Grievance 10 (against Professor Chris Scull FSA)

This is a grievance submitted in respect of the conduct of Professor (then Dr) Christopher Scull, who was the Director of the Research Department of English Heritage. The grievance is set out in full below and is reproduced in the attached pdf file.

'Complaint about the behaviour of Christopher Scull [Submitted to English Heritage Human Resources]


This is a complaint about the behaviour and actions of Mr Christopher Scull, Director of the Research Department. I am afraid that I have to request that this complaint is addressed formally through the English Heritage Grievance Procedure.


I was absent from work on certified sick leave from 13th September 2007 to 12th September 2008, wholly due to work-related depression, anxiety and stress and I had been involved in various grievance procedures involving Research Department staff since 15th June 2007. This process was completed in June this year.


We [HR and I] have recently agreed a plan, approved by my GP, by which I could resume employment. This involved a phased return to work and independent mediation with management to seek to repair working relationships and build a degree of mutual confidence and trust for the future.


I returned to work on this basis on 15th September 2008 and we agreed that xxxxxxxxx [Private Employment Services Company] would be employed to facilitate the mediation process.


I have repeatedly said and written that this return to full-time work cannot be successful and sustainable unless the Director of the Research Department is engaged in the process. I believe that this is a reasonable position to adopt.


You have just informed me that Christopher Scull will not participate in mediation. You have said that he was willing to meet me, should I wish to do this either when he is at Fort Cumberland on other business or if I were to travel to up to London.


This approach by Mr Scull trivialises the very real concerns and anxieties that I have about my return and shows no respect or consideration for me as an employee and as an individual. It takes no account of the seriousness of events over the last 15 months.


This refusal to engage in discussions in a meaningful manner is both unreasonable and unfair. It demonstrates just what little value is placed on any contribution that I have made and might make to the work of English Heritage and indeed to my profession.


I have therefore to complain that Christopher Scull is deliberately and wilfully denying me the opportunity to make a successful and sustainable return to work. I would be grateful if you could let me know how English Heritage wishes to proceed.


I am sorry to have to do this. I really am not a serial complainer by nature – as ever I have just been forced into this position.


Supporting statement (9th October 2008)


Had English Heritage been made fully aware of my reasons for seeking independent mediation with Chris Scull and the importance that I attached to this?


I have stated and written on many occasions that I regard mediation with Chris Scull (Director of the Research Department) as being essential to my successful and sustainable return to work.


There has been email correspondence on this subject with xxxxxxxxx [HR Rep] on the 4th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 24th September 2008. I also stressed the importance of repairing our working relationship at a meeting with xxxxxxxxx [HR Rep] and Brian Kerr (Head of Archaeological Projects) on the 11th September to discuss my return to work.


Extracts written by me in this email correspondence are:


1. ‘I have also come to realise that I cannot have such a return [to work] without reaching some sort of accommodation with both Christopher Scull … and Brian Kerr. I now agree [with HR] that it is not possible to return to work 'in a silo'.


English Heritage has displayed considerable shortcomings in our previous discussions and meetings, and has repeatedly discounted the views of Prospect. In these circumstances I suggest that it is fair and reasonable to seek to reach an accommodation with Mr Scull and Mr Kerr through independent mediation’.


2. ‘It will not be possible to 'by-pass' Mr Scull in any meaningful mediation process. He has, after all, been responsible for …. key decisions made by EH since June 2007 and influenced the actions and behaviours of other EH staff since that time. In these circumstances it is not reasonable to try to restrict the accommodation that we need to reach to my relationship with my immediate day-to-day line management’.


3. ‘… it will not be possible for me to reintegrate into the workplace without reaching a working accommodation with the Director of the Research Department. Given what has taken place since June 2007 I feel that this will only be possible through external mediation, such as you [HR Rep] have suggested with Mr Kerr’.


4. ‘I cannot stress enough however that a successful and sustainable return is dependent upon a relationship of mutual respect, trust and confidence between myself and Christopher Scull’.


How did English Heritage respond to my request for mediation with Chris Scull?


I have had no response from Chris Scull to any of this.


I did receive two emails from Brian Kerr and xxxxxxxxx [HR Rep] informing me that, if I wished, I could either: see Mr Scull on one of the days that he was due to visit Fort Cumberland; or make an appointment through his PA to see him in his office in London.


 What reasons have been put forward by English Heritage to explain why Chris Scull will not engage in mediation?


Two arguments have been made by English Heritage to justify Chris Sculls’ unwillingness to engage in the mediation process:


1. My request for mediation is simply a means to re-visit my earlier grievances.


I do believe that the way in which the various Procedures were applied was deeply flawed and that the outcomes were perverse. However I have accepted that these deliberations are over within English Heritage and there is no evidence whatsoever for anyone to think otherwise.


I do of course have to make such reference to earlier events, actions and behaviours as is necessary to allow people to understand why I have been forced to make the complaint that I have reproduced above.


I fully recognise that the mediation process is about solving problems so that they do not occur again in the future and is less concerned with who was right or wrong in the past.


2. Mediation with Chris Scull is not necessary as our working relationship is ‘remote’ in terms of line management and is the same as between him and any other archaeologist.


In email correspondence it has been argued that mediation between me and Chris Scull is not necessary because we do not have a direct working relationship.


Extracts from this correspondence with me are:


5. ‘… our proposal is that mediation should be offered to you and Brian as you have a direct working relationship.  As you will not have regular contact with Chris, I do not see mediation as a requirement or precursor to you returning’. From xxxxxxxxx [HR Rep].


6. ‘… [my relationship with Chris Scull] is not a direct reporting relationship and you will not be in regular contact’. From xxxxxxxxx [HR Rep].

7. ‘ … [Chris Scull] did not feel a mediation session was necessary as you and he do not have regular contact and have a relatively removed working relationship - like Chris' relationship with other archaeologists’. From xxxxxxxxx [HR Rep].


8. 'We [English Heritage] do acknowledge that you do have to have a working relationship with Chris Scull, in the same way that other archaeologists in the team have, accepting that direct contact with Chris is relatively infrequent for most members of our team'. From Brian Kerr.


However Chris Scull has been personally and intimately involved with key decisions which have affected (adversely) the lives of myself and my family since June 2007.


Examples of this involvement are:


§         Chris Scull authorised my removal from the Silbury Hill site (an unprecedented action);


§         Chris Scull authorised (as member of the Silbury Hill Project Board) my dismissal from the management of the Silbury project;


§         At one point it was suggested it would be helpful to explore resolving my formal grievances through [internal] mediation [facilitated by Dr Impey]. I agreed to this proposal but it was rejected by Chris Scull.


I maintain that it is not reasonable or tenable, and in fact lacking in respect, to suggest that my working relationship with Chris Scull is the same as his relationship with other archaeologists.


I also believe that reducing interactions between us to bare necessities is very unproductive and damaging.


What is my perception of my working relationship with Chris Scull?


Chris Scull has, I believe, sought to create the impression that he has been impartial and neutral in his relationship with me, and that the actions he has authorised were taken after an objective consideration of the evidence placed before him.


I think that the reality is very different and that his behaviour towards me can be best characterised as …. disdain and personal hostility. For example:


§         Chris Scull authorised my removal from the Silbury Hill site without my having been made aware of any complaints against me, and with no warning of or  opportunity to address any concerns that had been raised;


§         Chris Scull has made no effort or spent any time at all trying to achieve a timely and informal resolution to any of the very difficult circumstances that I and my family have faced.


Why was I proposing mediation with Chris Scull?


The behaviours displayed by Chris Scull towards me have been translated into action by others who have not been able to ameliorate its harmful effects. This is why I feel that the mediation process must encompass Chris Scull and not just Brian Kerr as my line manager.


If I may quote from a recent article in the Telegraph ‘We all want to be the person we know ourselves to be and for others to recognise this and treat us with respect. We want to live without being dominated by fear, to enjoy good relationships and to have a secure place in our society’.


I felt that mediation with Chris Scull would be a means to begin to achieve these aims at work, recognising that:


§         Alienation between us has reached a point where we could not engage constructively if we were to meet individually;

§         There would be significant benefits to be gained from simply taking part in the process.


Supporting evidence (13th October 2008)


‘I would like to highlight some of the information contained in the report (attached) of my independent medical referral in relation to my complaint about Chris Scull.


Amongst its advice and recommendations this report states that:


‘… were he [Fachtna McAvoy] able to return to a modified situation in which he had faith and belief that his employer was in a position to exert his duty of care towards him then, in my opinion, based on this report he would be fit to return to work …’


‘… it would also be useful to give him the opportunity to discuss with his managers any concerns he has …’


‘It may be appropriate to consider working in an alternative area or working under a different management …’


In addition the report notes that:


‘… it would be sensible to assume that his condition may potentially be considered as a disability in the context of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995/2005 as he does remain on high levels of medication and his symptoms have clearly persisted for an extended period and thus would be considered long term. Therefore any adjustments made would need to be considered as to whether they were reasonable or not in the light of disability legislation.’


‘ … this gentleman does have a disability related condition that has largely responded to treatment. There would not appear to be any significant medical barriers to him returning to work and the barriers to such a return are now entirely organisational … I would expect him to be able to render reliable service and attendance into the future if the organisational barriers can be resolved’.


I believe that this report demonstrates the serious nature of my concerns and supports my view that it is entirely reasonable that I should seek to reach a satisfactory working relationship with Chris Scull as an essential part of my successful and sustainable return to work.


I would be grateful if this evidence could be considered at the hearing into my complaint’.


Addendum (12th November 2008)


On the 24th September 2008 I submitted a complaint about the behaviour of Christopher Scull [Grievance 10] which I wished to see formally addressed through the English Heritage Grievance Procedure.


On the 23rd October 2008 we met with Dr Edward Impey and xxxxxxxxx [TU Rep] (in …. role as Prospect representative on my behalf) as part of Dr Impey’s Hearing into this complaint. It was suggested that a reason for Mr Scull’s refusal to engage in mediation may be that he did not fully appreciate my views (supported by Prospect) of the seriousness and significance of actions taken by managers within the Research Department and the very damaging effects (both personal and professional) that the treatment that I have received has had on me.


It was agreed to defer the finding into the complaint to allow for a meeting to take place with Mr Scull. This was intended to ensure that he was fully aware of the effects of his actions and behaviour and to provide him with an opportunity to reconsider his refusal to assist with my successful and sustainable return to work through mediation facilitated by xxxxxxxxx [Private Employment Services Company].


We all decided that Mr Scull’s willingness to attend such a meeting and the identification of a date on which it would take place, should be established by the end of yesterday, as a decision by Mr Scull to meet or not would naturally influence the local mediation agreed with Brian Kerr. This [mediation] began yesterday (12th November).


I (and Prospect) received no indication whatsoever with regard to the attitude of Mr Scull in relation to this proposed meeting and have had to assume that he has no intention of taking up this suggestion. This lack of communication, in itself, betrays an underlying lack of care for my concerns by Mr Scull.


Obviously I already felt that Mr Scull had acted unfairly and unreasonably in not agreeing to participate in the mediation process in the first place (my original complaint) and his recent behaviour has reinforced and confirmed this belief.


We have tried to address the latest excuse put forward on his behalf (see above) but he has been wholly unwilling to even agree to engage in the discussion which it was suggested would provide further information to allow him to review his decision not to participate.


This refusal has created a very considerable amount of additional and unnecessary anxiety and stress for myself and my family and comes at a time when I am engaged in the difficult process of seeking to return to normal hours at Fort Cumberland and to re-establish relationships with colleagues.


I would be grateful if you could arrange for this additional matter to be considered by Dr Impey as part of his hearing.'

17 Nov 2010, 06:54