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Unreasonable behaviour policy

1. Summary

The Gambling Commission aims to provide a professional, fair, and efficient service. It is important that we can communicate with everyone who contacts us and we do not normally limit the contact that people have with us.

People may contact us to ask a question, to provide information, or to make a complaint. Our staff aim to listen and understand and to allow people to explain their case or query. We manage contact in line with the areas we regulate and our service standards.

Some people may struggle to communicate with us, due to disability or other reasons. Where this is the case, we will make all reasonable adjustments to ensure access to our services.

We understand that people may contact us at times when they feel angry, upset, or distressed. To help us to understand your issue and to offer a service to you, please be polite to our staff.

Our staff deserve to be treated with courtesy, consideration, and respect. They do not have to accept abusive or unreasonable behaviour, language, or communication. We will not tolerate it, and it may affect how we can communicate with you.

The Commission has a duty of care to our employees. This policy sets out types of unacceptable and unreasonable behaviour. It sets out the actions the Commission may take to address such behaviour.

This policy applies to:

  • all areas of our work
  • anyone who contacts us (this includes members of the public, businesses, licensees, applicants and their representatives)
  • all methods of contact (this includes telephone calls, emails and letters, social media and other digital channels).

In making any decision about unreasonable behaviour, we may consider:

  • how it affects our staff
  • how it affects the individual (including their personal circumstances and any reasonable adjustments)
  • the extent to which we are able to engage or assist
  • the extent to which the Commission’s processes or the subject matter has been exhausted.

2. What behaviours are unacceptable?

We cannot provide a comprehensive list of actions that are unacceptable. Examples fall under these two broad headings:

Aggressive and/or abusive behaviour

Behaviour which causes employees to feel intimidated, humiliated, offended, afraid, bullied, or harassed.

For example (not an exhaustive list):

  • threats
  • abuse
  • offensive language which is disparaging against any individual or group. This includes protected characteristics listed in section 4 of the Equality Act 2010 (opens in a new tab)
  • derogatory remarks
  • offensive language
  • rudeness
  • making inflammatory statements
  • raising unreasonable and unsubstantiated allegations
  • derogatory, abusive, or insulting comments made about Commission staff online or in the media
  • harassing, abusing, or threatening Commission staff in their personal life (including on their personal social networks).

Our staff do not have to tolerate unacceptable behaviour in any correspondence. This includes letters, emails, and on social media. We do not respond to abusive, threatening, offensive or derogatory correspondence. Such correspondence is flagged as ‘no response provided’.

Some of the behaviours outlined are unlawful. We will consider whether a police report is appropriate.

Unreasonable demands and communication

Individuals may make unreasonable demands on the Commission through:

  • the amount of information they seek
  • the nature and scale of the service expected
  • the volume of correspondence generated.

The number of contacts or duration of each contact can cause problems for our staff. We accept that persistence is not necessarily a form of unacceptable behaviour.

Unreasonable behaviour depends on the circumstances and the nature of the issues raised. Some contact takes a disproportionate amount of the Commission’s time and resources. This can affect our ability to provide a service to other members of the public.

Examples may include:

  • requesting responses in unreasonable timescales
  • insisting on speaking with certain members of staff
  • adopting a 'capture-all' approach by contacting many staff members and third parties
  • copying the Commission in to emails with other parties
  • sending copies of information already provided.

Communication may be considered unreasonable if, for example, individuals:

  • refuse to accept explanations of what we can or can not do or investigate
  • make repeated contact while we are looking into an issue
  • make repeated contact about the same matter without raising new issues
  • refuse to accept a decision or the explanation for a decision
  • refuse to accept and/or follow the Commission’s procedures
  • continue to pursue complaints and/or issues which have been investigated and determined
  • continue to raise unfounded or new complaints arising from the same set of facts
  • continue to contact us when we are unable to add anything further to a previous response.

3. How we will manage unacceptable behaviour

If we find someone’s behaviour is unacceptable, we will tell them why and ask them to change it. If that behaviour, or other unacceptable behaviour continues, we will issue a warning.

We will explain why we find the behaviour to be unacceptable and how we want the person to communicate with us. This covers all forms of communication, including verbal, written and social media posts.

Staff can act immediately if behaviour makes them feel intimidated, humiliated, offended, afraid, bullied, or harassed.

Action includes ending the communication. If possible the staff member will provide a warning about the behaviour. Staff must log all incidents and save the recording of all phone calls. These records are used in decision making.

If behaviour threatens the safety or welfare of our staff, we may inform the authorities. In such cases, the Commission may issue a warning and a contact restriction at the same time.

Contact restrictions are agreed by member of Commission staff nominated by the Chief Executive Officer.

A restriction may include, but is not limited to, any or all of the following:

  • contact may be in writing only
  • contact may be limited to a specified number of times per month
  • contact may only be with a specific individual within the Commission
  • contact may be limited to a specific email address or telephone number within the Commission
  • we may restrict the issues that we will communicate about
  • correspondence may be logged but not acknowledged or responded to
  • social media users can be blocked and comments removed from Commission channels. This is in line with the Social Media House Rules. Activity which breaches site codes of conduct will be reported to social media platforms.

The decision to restrict contact should be appropriate and proportionate. Each decision will consider the nature and frequency of the person’s contact with us at that time.

The previous list is not exhaustive as each case is determined on its own merit. Restrictions are tailored to the required circumstances, taking into consideration any reasonable adjustments.

If unreasonable behaviour relates to a Subject Access Request (SAR) or Freedom of Information (FOI) request we will refer to the guidance provided by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) (opens in a new tab).

4. Recording and reviewing decisions

If a contact restriction is made the person concerned will be informed in writing where possible.

We will explain:

  • the reason for the decision
  • how it affects future contact with us
  • how long any restrictions will last
  • how to appeal the decision
  • how to raise SAR and FOI requests

We will keep accurate and up to date details of all people who fall within the scope of this policy.

Details of contact restrictions are shared with Commission staff on a need to know basis.

Contact restrictions last for a fixed period. Restrictions can end, or be altered, or extended at the end of that period. If the unreasonable behaviour does not change, the Commission will continue the restriction. Individuals will be informed of the alteration or extension of restriction in writing where possible.

If someone wishes to challenge our use of this policy, then they can raise a complaint about our service.

Date of review: June 2023.

Next date for review: June 2025.

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