An independent report has revealed how managers repeatedly mishandled bullying and harassment complaints at the Hamilton City Council (HCC). The report, by the Quality Environmental Consulting (QEC), found that “several” cases resulted in secret cash pay-outs to avoid the complainant going to the Employment Relations Authority, the Waikato Times reported.
The newspaper obtained a copy of the report by the Quality Environmental Council, which was finished two weeks ago but hasn’t been released, reporting yesterday that it outlines 39 recommendations regarding how council treats bullying and harassment claims. The report allegedly warns that more pay-outs will be inevitable unless these recommendations are addressed by HCC management.
The report was commissioned by senior council management as a condition of one of the complainant’s exit settlement.
It highlighted cases where HCC managers adopted improper procedures when placing employees on performance management plans or conducting disciplinary action.
In one case an employee disputed aspects of a performance plan that was presented to them by a manager. When the manager attempted to implement it anyway, the employee left HCC and was given a pay-out.
And in another case, when an employee returned from an absence from work they discovered that they had been put on a performance plan. However, they hadn’t been alerted to issues beforehand and were given no opportunity to respond. This employee also received a confidential exit settlement.
Acting chief executive, Blair Bowcott, reportedly told staff and councillors that the report was welcome and that recommendations were being implemented now or would be by the end of the year.
However, one of these initiatives – a peer support group that was supposed to provide a first point of contact for complainants – was the subject of 10 recommendations. It was found that the group, which was established last year, hadn’t met for seven months and was not included in staff induction process.
Almost 100 employees have left HCC since 2010 due to redundancy, severance, dismissal, health reasons and payments made to them total $2.5 million, according to Waikato Times.