The long-term consequences to the anti-bullying movement of Christine Pratt’s decision to go public with claims that Downing Street staff had contacted the National Bullying Helpline will be hard to quantify.
Pratt says she spoke out after denials by ministers that bullying took place, and that no employer should issue such a denial until investigating the allegations. Experts have been quick to warn that her actions in breaching the confidentiality of callers could have a serious knock-on effect on the usage of bullying helplines or employee assistance programmes.
It’s now incumbent on HR to act quickly to reassure employees they can raise concerns about unacceptable behaviour at work in a safe environment.
Pratt clearly trades off the fact she is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – the CIPD’s name is plastered all over the charity’s website and promotes services to employers run by chartered members.
The Charity Commission is probing practices at the helpline – now is the time for the CIPD to investigate Pratt’s behaviour.
The institute’s code of professional conduct states members are required to exercise “appropriate behaviour in all their business, professional and related personal activities”. Clause 4.1.7 goes on to say members “must respect legitimate needs and requirements for confidentiality”.
The silence from institute bosses on this whole debacle has been deafening so far. The CIPD claims to care about professional standards in HR but – for some reason – doesn’t see its role as upholding them. It should think again.