Guidelines to accompany procedure for staff

1. Application and Scope

1.1 There is an expectation that all members of the University community will act in accordance with this policy and adhere to the principles of treating each other with dignity and respect. Harassment, intimidation, victimisation or bullying of any kind is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

1.2 It is the University's policy to ensure that staff with a complaint of harassment have access to a procedure which can help to resolve the complaint as quickly and as fairly as possible. The purpose of this procedure is to address matters that are of concern to individual members of staff, in order to promote a positive and constructive working environment.

1.3 The Code of Practice on Harassment provides a structured approach to enable members of staff to raise allegations of harassment. It provides individuals with a course of action should they have a complaint. The aim is to ensure prompt, consistent and fair treatment for all involved in the complaint, in order to promote effective working relationships. It is the responsibility of the line manager to seek to resolve complaints of harassment at the earliest opportunity.

1.4 The procedure will cease to apply after the contract of employment of the member of staff bringing or seeking to raise a complaint of harassment has terminated for any reason. Where, however, a complaint is outstanding as at the date of termination, or is submitted immediately prior to termination, the University will seek to resolve the complaint by the most appropriate means. It will be for the University to determine how to proceed.

2.General Principles

2.1 There is a range of options for resolving complaints of harassment from an informal approach, through semi-formal to the use of the formal complaints procedure (the Grievance procedure should be followed at the formal stage). Whenever possible, the route taken to resolve the complaint should be the individual making the complaint’s choice. All parties are encouraged to consider carefully the likely consequences of the different routes. In many cases an informal or semi-formal approach may be more effective in putting a stop to harassment and facilitating a continued working relationship than invoking formal procedures.

2.2 All parties involved in this procedure must ensure that they maintain the confidentiality of the process as appropriate within and outside the University. It might be appropriate, for example, for a member of staff to discuss the procedure with his/her partner or with a trade union representative. Disclosure of information by any of the parties involved might also occur where this is required under law or where there is a circumstance involving duty of care which requires disclosure, e.g. where a manager has concerns for the well-being or safety of the staff member or others.

2.3 Where a formal complaint is found on investigation to be based on allegation(s) made maliciously and/or knowingly false information, the individual making the complaint may be subject to the University’s disciplinary procedures.

2.4 The University regards harassment as a serious matter. Where serious allegations of harassment are proven by a formal investigation, disciplinary action (up to and including dismissal) may be taken against the individual who is the subject of the complaint in accordance with the University’s disciplinary procedures.

2.5 In all cases the University will ensure that an individual who has been the subject of a complaint under these procedures does not use his/her authority to victimise a individual making the complaint.

2.6 If a member of staff wishes to be accompanied at an informal meeting, permission will not be unreasonably withheld. Prior agreement should be sought.

2.7 Timescales. The aim throughout this procedure is to ensure that staff are treated reasonably and in accordance with the principles of fairness and justice. All procedures should be expedited as soon as reasonable while still allowing these principles to be achieved. While 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 will be advised of the reasons for any delay.

To prevent delays, communication in relation to this procedure may be issued via electronic mail.

2.8 Where there are performance/capability or other procedures in place when a complaint of harassment is made, consideration will be given to the full context of the complaint.

2.9 It is recognised that being subject to harassment or bullying, being accused of harassment or being involved in a harassment investigation can be a stressful experience for the individuals concerned. Members of staff are encouraged to access the support available.

2.10 There is an expectation that staff will raise their complaint with one officer of the University and will not raise the same complaint with a number of officers simultaneously.

3. Examples of harassment

3.1 Harassment involves a range of behaviour which could include:

  • Derogatory name-calling
  • Derisory remarks, verbal abuse, insults and threats
  • Ridicule or belittling of an individual
  • Repeated gibes in reference to personal traits or appearance
  • Offensive verbal or practical jokes
  • Exclusion from normal workplace conversations or social events
  • Unfair allocation of work and responsibilities

This includes behaviour via any means including verbal, non-verbal, physical, written or by other means of communication including social media.

3.2 Harassment can relate to the protected characteristics of an individual; for example, an individual could experience harassment directly because they have a disability, are from a particular ethnic group or are transgender. It can include harassment by association with an individual or individuals with a protected characteristic or by perception for example, where an individual is harassed because they are perceived to be lesbian or gay.

3.3 Sexual harassment is any behaviour, deliberate or otherwise, that makes the recipient feel that he/she is being viewed as a sexual object. Sexual harassment involves unwanted attention of a sexual nature, which creates an intimidating, degrading or offensive environment for employment, study or social life.

Sexual harassment may occur between members of the same sex or of the opposite sex. It may be directed at an individual or a group.

In addition to the behaviour referred to in 3.1 above, sexual harassment may include:

  1. Suggestive comments, sexual innuendo and foul language or expletives of a sexual nature
  2. Unwelcome advances, attention, invitations or demands of sex
  3. Unwanted or derogatory comments about clothing or appearance
  4. Leering and suggestive gestures and remarks and noises
  5. Intrusive questioning about sex or romantic life
  6. Displaying offensive material, such as pornographic pictures, including those in electronic forms such as computer screen savers or by circulating electronically
  7. Unnecessary and unwanted physical contact*
  8. Indecent assault and rape*
  9. Stalking*

* It should be noted that behaviour under *(8) and (9) represents a criminal act and behaviour under (7) may also represent a criminal act.

3.4 Bullying is a form of harassment, defined as the persistent intent to hurt or humiliate someone.

4. Mediation

4.1 Mediation is considered to be a useful means of resolving difficulties in the workplace, particularly where interpersonal relationships are involved. Mediation may be proposed by a manager or Investigating Officer as a way of addressing a complaint of harassment. It is voluntary and will take place only if all parties agreed. It is hoped, however, that university members will recognise the benefits of seeking to resolve issues via mediation and will be amenable to and co-operate with this approach. Where mediation is agreed managers will be expected to facilitate time for employees to attend for mediation.

4.2 Where a complaint of harassment is resolved through mediation, it is anticipated that the mediator will assist the parties to draw up a written agreement. This agreement will remain confidential to the parties involved. The manager responsible for dealing with the complaint of harassment will, however, be informed if the complaint is resolved in this way. The parties may release additional information about the settlement by mutual agreement.

5. Informal Procedure: Code of Practice on Harassment

5.1 The purpose of the informal procedure under the Code of Practice on Harassment is to aim to resolve the issue whilst giving the individual who is the subject of the complaint an opportunity to cease any behaviour which causes distress.

5.2 A member of staff who feels that they have experienced harassment is advised to act promptly in addressing the issue. In some cases the person against whom the complaint has been made may be unaware that his/her behaviour is inappropriate or has caused offence, or it may be that his/her words or actions have been misinterpreted. A brief and honest discussion between the parties involved may be sufficient to resolve the matter. As a first step, the usual expectation is that the individual making the complaint approaches the individual who is the subject of the complaint directly in an attempt to address their concerns. It is suggested that the individual who is the subject of the complaint is contacted by the individual making the complaint in advance of an informal meeting and be given the opportunity to be accompanied.

5.3 An individual should keep notes and records of any incidents of harassment they have experienced. This can assist in identifying patterns of behaviour of the individual who is the subject of the complaint, and can provide useful specific examples when resolution is sought at either the informal stage or as part of an investigation.

5.4 Once a complaint has been brought to the attention of a manager it is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that the complaint is addressed. Support and guidance in doing so could be obtained from a more senior manager, HR manager, or the Equality and Diversity Office. A range of actions may be appropriate. It is likely that some form of fact-finding will be necessary in order to establish whether harassment has taken place.

5.5 A manager may decide on a number of actions depending on the type of complaint made. Actions may include:

  • Discreet fact-finding in order to establish what has occurred.
  • Making recommendations as to how the individual making the complaint can resolve the issue themselves.
  • Negotiating agreed standards of behaviour between the individuals involved and ensuring no further transgression occurs.
  • Negotiating a way forward between individuals– for example facilitating, where appropriate, an apology and an undertaking not to repeat the behaviour.
  • Making temporary or permanent adjustments to the working arrangements or environment and monitor the outcome.
  • Referring the matter to a more senior manager/HR manager in cases where serious harassment may have occurred.

5.6 Consideration should be given to allowing an appropriate time period to pass in order for strategies to resolve any inappropriate behaviour to take effect.

5.7 If a member of staff wishes to raise a complaint of bullying/harassment against their manager, the individual making the complaint should be directed to the next level of line management. The sensitivities and challenges of this type of complaint should be recognised. If harassment is found to have occurred, the staff member will have full support of their manager’s manager in ensuring that the situation is monitored on an ongoing basis and that no victimisation occurs. Victimisation of members of staff who have brought a complaint of harassment will not be tolerated.

5.8 As part of the process for dealing with a complaint, the manager should ensure that all parties concerned have the required support in place in order to continue effective working relationships once a complaint has been resolved.

5.9 If there has been no accepted resolution via the informal procedure, and before proceeding to the formal procedure, the final step in the informal procedure is to meet with the Equality and Diversity Office. At this meeting it will be clarified with the individual making the complaint whether all aspects of the informal procedure have been exhausted and whether there are further measures which could be taken. The E&D Office may need to consult further with the employee’s manager and other individuals involved in the case in order to come to a comprehensive understanding of the complaint and strategies previously attempted in order to resolve the issue.

Contact us

Equality and Diversity Office
equality@york.ac.uk
+44 (0)1904 324680
@EqualityatYork

Contact us

Equality and Diversity Office
equality@york.ac.uk
+44 (0)1904 324680
@EqualityatYork