Code of practice on harassment - procedure for staff

The procedure applies to staff alleging harassment against other staff, students or visitors. Please read the supplementary guidance which accompanies this procedure.

For students who are alleging harassment see the separate procedure for students.

1. Application and Scope

1.1 The University aims to create a fair, welcoming and inclusive environment where all members of its community can fulfil their potential.

1.2 All members of the University are expected to treat each other with dignity and respect.

1.3 There is a requirement that staff, students and visitors will not harass or bully other members of the University community.

1.4 The procedure applies to all current staff of the University.

1.5 The procedure may apply where harassment takes place off-campus.

2. General Principles

The following principles will apply:

2.1 Wherever possible, allegations of harassment should be resolved informally without recourse to formal procedures.

2.2 Individuals involved in a case can seek advice and/or support from the officers outlined at Appendix A below at any stage in the procedure.

2.3 There may be occasions when it is not possible or appropriate for an allegation of harassment to be resolved informally. In such cases staff of the Human Resources (HR) Department will advise in conjunction with the Equality and Diversity (E&D) Office.

2.4 Any steps taken under this procedure should be taken promptly, unless there is a good reason for delay.

2.5 There will be no assumption of guilt made in any complaint of harassment until it has been proven.

2.6 It is acknowledged that counter-complaints of harassment sometimes arise when a complaint is made. In the event that a complaint gives rise to counter-complaints these should be considered at the same time as the original complaint.

2.7 Other procedures may run concurrently to the complaint of harassment. If relevant, the results of investigations undertaken as part of harassment or other procedures will be considered.

2.8 At any stage in the procedure, appropriate intervention such as mediation, fact-finding or non-adversarial discussions with the aim of facilitating resolution of the case may be undertaken.

2.9 If, on investigation, the complaint of harassment is found to be vexatious, the individual making the complaint may be subject to disciplinary procedures.

2.10 Right to be accompanied - All parties involved in this procedure will have the right to be accompanied at any formal meetings held under this procedure by a trade union representative or work colleague.

2.11 Right to support - All parties involved in this procedure can request support or advice if involved in a case – this could include support from a number of individuals or services – see list at Appendix A.

2.12 Confidentiality - All parties involved in these procedures must ensure that they maintain, as appropriate, the confidentiality of the process within and outside the University.

2.13 Timescales - Whilst every endeavour will be made to comply with timescales, due to the complexity and or specific circumstances of a case, timescales may be extended. In such circumstances the individuals concerned will be advised of the reasons for any delay.

2.14 Legislation - this policy is in accordance with the requirements of the Equality Act and Duty. Harassment is defined within the Equality Act 2010. There is no separate definition of bullying in the Act.

3. Definition of harassment

3.1 Harassment is behaviour that has the purpose or the effect of offending, hurting, degrading or intimidating a person or persons or violating dignity. It may be a single event, sporadic events or a continuing process.

3.2 Sexual harassment is also covered under the Code of Practice on Harassment. For more information and list of definitions of sexual harassment see the Guidelines for Staff Procedure.

3.3 Bullying is an aspect of harassment. It is defined as the persistent, intent to hurt or humiliate someone.

3.4 The defining feature of harassment/bullying is that the behaviour is unwanted by the recipient and unwarranted by the working or study/social relationship and would be regarded as such by any reasonable person.

3.5 Harassment/bullying may be verbal, non-verbal, physical, written or by other means of communication including electronic.

3.6 Victimisation is where someone is treated less favourably because they have taken or intend to take action under this Policy and within the scope of the Equality Act 2010, or are supporting somebody who is doing so.

4. Mediation

4.1 At any stage in the procedure, the parties may request that the matter be referred for mediation.

4.2 Mediation is voluntary, confidential and outside of any other University procedures and will take place only if the parties agree. It is however, hoped that individuals will recognise the benefits of seeking to resolve issues via mediation and will be amenable to and co-operate with this approach.

4.3 The University’s mediation service is available to staff.

5. Informal Procedure

5.1 There is an expectation that every effort will be made to resolve complaints of harassment through informal procedures.

5.2 There is a range of options depending on the nature of the complaint, and who is involved. The individual making the complaint can:

5.2.1 Talk/write to the individual who is the subject of the complaint to inform them of the unacceptable nature of the behaviour and request that they stop. Cessation of the behaviour and an apology (if there has been any unacceptable behaviour) may be sufficient to bring the matter to a close. The individual making the complaint may ask for someone to accompany them or speak on their behalf.

5.2.2 Arrange to talk to a Harassment Adviser or Trade Union Representative to explore options for resolution of the harassment and for support. This may include mediation in appropriate circumstances – see Section 4.

5.2.3 Seek a meeting with their manager. Depending upon the nature of the complaint, the manager may undertake to resolve the issue or advise the individual making the complaint on appropriate steps.

5.3 Once a complaint has been brought to the attention of the manager, it is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that the complaint is addressed.

5.4 The manager may need to make discreet investigations in order to establish whether any harassment or inappropriate behaviour has taken place and to take appropriate action.

5.5 If the complaint of harassment is against the employee’s manager it should be raised with the next level of line management.

5.6 Following an outcome to the use of the informal procedure, which is accepted by all parties, the matter will be considered resolved. This should be agreed in writing.

5.7 If there has been no accepted resolution via the informal procedure and before proceeding to the formal procedure, the individual making the complaint should meet with staff of the Equality and Diversity Office to ensure that all options for resolution of the complaint have been considered and appropriate action to seek resolution has been taken.
There are two likely outcomes to this meeting:

1. Insufficient grounds for a formal complaint and the individual making the complaint is asked to reconsider informal options
2. Proceed to the formal procedure

To ensure that the individual who is making the complaint is fully informed of the implications, the formal stages of the Grievance procedure for staff should be fully explored before proceeding further.

5.8 If, following the meeting at 5.7 it has not been possible to resolve the matter informally and the harassment has continued, or where the alleged harassment is serious, the employee should raise the complaint formally using the Grievance Procedure for staff.

5.9 In very exceptional circumstances where the individual is reluctant to pursue a formal complaint through the Grievance Procedure, but where the alleged harassment is deemed very serious in nature or where the manager is aware there are broader issues of concern around the culture of a team/group of individuals, an investigation may anyway be instigated, with the agreement of the Head of Department and on the advice of the HR Partner/Advisor and the Equality and Diversity Office.

From this point forward the Grievance Procedure for staff should be followed: at Step 5 Formal Procedure.

Note that the terminology differs in the 2 procedures. The individual making the complaint is referred to as the "Employee" within the Grievance Procedure.

Appendix A

Advice and Support for staff in relation to harassment


Line Manager

Managers have responsibility for ensuring that complaints of harassment are resolved.

Harassment Adviser

Trained members of the University who act as a first point of contact for staff experiencing harassment or bullying. They can give support and identify options to facilitate resolution.

Trade Union Representative

Staff members can seek support from their Trade Union.

HR Partner/Advisor

Each department is supported by an HR Partner and an HR Advisor. They provide specialist support and advice on all HR issues to managers and staff.

Health Assured

Free and confidential support service. Internal use only.

Chaplain's Office


Equality and Diversity Office

Advice and guidance on equality and diversity issues

Contact us

Equality and Diversity Office
+44 (0)1904 324680

Contact us

Equality and Diversity Office
+44 (0)1904 324680