An Informal approach should normally be considered as a first step, this is often very effective in maintaining healthy working relationships.
If an individual feels that they have been, or are being subjected to harassment or bullying, they may feel able to take action on their own to make the other person aware of the effect of the behaviour on them and how they may be able to amend it; this is encouraged where appropriate and safe to do so.
In some cases, the reported staff member may be unaware that their behaviour is having a detrimental impact on another individual. This is worth considering as it may be a fairly straightforward matter to point out to them what it is that has caused offence or has been interpreted in a particular way and that may be sufficient to prevent a recurrence.
In many situations, taking personal action can be the most effective and relatively simple way to raise concerns and resolve issues. However, an individual should not feel obliged to raise concerns in this way and should be made aware of the other available options.
An individual may feel able to have a conversation with, or write to, the other person and explain, as clearly as possible, what it is that they consider to be unacceptable about the behaviour and suggest to them how they may be able to amend it.
An individual may arrange to talk to a line manager , HR adviser or Trades Union representative to explore options for resolution and support; this may include mediation in appropriate circumstances.
If an individual does decide to take personal action it may be advisable to note down factual information about the discussion that takes place and any agreed outcomes. It will also be helpful to keep copies of relevant written or email correspondence.
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).
If the individual has not been able to resolve the issue through a personal approach – or does not wish to follow this route - but still wishes to seek informal resolution, they should approach their line manager to ask for support in achieving a resolution of the problem. The reporting party should provide details to their line manager regarding the incident(s) of alleged harassment/bullying.
It is the responsibility of the line manager – with advice and support from the HR Partner/HR Advisor - to seek to resolve the matter.
If the report is against the member of staff’s line manager, it should be raised with the next level of line management.
The line manager will consult with the reporting party before deciding how to progress this and will be done in a sensitive and appropriate manner.
In all cases when receiving an informal report, the line manager may seek advice from their HR Partner/HR Advisor to inform the next steps. This may involve a conversation to explain the situation and verify that the proposed next steps are appropriate.
The line manager – in consultation with their HR Partner/HR Advisor – may decide on a number of actions depending on the nature of the report which may include:
- Brief fact-finding in order to establish what has occurred.
- Making recommendations as to how the reporting party may resolve the issue themselves.
- Negotiating agreed standards of behaviour between the parties involved.
- Communications to all parties in order to reinforce appropriate policies, procedures or broad expectations the University has around conduct within the workplace and institutional values.
- Negotiating a way forward between the parties for example facilitating – where appropriate – an apology and/or a commitment not to repeat the behaviour.
- Making temporary or permanent adjustments to working arrangements.
- Referring the matter to a more senior manager in cases where serious harassment or bullying may have occurred.
The line manager and HR Partner/HR Advisor will take account of the wider implications of any report. For example, they will consider whether the report may be part of a more systemic pattern of behaviour within the workplace.
In circumstances where the reporting party would prefer not to go to their line manager or escalate to a more senior manager it is advised that they contact their HR Partner/HR Adviser to discuss a suitable approach.
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.
In the case of a report by a member of staff, experienced mediators acceptable to both parties will normally be nominated by the Mediation Coordinator. The mediators will meet with the parties separately and as soon as practicable to begin to seek a resolution. The normal expectation is that there will be an initial meeting with each party on the same day (in the morning) as the mediation meeting where the parties are brought together (in the afternoon). Any agreements would be in place immediately following mediation.
All those involved in the mediation process must maintain appropriate confidentiality. For further information, please see the Mediation Service web page.