so.

Examples of adjustments we can consider are:

  • we could consider using different methods of communication.
  • providing written communication in large print, coloured text, or in translation.
  • giving clear warnings if conversations become unproductive and allowing constituents to opportunity to modify their behaviour before ending a call.

However, I do not expect my staff to accept being subjected to aggressive, offensive, threatening or abusive actions, language or behaviour where a reasonable adjustment has been made.

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 only in writing or via a representative
  • Deciding not to investigate a complaint on the basis that it has been pursued in a way that is unacceptable.
  • Stop all communication with a constituent
  • Restricting or limiting contact

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.