top of page

5.3 Threats and abuse towards staff and volunteers

The setting is responsible for protecting the health and safety of all staff and volunteers in its services and has a duty of care in relation to their physical and emotional well-being. We believe that violence, threatening behaviour and abuse against staff are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Where such behaviour occurs, we will take all reasonable and appropriate action in support of our staff and volunteers.

  • Staff and volunteers have a right to expect that their workplace is a safe environment, and that prompt and appropriate action will be taken on their behalf if they are subjected to abuse, threats, violence or harassment by parents, service users and other adults as they carry out their duties.

  • The most common example of unreasonable behaviour is abusive or intimidating and aggressive language. If this occurs, the ultimate sanction, where informal action is not considered to be appropriate or has proved to be ineffective, is the withdrawal of permission to be on the premises.

  • Where a person recklessly or intentionally applies unlawful force on another or puts another in fear of an immediate attack, it is an offence in law which constitutes an assault. We would normally expect the police to be contacted immediately.

There are three categories of assault, based on the severity of the injury to the victim.

  1. Common Assault - involving the threat of immediate violence or causing minor injury (such as a graze, reddening of the skin or minor bruise).

  2. Actual Bodily Harm - causing an injury which interferes with the health or comfort of the victim (such as multiple bruising, broken tooth or temporary sensory loss).

  3. Grievous Bodily Harm - causing serious injury (such as a broken bone or an injury requiring lengthy treatment).

There is also an aggravated form of assault based upon the victim’s race, religion, disability or sexual orientation and other protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010 which carries higher maximum penalties.

It is important to note that no physical attack or injury needs to have occurred for a common assault to have taken place. It is sufficient for a person to have been threatened with immediate violence and put in fear of a physical attack for an offence to have been committed.

Any staff member or volunteer who feels under threat or has been threatened, assaulted, or intimidated in the course of their work must report this immediately to their manager who will follow the setting manager’s procedures and guidance for responding.

999 should always be used when the immediate attendance of a police officer is required. The police support the use of 999 in all cases where:

  • there is danger to life

  • there is a likelihood of violence

  • an assault is, or is believed to be, in progress

  • the offender is on the premises

  • the offence has just occurred, and an early arrest is likely

If it is not possible to speak when making a 999 call because it alerts an offender, cough quietly or make a noise on the line, then follow the prompts to dial 55 (mobiles only) for a silent call. Police may be able to trace the call and attend the premises.

Harassment and intimidation

Staff may find themselves subject to a pattern of persistent unreasonable behaviour from individual parents or service users. This behaviour may not be abusive or overtly aggressive but could be perceived as intimidating and oppressive. In these circumstances staff may face a barrage of constant demands or criticisms on an almost daily basis, in a variety of formats for instance, email or telephone. They may not be particularly taxing or serious when viewed in isolation but can have a cumulative effect over a period of undermining their confidence, well-being, and health. In extreme cases, the behaviour of the parent or other service user may constitute an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, whereby:

A person must not pursue a course of conduct:

(a) which amounts to harassment of another, and

(b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.

If so, the police have powers to act against the offender. Such situations are rare but, when they do arise, they can have a damaging effect on staff and be very difficult to resolve. If the actions of a parent appear to be heading in this direction, staff should speak to their manager who will take appropriate action to support. This may include the manager sending a letter to the aggressor, warning them that their behaviour is unacceptable and may result in further action being taken against them. All incidents must be recorded and reported to the setting’s line manager using form.

Banning parents and other visitors from the premises

  • Parents and some other visitors normally have implied permission to be on the premises at certain times and for certain purposes, and they will not therefore be trespassers unless the implied permission is withdrawn.

  • If a parent or other person continues to behave unreasonably on the premises a letter will be sent to them from the owners/directors/trustees, withdrawing the implied permission for them to be there.

  • Further breaches may lead to prosecution of the person concerned by the police and they are treated as a trespasser.

  • Full records are kept of each incident, in the Reportable Incident Record, including details of any person(s) who witnessed the behaviour of the trespasser(s), since evidence will need to be provided to the Court.

Dealing with an incident

  • We would normally expect all cases of assault, and all but the most minor of other incidents, to be regarded as serious matters which should be reported to the setting manager and/or the police and followed up with due care and attention.

  • A record of the incident must be made whether the police are involved or not.

  • Whilst acknowledging that service users i.e. parents and families, may themselves be under severe stress, it is never acceptable for them to behave aggressively towards staff and volunteers. Individual circumstances along with the nature of the threat are considered before further action is taken.

  • All parties involved should consider the needs, views, feelings and wishes of the victim at every stage. We will ensure sympathetic and practical help, support and counselling is available to the victim both at the time of the incident and subsequently.

  • A range of support can be obtained:

  • from the setting manager, owners/directors/trustees and/or a staff colleague

  • from Victim Support on giving evidence in court

  • In non-urgent cases, where the incident is not thought to be an emergency, but police involvement is required, all staff and volunteers are aware of the non-emergency police contact number for the area.

  • 999 calls receive an immediate response. Unless agreed at the time, non-emergency calls are normally attended within 8 hours (24 hours at the latest).

  • When they attend the setting or service, the police will take written statements from the victim (including a ‘Victim Personal Statement’) and obtain evidence to investigate the offence in the most appropriate and effective manner.

  • The police will also consider any views expressed by the setting manager and owner/directors/trustees as to the action they would like to see taken. The manager should speak to the victim and be aware of his or her views before confirming with the police how they wish them to proceed.

  • In some cases the victim may be asked by the police if he/she wishes to make a complaint or allegation against the alleged offender. It is important to ensure that the victim can discuss the matter with their line manager, a colleague or friend before deciding on their response. It is helpful for the victim to be assured that, if there is a need subsequently to give evidence in court, support can be provided if it is not already available from Victim Support.

  • The decision regarding whether an individual is prosecuted is made by the police or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) based on the evidence and with due regard to other factors.

  • After the incident has been dealt with, a risk assessment is done to identify preventative measures that can be put in place to minimise or prevent the incident occurring again.

Harassment or intimidation of staff by parents/visitors

  • The setting manager should contact their line manager for advice and support.

  • Where the parent’s behaviour merits it, the setting manager, with another member of staff present, should inform the parent clearly but sensitively that staff feel unduly harassed or intimidated and are considering making a complaint to the police if the behaviour does not desist or improve. The parent should be left in no doubt about the gravity of the situation and that this will be followed up with a letter drafted by the setting manager but sent to their line manager for approval before being issued.

  • The setting manager and/or their line manager might wish to consider advising the parent to make a formal complaint. Information about how to complain is clearly displayed for parents and service users.

  • If the investigation concludes that the parent’s expectations and demands are unreasonable, and that they are having a detrimental effect on staff, the findings can strengthen the setting manager’s position in further discussions with the parent and subsequently, if necessary, with the police.

Complaints relating to potential breaches of the EYFS Safeguarding and Welfare requirements will be managed according to the 10.2 Complaints procedure for parents and service users.

Further guidance

Complaint Investigation Record (Pre-school Learning Alliance 2015)

Report Incident Record (Pre-school Learning Alliance 2015)

bottom of page