A Fair and Inclusive Place to Work

In this section

The individual differences which exist between us, all contribute towards our shared vision of being the East of England’s most valued organisation.

This section sets out what you can expect from our co-op and your colleagues, and equally what we expect from you as we strive to create a positive, co-operative team that everyone wants to be a part of.

  • Dignity at Work

    Each and every colleague within our co-op deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Equally, each and every colleague is responsible for their own behaviour and helping to ensure our co-op is a workplace free from discrimination, bullying, harassment, or victimisation in any form.

    What is meant by discrimination, bullying, harassment, and victimisation?

    • Discrimination is when somebody is treated unfairly because of a protected characteristic (see Inclusion and Diversity below).
    • Bullying is unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel uncomfortable (i.e. frightened, disrespected, upset, ‘put down’).
    • Harassment is when the bullying or unwanted behaviour relates to a protected characteristic and violates somebody’s dignity or creates a hostile environment for them. The law on harassment is different if it relates to marriage, civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity.
    • Victimisation is when somebody is treated unfairly because they complained or supported a complaint relating to discrimination or harassment.

    Discrimination, bullying, harassment, and victimisation can take many forms and can affect an individual even if the behaviour happens virtually / remotely, via text messages and social media, for example.

    How do I know what behaviour is acceptable to someone else?

    Generally speaking, we should recognise what behaviour would likely offend another person and / or constitute discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation. For example, someone should not have to make clear to another that singing a racist chant is not acceptable. However, it might not always be as clear whether some behaviours may be unwelcome or offend another person (for example, certain ‘banter’ or jokes, flirting, or asking someone out for a drink after work). In such cases, first-time conduct which causes offence may not constitute bullying or harassment, but it will become harassment if that behaviour continues after the recipient has made clear (verbally or otherwise) that it is unacceptable to them. That said, a single incident may constitute bullying or harassment if it's sufficiently serious.

    Ultimately, we all have the right to decide what behaviour is acceptable to us and have our feelings respected by others. Therefore, we should always be mindful that something we might not intend to offend another, might still do so.

    Does this policy extend outside of the immediate workplace / environment?

    Yes. Our colleagues should expect the same treatment and behaviour in any work-related setting, including work-related social events, business trips and on social media (also see Work-related Social Events).

    How can I help to ensure my work environment is free of these behaviours?

    Your primary responsibility is your own behaviour, ensuring you are contributing to a positive and inclusive working environment for you and your colleagues. By treating your colleagues with dignity and respect, you are also demonstrating the standard of behaviour you expect them to show you. Further details are outlined in our 'Inclusion and Diversity' policy below. Other ways you can help include:

    • Being aware of how your behaviour affects your colleagues and being prepared to change it, if necessary.
    • ‘Taking a stand’ if you think inappropriate jokes or comments are being made.
    • Making it clear to others when you find their behaviour unacceptable.
    • Intervening, where possible, to stop discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation, and offering support to anyone experiencing this.
    • Reporting any instances of discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation to your line manager or the People Team, as appropriate.
    • Co-operating with any informal or formal investigation into allegations of discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation, by providing us with any relevant information.
    • In the event of alleged discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation, ensuring you do not prejudge or victimise anyone involved.

    If you’re a line manager, you have a particular responsibility to set an example in your own behaviour and to ensure that colleagues know what standards of behaviour are expected of them. Your role is to create a supportive working environment for your team and you should intervene to stop and investigate any instances of actual or suspected discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation. You should report any such instances or allegations / complaints to the People Team so they can support you in taking appropriate action.

    What should I do if I think I am being bullied, harassed or victimised?

    You may be able to resolve the issue informally. As discussed, the person may not know their behaviour is unwelcome or upsetting and an informal discussion with them may help them to understand the effect of their behaviour and will allow you to agree a way forward together. You may wish to advise them that if the behaviour continues, you intend to make a formal complaint to your line manager or the People Team.

    If you don't feel comfortable to approach them yourself, you could ask you manager, trade union representative or another colleague for support. Alternatively, you might explain to any of these individuals your concerns and ask them to make an initial approach to the colleague on your behalf. Either way, ensure you keep a note of the date and time of the conversation, along with the details of what was said. This will be useful if the unwanted behaviour continues.

    If an informal approach doesn’t resolve the issue, or you feel this isn’t appropriate due its seriousness, you can raise a grievance. You can read more about our grievance procedure under Managing Performance or Concerns at Work, although in these circumstances, you can choose whether to raise your grievance with your line manager or directly to the People Team. We can make arrangements for you to raise your grievance in a way which you feel most comfortable with (for example, to someone of the same gender as you).  

    In very serious cases, a criminal offence may have been committed. Should you wish to report matters to the police, we can arrange for someone to accompany you to make a complaint.

    How will you deal with any allegations of discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation?

    We will support any colleague via the informal and formal grievance route outlined in this section. Our approach to handling formal grievances can be viewed under Managing Performance or Concerns at Work.

    We will handle any complaint sensitively and maintain confidentiality as much as we can. We’ll discuss with you how best to manage the sensitivities of the situation whilst these matters are being addressed or investigated. However, investigations into any allegations will normally require limited disclosure on a ‘need to know’ basis. For example, your identity and the nature of the allegations will normally need to be revealed to the person you are complaining about so that they are able to respond.

    All discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation is misconduct and is a disciplinary offence. In some cases, the behaviour may be serious enough to be considered gross misconduct, which can lead to a colleague’s dismissal without notice. Equally, making a complaint or giving evidence that you know to be untrue may lead to Disciplinary action being taken against you.

    What other support is available to me?

    In addition to our support as outlined in this section, GroceryAid may be able to offer you support. GroceryAid are a national charity which specialises in helping colleagues across the grocery industry, including our colleagues in Funeral, H.L. Perfitt, Travel and Central Functions too. They offer a range of support and guidance in a number of areas, including mental health and wellbeing, finances, legal matters, relationships and workplace issues. GroceryAid can be contacted via their 24/7 helpline on 08088 021 122 or via their website. Their services are free and confidential.

  • Inclusion & Diversity

    We value and celebrate the diversity of our colleagues and believe we’re stronger together. We know that a diverse workforce brings with it a wealth of knowledge, experience and talent, all of which are fundamental to the success of our business and its people. Our vision is to be the East of England’s most valued organisation, and the diversity of our colleagues enables us to better meet and respond to our communities’ changing needs. 

    We know that it’s not enough to ‘just’ encourage diversity. We’re committed to creating an environment where all our colleagues feel included and that they belong. However, to sustain this, we must all share this responsibility, with our managers having a particular responsibility for their respective business area and / or teams. 

    What can you expect from us?

    • We’ll create an environment where you’ll feel comfortable to be your true self at work.
    • We’ll offer equal opportunities, implementing policies and procedures which reduce or remove the risk of unlawful discrimination in areas including (but not limited to):
      • Pay and benefits
      • Terms and conditions of employment
      • Discipline and grievance
      • Dismissal (including redundancy)
      • Family leave
      • Flexible working
      • Performance reviews / appraisals
      • Selection for employment, promotion, training or other development opportunities
      • Working environment / conditions
    • We’ll recognise the diversity of our colleagues in our business activities and communications.
    • We’ll investigate concerns about unacceptable behaviour or working practices and show a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment, victimisation and unlawful discrimination.
    • We’ll support you when you have appropriately challenged or raised concerns regarding unacceptable behaviour or working practices.
    • We’ll seriously consider any changes you request to your working arrangements, like flexible working and reasonable adjustments to your role.
    • We’ll provide you, your colleagues and line managers with relevant guidance and training.

    What do we expect from you?

    • To do the right thing and demonstrate dignity and respect for your colleagues, recognising and celebrating differences. 
    • To follow and be respectful of our co-op’s policies and procedures in all areas.
    • To undertake and engage with any relevant guidance and training, applying this to your own behaviour and work activities and encouraging this in others too.
    • To challenge unacceptable behaviour, reporting any concerns to your line manager or the People Team, as appropriate.

    Other Information

    The areas / characteristics protected from unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origin), religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. Furthermore, we do not discriminate on the grounds of trade union membership, spent criminal convictions or other non-related job considerations.

  • Religious Observance

    Can I take time off work to observe religious holidays?

    If you wish to observe a religious holiday which falls on a normal working day for you (whether a Bank or Public Holiday or not), please speak with your line manager about making a holiday request. Alternatively, you could explore other options like unpaid leave or rearranging your working pattern for that week. As with other leave requests, whether this can be accommodated will be dependent on operational requirements, but we’ll do our best to support you.

    What other support do you offer colleagues with religious (or other) beliefs?

    If you require access to facilities or other arrangements at work due to your religious (or other) beliefs, then please speak with your line manager. This might include altered break times or access to a quiet, private space for prayer, for example. You’re not obliged to share the details of your religious (or other) beliefs, but it will help your line manager to ensure they’re fairly considering your request.

Need some help?

Please have a chat with your line manager if you have any questions or concerns about any of the policies within our Colleague Handbook, or if you need any further support or guidance. If you require any information in an alternative format, please email hrservices@eastofengland.coop

Whilst we've tried to make our Colleague Handbook friendlier and more accessible, our policies and procedures are just as important. Please bear in mind that any breaches of our policies and procedures may result in disciplinary action.