Formal stage

If informal action does not succeed in resolving the report, or would not be appropriate given the nature and/or seriousness of the report, the HR Partner/HR Advisor will inform the line manager of the reported staff member of the incident(s). 

  • The line manager will be responsible for informing the reported staff member of the report and begin the formal procedure. 
  • The line manager involved will explore with the HR Partner/HR Advisor whether and how an investigation should be conducted, including the appointment of an investigating officer and investigating manager if appropriate.
  • Consideration will be given to the clarity of the evidence, the number of potential witnesses, the range and nature of the issue involved to determine whether there is a need for a fairly straightforward fact-finding exercise, or a more detailed and thorough investigation as detailed below.

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Equality and Diversity Office
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The reporting party  should set out the details of their report as clearly and succinctly as possible to their line manager and should include the following information:

  • The name of the reported staff member.
  • The nature of the behaviour about which the report is made.
  • The impact the alleged behaviour has had on them.
  • Information about the times, dates and locations of any incidents, where possible.
  • An indication of whether anyone else might have observed the behaviour in question.
  • Details of any action that has already been taken to address the alleged behaviour and the outcome of any such action.
  • The resolution that is being sought.

The reported staff member and the reporting party have the right to be accompanied and supported by a Trades Union representative or by a colleague of their choice from within the University at any meeting held under this procedure (legal representation would not be appropriate as these meetings do not form part of a legal process).

Identification of an investigating manager and investigating officer

Upon receipt of a formal report containing all the information (at 4.1.1) the Line Manager will seek advice from the HR Partner/HR Advisor to agree the following in relation to a formal investigation of the report:

  • Identification of an investigating manager who will have oversight of the investigation. Their role is to remain impartial, to review the findings of the investigation report, conducted by the Investigating officer, consider and agree the outcomes and recommendations.
  • Identification of an investigating officer to undertake the investigation into the report.
  • Neither the investigating officer nor the investigating manager should have had significant previous contact with the reporting party, the reported staff member or issues identified in the report.

The investigating manager should be of sufficient seniority to be able to ensure implementation or otherwise act on any recommendations made by the investigating officer.  This will be done by notifying the Head of Department of the action required.

The investigating officer will usually be a manager in another department of an appropriate level of seniority.

Note: The relationship between the reporting party and the reported staff member will determine who will be investigating manager and investigating officer. For example the report may be against a colleague who is a peer, against their line manager or against someone who works in another department

The investigating manager will, in consultation with the HR Partner/HR Advisor determine the following:

  • The scope of the investigation.
  • The outcomes to be sought by the investigating officer.

The investigating officer will, in consultation with the HR Partner/HR Advisor determine the following:

  • What evidence will be gathered, including who will be interviewed as a potential witness, to enable a decision to be taken on whether – on the balance of probabilities – the report of harassment or bullying should be upheld,
  • Timelines for the investigation.
  • Who will communicate with the reporting party  and the reported staff member  to advise them that an investigation is to be undertaken and to keep them informed of progress with it including next steps.

The investigating officer will consider the findings of their investigation and determine whether any further investigation is required before concluding their investigation report.

The purpose of an investigation is to establish the relevant evidence in connection with the allegation(s) made by the reporting party.

The Investigating Officer is seeking to establish whether – on the balance of probabilities – the alleged behaviour complained about was more likely to have happened than not. To do this they will need to form a genuine belief, based on reasonable grounds following an appropriate investigation. This will involve the following:

  • Examining all the evidence in an objective manner.
  • Taking account of the various versions of events including those of both the reporting party  and the reported staff member. 
  • Taking account of any witness evidence.
  • Interviewing as many individuals as is reasonable to support an appropriate investigation and the formation of a view of whether the incident(s) complained about took place on the balance of probabilities.
  • Distinguishing between fact and opinion, and weighing accordingly.
  • Reviewing all the evidence to determine what is more likely than not to have happened.

The investigation should be concluded as soon as is reasonably practicable. The investigating officer will prepare a report and may, if appropriate, make recommendations on possible courses of action to the investigating manager.

The procedure for an investigation will normally be as follows, but may be adapted by the investigating officer to meet the needs of the case:

a) The investigating officer will meet the reporting party to confirm the details of the complaint.

b) The investigating officer will meet the reported staff member to establish their response to the complaint. The reported staff member will have the opportunity to put their case in response to the complaint.

c) The investigating officer will meet with individuals identified as having relevant evidence to contribute to an understanding of the complaint. (Those interviewed in the course of an investigation will be asked to review the notes of their individual discussions with the investigator as soon as is reasonably practicable).

d) The investigating officer will ensure that any meetings are conducted in a suitable environment with appropriate representation, particularly ensuring the appropriate gender representation when an individual is disclosing incidents of sexual harassment.

f) Having considered all the evidence, including any relevant documents, the investigating officer will prepare a written report covering the following:

  • Details of the allegations being investigated.
  • The scope of the investigation.
  • How the investigation was carried out.
  • The result(s) of the investigation.
  • The conclusion(s)/finding(s) of the investigation.
  • Any recommendations arising from their findings.

g) The report will be forwarded to the investigating manager with a copy to the HR Partner/HR Advisor.

The investigating manager will consider, agree and finalise the report, including the findings and recommendations from the investigating officer and will ensure appropriate action is taken. The investigating manager will share the report summarizing the findings and recommendations with the line manager(s) of the reporting party and the reported staff member. 

The investigating manager will inform the reporting party  and the reported staff member of the outcome of their investigation separately and confirm the actions they will be taking as a result of the conclusion of the investigation.

The investigating manager will also inform any other parties who have been asked to participate in an investigation that it has been concluded.

The investigating manager will confirm to the line manager and/or head of department (as appropriate) of the reporting party  and the reported staff member  what action is required as a result of the conclusion of the investigation.

The line manager and/or head of department (as appropriate) will implement any actions as notified by the investigating manager.

Every effort will be made to achieve a timely resolution to the report – the aim being to conclude any investigation within a period of no more than six working weeks. Both the reporting party  and the reported staff member  will be expected to cooperate with the University in achieving that result. In exceptional cases, an investigation may take longer than six weeks, and both parties will be kept updated about the progress of the investigation.

There may be exceptional circumstances in which a reporting party  is not willing, or able, to make a formal report but the line manager considers that the implications for them or others - actually or potentially affected - are serious. This may include cases where other parties, but not the reporting party, have made a report. In this case, the line manager will notify the head of department and consult the HR Partner/HR Advisor and an investigation may be undertaken which leads to action being taken based on such evidence as is available.

Depending on the nature of the report and the evidence found, including the findings of any investigation, the investigating manager will ensure - in consultation with the HR Partner/HR Advisor – that the following are considered and implemented as appropriate:-

a) Take no further action, other than, where appropriate, implement or recommend steps that would help to restore reasonable professional relationships between the parties.  It is acknowledged that both parties may need support in moving on from the event(s) which may involve advice being sought from the HR Advisor.

This approach will usually be appropriate where the claim(s) of harassment or bullying is (are) considered to be unfounded and where there is a continuing relationship between the parties or an informal resolution has been reached.

b) Initiate resolution of the issues. This may be by requiring that certain individuals undertake specific training or implementing practical arrangements to improve professional relationships.  If a successful resolution is achieved the case will be closed, but the situation will be monitored for an appropriate period.

This approach will usually be appropriate where the evidence does not support a claim of harassment or bullying but it is clear that either party has demonstrated behaviours that are likely to lead to further issues between them if unresolved or alternatively, that there are other issues within a department that require management attention.

c) Invoke the Disciplinary Procedure against the reported staff member  where the investigating manager is reasonably satisfied that there is evidence to support allegations of harassment or bullying of a sufficiently serious nature that should be examined further through the disciplinary process.

In this event, the investigating manager will determine what intermediate measures are necessary, including any re-allocation of duties, including line management and supervision responsibilities.

  • If there is a recommendation that the individual has a disciplinary case to answer, the investigating manager will discuss this with the HR Partner/HR Advisor and a senior member of the University who has not previously been involved will be appointed to consider the case under the University's Disciplinary Procedure.
  • In accordance with the Disciplinary Procedure the formal investigation report will be provided to the senior member and it is expected that will provide sufficient information and evidence to proceed straight to a disciplinary hearing.  If additional information is needed, further investigation will be carried out by the existing investigating manager/officer due to their familiarity with the case.
  • If more information is needed this will be sought prior to a hearing taking place. Once all the evidence is available, the senior member of staff will convene a Disciplinary Hearing in accordance with the Disciplinary Procedure.

d) In rare cases, disciplinary or other appropriate action may be taken against the reporting party if the investigating manager is satisfied that the report of harassment, bullying or hate incident is vexatious, malicious or otherwise not made in good faith.

e) In some situations it may be appropriate to ask the parties to consider entering into a mediation process. Although mediation may be attempted at any time before or after a formal investigation, it may be particularly helpful if it is considered at an early stage before the formal procedure is invoked.

If either party is not satisfied with the outcome of the report they may write to the Director of HR within ten working days of receipt of the outcome, exercising their right of appeal.

This excludes the situation where the decision is to refer the matter for consideration under the University's Disciplinary Procedure where any matters of dispute will usually be considered as part of the individual’s response under that procedure.

The letter must detail the grounds for appeal which should be addressed under one or more of the following headings:

  • The procedure was flawed.
  • The decision was unfair or perverse because the evidence did not support the outcome reached.
  • New evidence is available that could not have been made available to the original investigation.
  • Any action proposed was inappropriate in the circumstances of the case.

The Director of HR will appoint an appeals officer to consider the appeal who has not been previously involved in the case.

The purpose of the appeal is to enable the individual to explain the reasons for their appeal. It will focus on the grounds of appeal and will not be a re-hearing of the original investigation.

The appeal may involve:

  • Interviewing the appellant.
  • Interviewing the investigating manager who had oversight of the investigation into the report.
  • Interviewing the investigating manager who investigated the report.
  • Gathering, where appropriate, additional documentary evidence from the appellant and any other relevant individual(s).
  • An appeal hearing.

Where an individual has exercised their right to appeal against the outcome, the HR Partner/HR Advisor will write as soon as reasonably practicable to all the parties concerned notifying them of the arrangements for the appeal.

Where the appeal process is varied by the appeal officer they will explain the reason(s) for the variation and record them in the official record of the outcome. The outcome following any appeal will be final.

Contact us

Equality and Diversity Office
+44 (0)1904 324680