The Church of Scotland has appointed eight “harassment officers” to tackle complaints of widespread workplace bullying.
Kirk staff will also take part in anti-bullying workshops after it is revealed that a “surprisingly significant percentage” of staff are unhappy with their treatment at work.
Church of Scotland officials at their HQ in Edinburgh took the extraordinary steps after a survey of more than 200 staff revealed that they were not happy with the way they have been treated by the senior management team and other colleagues.
Staff have also been issued with guidance on how to write courteous emails and provided access to a confidential bullying advice helpline.
The survey asked staff their views on workplace relations, job satisfaction, influence and control.
Among the complaints which were made in the survey, a number expressed “negative views about the senior management team.”
One report, published after the survey was completed, identified several areas in which staff felt they had been mistreated.
Workers complained about being compelled “to work against the code of conduct” and “defamatory communication by those outside the offices”.
A report, which has been prepared for next month’s General Assembly, drafted by the central services committee, stated that the Kirk has a zero tolerance policy on bullying and outlines the steps which have been taken to address concerns.
The report said: “We created the role of harassment adviser so that staff would have easy access to confidential and expert support in any case of bullying.
“Fourteen staff members volunteered to take the training for this and eight are now trained an in place.
“We organised bullying and harassment awareness sessions in partnership with the trade union and required all staff to attend.”
It added: “A guidance note on email etiquette, which was prepared by the staff who make up the administrators’ forum, was endorsed by the senior management team and issued to all staff. It sets out good practice for communication.”
The report also stated that the new harassment policy and grievance procedure has been agreed with private sector workers’ union Unite.
However, the moderator of the Kirk’s General Assembly, the Right Rev Albert Bogle was appealing for spiritual help to address the claims of bullying and workplace harassment.
He said: “We are going to ask the Holy Spirit to come and heal those feeling sad, hurt and abused, not thought of and cared for, and we are going to ask God to help us become different people.”
The report which is being issued, came after claims made last year that there was unrest at the Kirk’s headquarters due to bullying in the workplace.
Last year it was reported that choirmaster Ian Simcock had had his contract terminated with the Church of Scotland amid claims he had bullied a number of choristers during his tenure at Glasgow Cathedral. Mr Simcock denied the claims and was taking the matter to an employment tribunal.
The General Assembly, to be held next month, will also vote on whether or not to allow openly gay ministers. As the news of anti-bullying procedure having to be implemented by the Church, it is has been reported that the Kirk could lose up to 50 congregations should in the row over the ordination of homosexual clergy.