QASA ALOM: Speaking to Kaajal Nathwani now, Head of Employment Law at Curwens Solicitors. Evening. Kaajal, good to talk to you tell us then, because one of the things that I keep thinking about here and a lot of people have been talking about it is, right. What is this threshold? What does actually constitute bullying in the law in the ministerial code? Can you explain that to us first of all?
KAAJAL NATHWANI: Evening Qasa and yeah, so obviously in the Dominic Raab case there’s this additional layer where there has to be consideration of the ministerial code, which is of course, the professional code that ministers are required to abide by in the performance of their duties and that code stipulates that bullying is the creation of any offensive, intimidating, malicious, or insulting behaviour, abuse or misuse of power in ways that undermine humiliate denigrate or injure the recipient. So that's within the parameters of the code, which as I said is an additional layer on top of what we would constitute or what would be constituted is bullying outside of the code, which of course, you know is the general definition of bullying which is very wide-ranging unwanted conducts of behaviour designed to cause harm distress to another person and characterizes offensive intimidating malicious or insulting behaviour and it can be related to protected characteristics, of course age race sex disability religion etc or just general
QASA ALOM: There's a lot to go through there and a lot of words that are coming out and is it a situation that those are the typical patterns of behaviour, or is it something that a few of those can constitute bullying or does it need to count on having all of those sorts of issues there that you talked about such as for example, abuse of power being humiliating, malicious intent, for example?
KAAJAL NATHWANI: It can just be one of those. It doesn't have to be all of those, and I think the key here is that the actions or comments or the conduct have to be viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient. So we take the recipient as an individual and then obviously an investigation centres around how the conduct of the alleged perpetrator impacted that individual specifically and that's why the threshold varies so extensively because it's multi-faceted. There are a number of factors for consideration here. You know, the context of what was said what was done the individual and who they are in context of what was said or done and you know the workplace if we're talking about the workplace industry sectors the types of job and what goes on in the ordinary course of the day.
QASA ALOM: It's about the recipient. That's the thing that you just said there that really jumped out of me and because for a lot of people they might be thinking. Well, I'm like this with everyone and you know, 50% of the people think I'm alright and, and, some of there are some people who perhaps a rub up the wrong way, but that is at the wrong way of looking at this then is what you're saying because you need to take it actually from how the person that is right in front of you is going to take it.
KAAJAL NATHWANI: That's absolutely right. That's why in the report with the allegations against Dominic Raab, The conclusion in respect of some of the allegations was that he simply could not have reasonably known of the impact of his behaviour on others. So that's the issue here. The findings based on all the investigations were that those individuals if they hadn't at time drawn to his attention that his conduct was problematic and they'd never said anything or acted on it, then how could he have known that the way in which he spoke to them or the way in which he conducted himself was having this impact on them. So for example, you know, he's alleged to have used descriptive words in relation to a particular report saying that it was “utterly useless and woeful”. If that was the normal language that he used on an everyday basis then would somebody feel intimidated by that? Would … does that go beyond just normal critical feedback and at what point does criticism go too far? That's subjective to each individual and perhaps how they perceive words that are spoken to them.
QASA ALOM: So what do you make of Dominic Raab's resignation letter also some of his justifications in it as well about, you know, you have to be able to do your job here to, to in order to reach a certain level.
KAAJAL NATHWANI: It's very difficult because this is something or a defence, I should say cited by many individuals who perhaps have allegations like this against them and they are often those in managerial positions or positions of authority who have received complaints from their subordinates and, their rationale is that it's a management style, you know to achieve results and actually with that management style taken away or dumbed down that actually it's going to have a significant impact on the ability to achieve success or the desired successes. A government whip actually said, you know, “we now live in a country where the definition of bullying includes telling someone to do their job where the slightest upset or annoyance is indulged with endless reports and inquiries” , that's an extreme view of the effects.
QASA ALOM: Is there a point there though, Kaajal and that's something that Dominic Rob was talking about actually that you know, he has a fear that this is going to have a chilling effect on those driving change on behalf of your government. This was in his resignation letter, you know that it could set a dangerous precedent. What do you think about that?
KAAJAL NATHWANI: I think that respect is fundamental in any relationship and the employment relationship is no different to that. I think that if there is mutual respect and consideration for individuals, then that wouldn't be talking to them in a way that has the effect of intimidating them. You know, there is a huge fine line between critical feedback and you know behaving in such a way that's abrasive towards individuals that has the purpose or effect of making them feel vulnerable. So I think you know, you can achieve results, you can do your job. You don't have to do it in that way that has the purpose or effect that it has in this situation.
Kaajal, thank you so much. Kaajal Nathwani now, Head of Employment Law at Curwens Solicitors.