Note: Throughout this document the use of the word trainee refers to any person receiving direct training support from MRO.
- We are committed to always setting and maintaining a high standard of professional conduct for its staff, who are responsible for maintaining professional boundaries in their day-to-day work with our trainees*. Professional boundaries enable staff and trainee/family to engage safely and effectively.
- This policy applies to all employees, volunteers and staff of Moray Reach Out.
- This policy outlines the many ways that professional boundaries can be crossed without due care and awareness of the issues involved.
- At Moray Reach out we expect employees / volunteers to establish a rapport with our trainees and provide friendly and accessible services. This could lead to an increased risk of crossing professional boundaries.
- We require staff to understand the difference between professional and personal relationships in the work context.
- Staff and volunteers are responsible for establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries between themselves and trainees.
Definition of Terms
- Professional boundaries are the limits to the relationship of a member of staff and a trainee which allow for a safe connection between the staff member and that trainee (and their nominated family, carers and friends), protecting both staff and trainee/family.
- Boundaries are the lines that separate the professional from non-professional relationships
- Power imbalance is the difference in power relations between a staff member and the trainees we work with. This can be due to the vulnerability of the person, the sensitive information staff have access to, or the role of the staff member in providing or giving support.
- Staff must always remember that they play a role to support the trainees’ needs, whilst understanding that professional boundaries require the recognition of potential conflicts, risks and complexities of providing support.
- Despite best efforts to maintain professional relationships, boundaries may be crossed and may lead to strains or a break down in relationships.
- Some signs of compromised boundaries are:
- Setting aside time outside of work to assist a trainee/family
- Possessive or secretive behaviour (e.g. becoming defensive in matters relating to a trainee/family or not sharing information with managers)
- Judgemental attitudes (leading to withholding of support, criticism, or abuse towards the person)
- Social relationship between staff, trainees and their family members are inappropriate, including friendship, socialising, social relationships via social networking sites or electronic means, or entering any other relationships apart from a professional one. To do this is a breach of professional boundaries.
- Staff who visit trainees at home or outside our premises must do this for work related purposes which is agreed by the team. Requests by trainees and families for staff to visit at home, or outside of our premises, outside of these arrangements should be declined by staff and discussed with their manager.
- An employee is encouraged to declare to their manager if there is a pre-existing personal/social relationship (acquaintance, friend, relative connection etc.) with a trainee or their family as soon as they are aware. The manager will manage any declaration sensitively, always maintain confidentiality and only inform others on a need-to-know basis.
- Any breach to a professional boundary will be managed in line with relevant procedures to ensure the safety of staff and trainees/families is managed accordingly.
- Staff will avoid requesting information that is not necessary for the purposes of providing support. Further, staff shall not disclose any unnecessary personal information relating to themselves or others at MRO. This is important, especially when the disclosed information has potential to affect the professional relationship. Before making any voluntary disclosures, employees should always question the motive behind the disclosure, whether the information would help the person and consider the unintended consequences that can arise from the disclosure.
- In general, gifts should not be exchanged between staff and trainee/families, and this should be clearly communicated early in the professional relationship. However, it is understood that in certain situations, cultures, and contexts, refusing of gifts could appear as offensive and may damage the established good working relationship. In these cases, this should be discussed with the relevant manager.
- While providing support, staff may develop feelings for trainees, their relatives, or carers and vice versa. Employees must remember it is their responsibility to conduct themselves professionally and maintain professional boundaries with the trainees we support. If a staff member notices a change in the relationship or signs they or another party seeks a change in the relationship, they must inform their manager and discuss ways to continue to maintain the professional nature of the relationship.
- Some examples of relationships that are prohibited are:
- Personal relationship (being friends, assuming the role of a parent/guardian)
- Any sexual relationship
- Financial or business relationship (entering contracts, giving, or lending money, etc.)
- Staff must never seek out relationships with former or current trainee/family/carer’s and will use caution with exchanging messages and making connections on social networking sites and other electronic means with those we care for, as this can blur the safe zones of professional boundaries. If staff have concerns or questions about appropriate behaviour, they should consult their manager.
- Where a staff member has a concern or question about professional boundaries, they should seek guidance from their manager. This is especially where an employee has a personal relationship that may impact their ability to perform their role and breaches the definition of a “professional boundary”.
- Where there has been a report of a possible professional boundary breach the matter will be investigated and may result in disciplinary action. The severity of the disciplinary outcome will depend on the seriousness of the breach