Dignity at Work and Study Policy

The University of Wolverhampton is committed to a positive and mutually-supportive working and studying environment where members of staff, students and visitors are valued and respected. We acknowledge the following basic entitlements for all members and prospective members of our community in line with our corporate mission and values:

  • to be treated with respect and dignity;
  • to be treated fairly;
  • to receive encouragement to reach their full potential.

We are fully committed to maintaining a positive and diverse environment for individuals which enables people to work and study productively together, where dignity and respect are paramount, equality is promoted, and in which all feel valued and included.

Harassment or bullying can have very serious consequences for individuals and the University as a whole. Harassment or bullying may make people unhappy; it can cause them stress; affect their health and impact upon their family and social relationships. Stress may affect their attendance and work performance and could cause them to leave their job or study programme altogether. Effects on the University can include loss of morale, poor work performance, poor student retention, the increased turnover of staff, legal claims and damage to the institution's reputation.

The University will not tolerate harassment or bullying of any kind. All allegations of harassment and bullying will be promptly and thoroughly investigated and, if appropriate, disciplinary action taken.

This Dignity at Work policy outlines what individuals can expect from the University in terms of ensuring their basic rights and, in turn, it offers a clear indication of the responsibilities individuals have regarding their own attitudes and behaviour.

This policy and associated procedures should be used instead of the Grievance Procedure in situations where complaints arise between members of staff and students that could fall within the definitions of discrimination, harassment, bullying and victimisation as given below.

Dignity at work and study Policy - March 2016 (PDF 474K, Downloads file)

1. Definitions

Harassment, Bullying, discrimination and victimisation can occur in different types of relationships, regardless of personal bias and stereotypes.  For example, it is possible for a junior colleague to bully a person in a more senior role; for a student to harass a member of staff; or a woman to victimise a man.

Discrimination

Unfair discrimination may be direct or indirect and is unacceptable and unlawful. It is where an individual is treated less favourably than other persons on grounds of the following protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010:

  • age
  • disability
  • race, colour or nationality, ethnic/national origin;
  • religion or belief
  • gender
  • sexual orientation;
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage or civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity

Direct discrimination is defined by the Act as occurring when one person is treated less favourably than another person is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation on the grounds of one of the above characteristics.

Direct discrimination by association is defined by the Act as treating someone less favourably than another person because they are associated with a person who has a protected characteristic.

Direct discrimination by perception is defined by the Act as treating one person less favourably than someone else because you incorrectly think they have a protected characteristic.

Indirect discrimination is defined by the Act as a situation in which an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice puts an individual having a particular protected characteristic at a disadvantage compared with other people.

Bullying

Bullying is usually seen as a form of harassment that is characterised by:

“Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient”.(ACAS definition).

There is an important distinction to be made between bullying and firm management.  Staff should not interpret firm and fair management as bullying. Firm management may involve setting demanding performance targets, but these must be fair, achievable and appropriate to the person’s job role and level of responsibility. Examples of this are:

  • issuing of reasonable instructions;
  • setting and monitoring performance standards;
  • disciplining staff for proven misconduct, or;
  • taking appropriate action where unsatisfactory work or unacceptable levels of absence have been identified.

Where it is necessary to address performance, this should be done in a fair, supportive and constructive manner via the appropriate University procedure.

Harassment

Harassment is unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct that has the purpose or effect of;

  • violating a person’s dignity; or
  • creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment which interferes with an individual’s learning, working or social environment.

Harassment is also unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 where the above conduct is of a sexual nature (sexual harassment) or is related to a protected characteristic such as age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity (including breastfeeding), religion.

Harassment is unacceptable, whether or not it is associated with a protected characteristic.

In determining whether or not the unwanted conduct has the effect referred to, the factors that must be taken into account are:

  • the perception of the complainant;
  • the other circumstances of the case; and
  • whether or not it is reasonable for the conduct to have that effect.

Victimisation

Victimisation is subjecting a person to a detriment because he/she has, in good faith, complained of discrimination (including bullying or harassment), whether formally or otherwise, or has supported someone to make a complaint or given evidence in relation to a complaint. Provided that someone has acted on information that they genuinely believe to be true in raising or supporting a complaint, they have the right not to be victimised as a result, and the University will take appropriate action to deal with any alleged victimisation, which may include disciplinary action against the person carrying out the alleged victimisation.

What do bullying and harassment look like?

The terms bullying and harassment are often used interchangeably.  Both may be caused by an individual or a group of individuals.

Harassment and bullying may be manifested in a variety of forms, all of which are offensive and unacceptable to the University of Wolverhampton whether the harassment or bullying is between students; between staff and student(s); between student(s) and staff; or between staff.

Harassment and bullying may be difficult to recognise but usually manifest themselves as deliberate unpleasant and unwanted behaviour, which may or may not be deliberate, and is often repetitive and persistent. However, a single incident can be harassment. The incident(s) do not have to be face to face, but may be via written communication, email, social media or phone.  (See appendix A for examples).

One of the effects is to make the victim feel uncomfortable, patronised, humiliated or threatened. It also has the effect of maintaining existing inequalities of power and opportunity. It results in:

  • making a job or study difficult to do;
  • creating an intimidating or hostile working or learning environment;
  • affecting the health or safety of individuals by causing stress;
  • endangering career and job prospects.

Its effects are to make the victim feel one or more of the following: uncomfortable, patronised, humiliated, intimidated, threatened, degraded or that their dignity has been violated. The key is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient.  Conduct may be harassment whether or not the person behaving in that way intends to offend.  Something intended as a “joke” may offend another person.  However it must also be reasonable for the conduct to be seen as offensive.

Appendix A provides further information on specific forms of harassment and bullying.

2. Application and Scope

This policy covers bullying, harassment and discrimination of and by managers, employees, students, agency staff, and anyone else engaged to work at the organisation, whether by direct contact with the organisation or otherwise.  If the complainant or alleged harasser is not a student or is not employed by the organisation, e.g. if the worker is employed by an agency, this policy will apply with any necessary modifications; e.g. as the organisation is unable to dismiss the worker they would instead require the agency to remove the worker, if appropriate, after investigation and disciplinary proceedings.

The policy covers these behaviours in the workplace, place of study or in any other work-related setting outside the workplace, e.g. business trips and work or study- related social events organised by the University, and use of social media.

2.1 Manager’s responsibilities:-

Managers have a duty of care for all their staff, which includes a duty to prevent harassment, bullying and unfair discrimination taking place. Managers should make their staff aware of the contents of this policy during the course of the member of staff’s personal induction into the Faculty/ Department.  Employers are responsible in law for the acts of their employees. Managers should also be aware that unfair discrimination, harassment and bullying can have serious consequences such as: -

  • poor morale and poor employee relations;
  • loss of respect for managers and supervisors;
  • poor performance;
  • lateness or absence;
  • ill health;
  • resignations; or
  • damage to University reputation.

Managers / Supervisors have a responsibility to promote a culture free from unacceptable behaviour, where employees are supported in challenging such behaviour.  Where allegations are made, they should provide support for all parties and manage any allegations of unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying as quickly as possible. This means managers should:-

  • use their judgement in correcting standards of conduct or behaviour which could be seen as offensive, and remind staff of the University’s policy, whether or not a complaint has been made.
  • Take the allegation seriously (as it may take considerable courage to raise an issue), seek advice from HR as appropriate and explore the nature of the unacceptable behaviour in order to decide on the appropriate next step.

2.2 Staff responsibilities

Fellow staff can also contribute to preventing unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying by: -

  • being aware of the problems which unfair discrimination, harassment and bullying can cause and by ensuring that their conduct does not contribute to an incident of such behaviour;
  • bringing to the attention of their colleagues that certain language, conduct or behaviour is causing concern or offence to either themselves or other staff;
  • or, if that is not possible reporting the matter directly in confidence to their manager;
  • providing support to colleagues, who believe they are being harassed, discriminated against or bullied.

2.3 Student responsibilities

All students should:-

  • behave in a professional and responsible manner, with respect for staff and students;
  • not participate in, or condone, any act of harassment or bullying;
  • modify their behaviour if they become aware that it is unacceptable, even if no formal or informal complaint is made;
  • encourage anyone who they believe is on the receiving end of behaviour which may constitute harassment or bullying to seek appropriate support and assistance;
  • offer appropriate assistance to any person who they feel may be on the receiving end of behaviour which may constitute harassment or bullying;
  • draw to the attention of the appropriate manager or tutor any behaviour which causes them concern or if they feel a culture is developing within a teaching group which they believe is leading to harassment or bullying.

3. General Principles

The following principles will apply to the application of this procedure: -

3.1 Informal resolution

Wherever possible complaints should be resolved informally without recourse to formal procedures. It is expected that individuals will enter into the procedure in good faith, with the aim of resolving a particular issue. Managers or others seeking to resolve issues should also approach the process with that aim in mind. This procedure should not be used as a substitute for normal day to day discussions.

3.2 Serious complaints

There may be occasions when it is not possible for a complaint to be resolved informally.  In such cases the procedure below at Stage One should be followed.  All parties should be absolutely clear whether any meeting is being held under the informal or formal stage of the procedure.  Formal complaints should be made within a maximum of three months from the last incident(s) occurring or the conclusion of an attempt at informal resolution and should be submitted on the form provided at appendix C as below.

3.3 Complainant / Respondent

For the purposes of this policy the person(s) making the complaint will be known as the complainant(s) and the person(s) who is the subject of the complaint will be known as the respondent(s).

3.4 Use of mediation

At any stage in the procedure, subject to the agreement of all parties concerned, there may be a suspension in proceedings to facilitate mediation (see section 4 below), fact-finding or other non-adversarial discussions with the aim of promoting resolution of the case.

3.5 Deferral

At any stage in the procedure, the manager dealing with the complaint may, at his/her discretion, defer consideration of the complaint if other activities which are relevant to the substance of the complaint are pending or in progress, e.g. sickness absence of the respondent. In such cases the parties to the complaint will be advised of the reason for deferring consideration.  The timescale by which consideration of the complaint will recommence will be made clear.

3.6 Inappropriate use of the procedure

Following an investigation the outcome could result in no further action and the employee will be advised according to the stage of the complaint.   If, on investigation, the complaint is found to be malicious, vexatious or trivial no further action will be taken regarding the complaint, however consideration will be given, to referral of staff to the Disciplinary Policy and Procedure or the referral of students to the Student Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedure in extreme cases.

3.7 Discontinuation

The University may, with the agreement of the employee or student, vary this procedure as appropriate to a particular case. In the event that it becomes impracticable to continue with the procedure, it may be discontinued. In such cases the University will, explain why it has been discontinued and advise the parties of the outcome of the complaint, in writing.

3.8 Right to be accompanied

All employees who are the subject of this procedure will have the right to be accompanied at any formal meetings by a trade union representative or work colleague.  With regard to informal meetings a request to be accompanied may be made and this will be considered.  All students who are the subject of this procedure will have the right to be accompanied at any meeting by a Student Union representative or fellow student.

3.9 Equality and Diversity

To ensure fair treatment and, where appropriate, provision of support by the University in the application of this procedure, employees and students should be invited to provide information about any equality or diversity issues which may be relevant.  The University will provide reasonable adjustments and support to ensure that all participants are able to access the process appropriately e.g. with provision of an interpreter.

3.10 Confidentiality

In order to protect the reputation of all parties associated with a complaint, all parties involved in this procedure must ensure that they maintain, as appropriate, the confidentiality of the process within and outside the University.

3.11 The Right of Complainants

It takes courage to make a complaint and the University undertakes to treat complaints seriously and sympathetically and to act promptly.  The University undertakes to make every effort to ensure that members of staff or students who make complaints of unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying will not subsequently be subject to victimisation. Any complaint from a member of staff about such victimisation should be brought directly to the attention of the HR Business Partner with responsibility for the Faculty or Department. Any complaint from a student about such victimisation should be brought directly to the attention of the Head of the Conduct and Appeals Unit.

3.12 Timescales

Whilst every effort 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.

The general expectation is that the majority of unfair discrimination, harassment and bullying processes will be completed within three working months.  Consideration needs to be given however, to the effect of leave, the number of witnesses and sickness absence which may cause unavoidable delays.  Where such delays occur all parties should be kept informed of progress on a regular basis.

3.13 Format of the meeting

In the interest of expediency the University has adopted a practice which allows both the complainant (and their representative) and the respondent (and their representative) to be present in the same room. However, the complainant has the right to request that the respondent is not present. The respondent will have the opportunity to put their case to the Chair in a separate meeting.  It must be stressed that if the complaint is proven and there is an allegation of misconduct, the matter will be referred to the University’s Staff Disciplinary Policy and Procedure or the Student Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedure and any resulting disciplinary hearing must follow the appropriate rules and procedures.

3.14 Involvement of Human Resources

In cases involving staff, a member of the Human Resources team should be consulted and will advise at any stage of the process. HR will also support the Chair at any formal meeting.

3.15 Keeping notes

It is important that notes are kept at all stages of this procedure, including the informal stage.  It is the responsibility of the manager chairing the meeting to ensure notes are taken.  The Human Resources Department will ensure that full and detailed notes are taken at staff related formal stage meetings.  These notes must detail the nature of the complaint, the University’s response, the action taken and the reason for the action.  The complainant may request a copy of the notes if they wish to pursue their complaint to a higher level.  These notes must be confidential to the parties.


3.16 Duty of care

Where an individual member of staff does not complain about behaviour which in the view of other witnesses may constitute unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying, formal procedures may still be invoked by the appropriate manager, following consultation with the HR Business Partner, even where the affected individual does not wish to pursue his/her complaint. Similarly in the situation where a member of staff states to their line manager that they believe they have been subjected to unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying but do not wish to pursue the matter, and give reasons for that decision, that line manager has a legal responsibility for the duty of care for that member of staff and must give serious consideration to pursuing the case, even if the employee wishes no action to be taken. In such instances, managers should be sensitive to ensuring that the complainant is kept informed throughout the process.

3.17 Advice

Staff or students can seek the confidential advice, guidance and counsel of their trade union representative, Occupational Health, Equality and Diversity Unit, and in addition for staff, the relevant Human Resources Business Partner for the Faculty / Department.

3.18 Investigations

The complaint must be investigated promptly and objectively. Investigations must be, and be seen to be, objective and independent. Decisions can then be made as to what actions can be taken. Please refer to the University’s Code of Practice on carrying out investigations (appendix D).

3.19 Redress sought

It is important when raising a complaint, that the complainant explains what redress they feel would be appropriate to resolve the situation, e.g. for the offending behaviour to stop.

3.20 Witnessing Unfair Discrimination, Harassment or Bullying

Witnesses to behaviour, perceived to be, unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying, can provide important help and support for the individual concerned, especially when the person appears unwilling or unable to take action. There may be several steps:

  • the witness might speak informally to the individual to tell them what he/she has observed;
  • the witness might wish to discuss the incident and agree to make notes, respecting the privacy of the person  concerned;
  • the witness may encourage the individual to talk with a Staff Union Representative, Occupational Health, Equality and Diversity Unit and in the case of staff, the Human Resources Department;
  • the witness should be prepared to give evidence of the unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying at either the informal or formal stages of the Procedure and has the right to complain of any subsequent victimisation directly to the HR Business Partner, or the Conduct and Appeals Unit if they are a student, should they suffer this.

3.21  Communication

It is important that all parties are kept informed at all stages whilst a complaint is going through this process.

3.22  Sources of support during the process

Parties involved in the process may be offered and have access to a number of different sources of support, including: the student Counselling Service; Occupational Health; mediation; Equality and Diversity Unit.

3.23 Staff Student Relationships 

It is important that the University guidance on staff - student relationships is followed where appropriate.

4. Mediation

At any stage in this procedure, the parties to the complaint may request that the matter be referred for mediation. Mediation is likely to be most appropriate in cases involving interpersonal relationships. There may, however, be circumstances in which alternative non-adversarial discussions may be undertaken with the aim of promoting a speedy resolution.   Individuals who enter into mediation will still be able to revert back to the complaints procedures under the Dignity at Work Policy if they feel mediation has not resolved the situation.

Mediation is voluntary and will take place only if all 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 cooperate with this approach.

Please refer to Appendix F – Guidance on Mediation.

Procedures for dealing with complaints under this policy.

1. Allegations Against Members of Staff by Other Members of Staff - Informal Procedure

In some cases it may be possible to rectify matters informally. Sometimes an individual is not aware that their behaviour is unwelcome; an informal discussion can lead to a greater understanding and an agreement that the behaviour will cease.

  • Staff (either individually or as a group) who consider they have been subjected to unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying should, in the first instance, and if they feel they are able to, tell the person who has allegedly unfairly discriminated against them or subjected them to harassment or bullying, to stop. This request can be made either orally or in writing, but it is sensible to keep a written diary/record of all the events, collect evidence and document the outcome.
  • However, if the complainant feels unable to make this request they may wish to seek the help/advice of their line manager, a trade union officer, a member of the Human Resources Department or the Equality and Diversity Unit and, if appropriate, for them to make contact on their behalf.
  • At this initial informal stage another option may be for the appropriate line manager(s) to meet with both parties, initially, at least, separately, in order to ascertain how both parties see the situation and whether the complaint has arisen from a misunderstanding, misinterpretation, ignorance, or insensitivity. It may then be appropriate to meet with both members of staff together in order to explore the issue from both perspectives in an effort to reach a resolution, agreed by both parties.
  • It is important that matters are dealt with immediately, thoroughly and fairly in respect of both parties at the informal stage. If an informal meeting has been held, a written record of the meeting, what was discussed and the outcome, should still be made and copies of what was agreed given to both parties.
  • In instances where inappropriate behaviour has occurred, as an alternative to formal disciplinary action, coaching, training (e.g. unconscious bias training) or counselling can play a vital role by providing the opportunity to resolve the complaint without need for any further or formal action. This may involve referral to an external or internal counsellor/coach. Counselling may also be offered to help support the complainant as well as the respondent.

2.  Allegations Against Members of Staff by Other Members of Staff - Formal Procedure

Stage One - Formal Complaint

In those cases where: -

  • the issue of unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying has not been resolved through informal means;
  • the initial act of discrimination, harassment or bullying has continued, or;
  • where the initial act of discrimination, harassment or bullying was determined by the senior manager to be of a serious nature; (see appendix A for examples)

The Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department (or nomiee) will, as soon as is practicable and within fifteen working days of receiving the formal complaint, make a decision as to whether an independent investigation should be commissioned to look into the case. Advice should be sought from the relevant HR Business Partner and the decision will depend on the nature and complexity of the issues involved.  The investigation may be carried out by an internal or external independent investigator.

If the Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department (or nominee) decides that the case is unlikely to warrant independent investigation, a formal meeting at Stage One with the member of staff, in accordance with the general principles (see Section 3) will be arranged. The member of staff has the right to be represented at this meeting by a recognised Trade Union representative or a University-based colleague.

The possible outcome of the meeting could be that the matter is resolved satisfactorily and no further action needs to take place.  However, at this stage, it may be the case once the details of the complaint have been heard, that further investigation will be required after all.  If this is the case, the stage one hearing will be adjourned, pending the conclusion of the investigation and the receipt of the investigation report.

In those cases where the Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department (or nominee) has commissioned an independent investigation to look into the case, a formal meeting at Stage One with the member of staff, in accordance with the general principles (see Section 3), will be arranged once the final investigation report is available and the findings and recommendations are understood.  Arrangements should also be made for the Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department (or nominee) to meet formally with any respondent(s) to communicate outcomes.

The outcome at Stage One could be that:-

  • the complaint is upheld;
  • the complaint is not upheld;
  • the complaint is partially upheld

A summary of the report, including conclusions and recommendations will be made available to the complainant and where appropriate to any respondent(s) named in the complaint.  In the formal meeting, the complainant will be given a full rationale as to how the final decision has been reached and also have the opportunity to comment on the findings of the investigation and seek clarification on any further issues that may have arisen.

If the decision is to uphold or partially uphold the complaint, a recommendation may be made that there is a case to answer under the University’s Disciplinary Procedure. All parties  will be informed of this, and that a hearing will be arranged at an appropriate stage of the University’s Disciplinary Procedure, in their respective formal meetings.

Written outcomes of formal meetings held at Stage One of the procedure will be issued within five working days of the meeting date.  The right of appeal against this decision, where appropriate, will also be given in the written outcome letter.

Special consideration may need to be given as to how to handle communication to witnesses, as it is paramount that this communication is handled sensitively and that the level of detail provided is appropriate.

It is also the responsibility of the Chair of the Stage One formal meeting to clearly state any management recommendations that have been made.  These could include a review of current practice or process in a particular area, training courses for particular individuals or other such interventions.

Where there is the necessity for involved parties to restore working relationships and work together productively in the future, the Chair of the Stage One formal meeting may make specific recommendations around mediatory interventions.  The recommendation may be that this mediation is undertaken either in-house or by an external facilitator.

Investigations 

Where the Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department (or nominee) makes the decision that an independent investigation needs to be commissioned, all reasonable steps must be taken to establish the facts of the case promptly.

Depending on the circumstances the Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department (or nominee) and/or an appropriate senior manager will contact their respective HR Business Partner to commission the independent investigation in line with the University’s Code of Practice for Formal Investigations (see appendix D).  Investigations may only be carried out by a member of staff who has attended the University’s training course on higher level investigations, or by an appropriately experienced external consultant.

It may be appropriate that the complainant and the alleged respondent do not continue to work together during the investigation and dependent on operational demands one or both of the parties may be moved to a meaningful role elsewhere.  Movement of roles does not imply guilt but assists and protects the individuals involved during the investigation.  As a last resort suspension of the respondent on full pay may be implemented. (See Appendix E).

Potentially if there is found to be a case to answer following an investigation, then the Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department (or nominee) may refer the matter to an appropriate stage of the University’s Staff Disciplinary Procedure.  Serious acts of unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying or where the alleged respondent has a current final warning for a similar or related offence, may be referred directly to Stage Three (Dismissal) of the University’s Staff Disciplinary Procedure.

Stage Two – Appeal

If the complainant is not satisfied with the resolution/outcome at Stage One, then they may request an appeal on one or more of the following grounds:

  • A procedural irregularity has occurred in the conduct of the investigation or procedure at stage one;
  • The outcome at stage one was unreasonable based on the available evidence
  • New evidence has come to light

The complainant may:

  • request that a panel of three appropriate members of staff be convened to hear the appeal.  Two members of the panel will be of senior management level, ideally the third member of the panel should reflect the grade, status and protected characteristic, of the complainant (where the complaint refers to this) or other factor on which the complaint is based.  Panel members will have received appropriate guidance before they are able to participate; or 
  • request that the complaint be heard by the Vice-Chancellor or his nominated deputy in this matter.

Such requests must be in writing and addressed to the relevant Human Resources Business Partner.  The note must state:

  • why the employee is dissatisfied with the outcome at stage one;
  • which of the above options is preferred;
  • the redress sought – it is important that the complainant explains what redress they feel would be appropriate to resolve the situation.

This request must be lodged with the relevant Human Resources Business Partner within fifteen working days from the date the written decision following Stage One is received by the complainant.

Requests from the complainant to invoke an appeal at Stage Two will not be considered if they are received outside the fifteen working day time limit unless there are extenuating circumstances acceptable to the University.  Staff must lodge the request for an extension of this time limit with the relevant HR Business Partner within the fifteen working days’ time limit.

The VC/nominated deputy or panel will meet with the complainant to hear their appeal, ideally within ten working days of the appeal being received.  The Chair of the stage one hearing will also be in attendance unless there are good reasons why this would not be appropriate.  The aim is to review the decision made at stage one but exceptionally the Chair of the appeal may feel it necessary to review the whole complaint from the outset.

The outcome at Stage Two could be that:-

  • the appeal is upheld;
  • the appeal is partially upheld;
  • the original decision from Stage One is upheld;
  • the original decision from Stage One is partially upheld.

If the decision is to uphold or partially uphold the appeal, a recommendation may be made that there is a case to answer under the University’s Disciplinary Procedure.  If this is the case, the VC / nominated deputy or the Chair of the Panel should communicate this recommendation back to the relevant Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services department.

The VC / nominated deputy or the Chair of the Panel will notify the complainant, in writing, of the outcome of the hearing within five working days following the date of the hearing.  The complainant will be given full rationale as to how the final decision has been reached.  If it is not possible to respond within this time period the complainant will be given an explanation for the delay and a date when the decision can be expected.  This situation will usually occur when the panel needs to speak to other employees to gather further information prior to the decision.

The VC / nominated deputy or the Chair of the Panel should also make clear who is responsible for communication back to involved parties.  This may be the respondent and / or any relevant managers or witnesses that may have been involved.  Special consideration may need to be given as to how to handle communication to witnesses, as it is paramount that this communication is handled sensitively and that the level of detail provided is appropriate.

The outcome should also clearly state any management recommendations being made.  These could include a review of current practice / process in a particular area, training courses for particular individuals (e.g. unconscious bias training) or other such interventions.

Where there is the necessity for involved parties to restore working relationships and work together productively in the future, the Chair of the Stage Two Appeal hearing may make specific recommendations around mediatory interventions.  The recommendation may be that this mediation is undertaken in-house or by an external facilitator.

The decision of a Stage Two Appeal Hearing is final.

Intervention Prior to Stage Two Appeal Hearing

It is the University’s aim that wherever possible complaints should be resolved through informal channels.  The Director of Human Resources or their nominated deputy in this matter will, if the complainant is willing, seek to resolve the matter before the second and final appeal stage of the procedure is invoked. The formal process is suspended whilst the intervention takes place.  The respondent must be kept informed that this is the case.

The Director of Human Resources or their nominated deputy will convene a meeting with the complainant and his / her representative within ten working days of receipt of the appeal.

If an informal resolution is not forthcoming, an appeal hearing under Stage Two of the procedure will be arranged. The Director of Human Resources, or their nominated deputy in this matter, will, within fifteen working days of receipt of the written request for a Stage Two Appeal Hearing, or within five days following the informal attempt to resolve the matter, write to the complainant to invite them to a Stage 2 hearing.

3. Allegations Against Members of Staff by Students - Informal Procedure

In some cases it may be possible to rectify matters informally. Sometimes an individual is not aware that their behaviour is unwelcome; an informal discussion can lead to a greater understanding and an agreement that the behaviour will cease.

  • Students (either individually or as a group) who consider they have been subjected to unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying should, in the first instance, and if they feel they are able to, tell the person who has allegedly discriminated against them or subjected them to harassment or bullying, to stop. This request can be made either orally or in writing, but it is sensible to keep a written diary/record of all the events, collect evidence and document the outcome.
  • However, if the complainant feels unable to make this request they may wish to seek the help/advice of the Students’ Union.
  • At this initial informal stage another option may be for the appropriate line manager(s) to meet with both parties, initially, at least, separately, in order to ascertain how both parties see the situation and whether the complaint has arisen from a misunderstanding, misinterpretation, ignorance, or insensitivity. It may then be appropriate to meet with the student and staff member together in order to explore the issue from both perspectives in an effort to reach a resolution, agreed by both parties.
  • It is important that matters are dealt with immediately, thoroughly and fairly in respect of both parties at the informal stage. If an informal meeting has been held, a written record of the meeting, what was discussed and the outcome should still be made and copies of what was agreed given to both parties.
  • In instances where inappropriate behaviour has occurred, as an alternative to formal disciplinary action, coaching, training (e.g. unconscious bias training) or counselling can play a vital role by providing the opportunity to resolve the complaint without need for any further or formal action. This may involve referral to an external or internal counsellor/coach. Counselling may also be offered to help support the complainant as well as the respondent.

4. Allegations Against Members of Staff by Students - Formal Procedure

Stage One - Formal Complaint

In those cases where: -

  • the issue of unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying has not been resolved through informal means;
  • the initial act of discrimination, harassment or bullying has continued, or;
  • where the initial act of discrimination, harassment or bullying was determined by the senior manager to be of a serious nature; (see appendix A for examples)

The student may request that the complaint is dealt with formally. He/she should put this request in writing on the form provided at appendix C of this procedure and send this to the Conduct and Appeals Unit. The Conduct and Appeals Unit will liaise with the relevant senior member of staff in the Faculty or Service Department.

The Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department will as soon as is practicable and within fifteen working days of receiving the formal complaint make a decision as to whether an independent investigation should be commissioned to look into the case.  If the Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department decides that the case is unlikely to warrant independent investigation, a formal meeting at Stage One with the student, in accordance with the general principles (see Section 3) will be arranged. The student has the right to be accompanied at this meeting by a representative from the Students’ Union or fellow student.

The possible outcome of the meeting could be that the matter is resolved satisfactorily and no further action needs to take place.  However, at this stage, it may be the case once the details of the complaint have been heard, that further investigation will be required after all.  If this is the case, the stage one hearing will be adjourned, pending the conclusion of the investigation and the receipt of the investigation report.

In those cases where the Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department has commissioned an independent investigation to look into the case, a formal meeting at Stage One with the student in accordance with the general principles (see Section 3), will be arranged once the final investigation report is available and the findings and recommendations are understood.  Arrangements should also be made for the Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department to meet formally with any respondent(s) to communicate outcomes.

The outcome at Stage One could be that:-

  • the complaint is upheld;
  • the complaint is not upheld;
  • the complaint is partially upheld.

A summary of the report, including conclusions and recommendations will be made available to the student and where appropriate to any respondent(s) named in the complaint.  In the formal meeting, the complainant will be given full rationale as to how the final decision has been reached and also have the opportunity to comment on the findings of the investigation and seek clarification on any further issues that may have arisen.

If the decision is to uphold or partially uphold the complaint, a recommendation may be made that there is a case to answer under the University’s Staff Disciplinary Procedure. All parties will be informed of this, and that a hearing will be arranged at an appropriate stage of the University’s Disciplinary Procedure, in their respective formal meetings.

Written outcomes of formal meetings held at Stage One of the procedure will be issued within five working days of the meeting date.  The right of appeal against this decision, where appropriate, will also be given in the written outcome letter.

Special consideration may need to be given as to how to handle communication to witnesses, as it is paramount that this communication is handled sensitively and that the level of detail provided is appropriate.

It is also the responsibility of the Chair of the Stage One formal meeting to clearly state any management recommendations that have been made.  These could include a review of current practice or process in a particular area, training courses for particular individuals or other such interventions.

Where there is the necessity for involved parties to restore working relationships the Chair of the Stage One formal meeting may make specific recommendations around mediatory interventions.  The recommendation may be that this mediation is undertaken either in-house or by an external facilitator.

Investigations

Where the Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department makes the decision that an independent investigation needs to be commissioned, all reasonable steps must be taken to establish the facts of the case promptly. 

Depending on the circumstances the Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department and/or an appropriate senior manager will contact their respective HR Business Partner to commission the independent investigation in line with the University’s Code of Practice for Formal Investigations (see appendix D).  Investigations may only be carried out by a member of staff who has attended the University’s training course on higher level investigations, or by an appropriately experienced external consultant. 

It may be appropriate that the complainant and the alleged respondent do not continue to work together during the investigation and where appropriate and possible alternative arrangements are made to facilitate this.  Any such arrangements do not imply guilt but assist and protect the individuals involved during the investigation.  As a last resort suspension of the respondent on full pay may be implemented. (See Appendix E).

Potentially if there is found to be a case to answer following an investigation, then the Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department may refer the matter to an appropriate stage of the University’s Staff Disciplinary Procedure.

Where a Dean of Faculty following an investigation, believes that unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying may have had an impact on a student’s assessment, they should seek advice from the Academic Registrar.

Stage Two – Appeal

If the complainant is not satisfied with the resolution/outcome at Stage One, then they may request an appeal on one or more of the following grounds:

  • A procedural irregularity has occurred in the conduct of the investigation or procedure at stage one;
  • The outcome at stage one was unreasonable based on the available evidence
  • New evidence has come to light

The complainant may:

  • request that a panel be convened to hear the appeal.  Two members of the panel will be of senior management level, the third member of the panel will be the President of the Students’ Union or their nominee. Panel members will have had no previous involvement in the complaint and will have received appropriate guidance before they are able to participate.

Such requests must be in writing and addressed to the Head of the Conduct and Appeals Unit The request must state:

  • why the student is dissatisfied with the outcome at stage one;
  • the redress sought – it is important that the complainant explains what redress they feel would be appropriate to resolve the situation.

This request must be submitted to the Conduct and Appeals Unit within fifteen working days from the date the written decision following Stage One is received by the complainant.

Requests from the complainant to invoke an appeal at Stage Two will not be considered if they are received outside the fifteen working day time limit unless there are extenuating circumstances acceptable to the University.

The Head of the Conduct and Appeals Unit or nominated deputy in this matter, will, within fifteen working days of receipt of the written request for a Stage Two Appeal Hearing, or within five days following the informal attempt to resolve the matter, write to the complainant to invite them to a Stage 2 hearing.

The panel will meet with the complainant to hear their appeal, ideally within ten working days of the appeal being received.  The Chair of the stage one hearing will also be in attendance unless there are good reasons why this would not be appropriate.  The aim is to review the decision made at stage one but exceptionally the Chair of the appeal may feel it necessary to review the whole complaint from the outset.

The outcome at Stage Two could be that:-

  • the appeal is upheld;
  • the appeal is partially upheld;
  • the original decision from Stage One is upheld;
  • the original decision from Stage One is partially upheld.

If the decision is to uphold or partially uphold the appeal, a recommendation may be made that there is a case to answer under the University’s Staff Disciplinary Procedure.  If this is the case, the Chair of the Panel should communicate this recommendation back to the relevant Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services department.

The Chair of the Panel will notify the complainant, in writing, of the outcome of the hearing within five working days following the date of the hearing.  The complainant will be given full rationale as to how the final decision has been reached this will include a “Completion of Procedures Letter” as required by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator*. If it is not possible to respond within this time period the complainant will be given an explanation for the delay and a date when the decision can be expected.  This situation will usually occur when the panel needs to speak to other employees to gather further information prior to the decision.

The Chair of the Panel should also make clear who is responsible for communication back to involved parties.  This may be the respondent and / or any relevant managers or witnesses that may have been involved.  Special consideration may need to be given as to how to handle communication to witnesses, as it is paramount that this communication is handled sensitively and that the level of detail provided is appropriate.

The outcome should also clearly state any management recommendations being made.  These could include a review of current practice / process in a particular area, training courses for particular individuals (e.g. unconscious bias training) or other such interventions.

Where there is the necessity for involved parties to restore working relationships the Chair of the Stage Two Appeal hearing may make specific recommendations around mediatory interventions.  The recommendation may be that this mediation is undertaken either in-house or by an external facilitator.

The decision of a Stage Two Appeal Hearing is final.

Intervention Prior to Stage Two Appeal Hearing

It is the University’s aim that wherever possible complaints should be resolved through informal channels.  The Head of the Conduct and Appeals Unit or nominated deputy in this matter will, if the complainant is willing, seek to resolve the matter before the second and final appeal stage of the procedure is invoked. The formal process is suspended whilst the intervention takes place.  The respondent must be kept informed that this is the case.

The Head of the Conduct and Appeals Unit or nominated deputy will convene a meeting with the complainant and his / her representative within ten working days of receipt of the appeal. ()If an informal resolution is not forthcoming, an appeal hearing under Stage Two of the procedure will be arranged in accordance with the general principles (see Section 3).

*The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education

If having exhausted all Stages of the University’s internal complaints procedure, the student considers that the University has failed to consider and respond to their complaints appropriately, they can refer the case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA).  This office provides an independent scheme for the review of student complaints.

In order to refer their case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator the student will require a Completion of Procedures Letter.  A Completion of Procedures letter will be issued when all applicable stages of the complaints procedure have been exhausted. The letter will be issued in accordance with the format prescribed by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.

Details of the rules of the scheme and information about how to make an application for review by the OIA are available at their website - www.oiahe.org.uk.

5. Dealing with Other Complaints

Allegations against Senior Managers

Where an allegation of unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying is made by a member of staff against a Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department, then the Vice-Chancellor (or his/her designated representative) will deal with the matter, acting in the role of Dean of Faculty or Head of Corporate Services Department as described above. Where an allegation is made against the Vice-Chancellor or a member of the Offices of the Vice Chancellor, this must be referred to the Board of Governors.

Allegations involving a Third Party

If a member of staff feels they have grounds for a complaint against a third party, such as an agency member of staff, placement providers, contractors etc, then they should put their complaint in writing to the appropriate manager without delay.  The manager should contact the third party to seek to resolve the issue.  It may be necessary as part of the process to liaise with other senior managers who are responsible for allowing the third party onto University premises.

Similarly, a student may have grounds for complaint associated with a placement they undertake or an organisation at which they are a volunteer, as part of their studies.  They should make their academic supervisor aware of the complaint without delay.  The academic supervisor should contact the organisation to seek to resolve the issue.  The policies and procedures of the third party will apply in this case.

Allegations against Students by other students

Where an allegation of unfair discrimination, harassment or bullying is made by one student against another student, and the allegation arises from behaviour on University premises or from behaviour directly related to the student’s academic activities, the matter should be pursued following advice from the University’s Conduct and Appeals Unit.  Information can be found at https://www.wlv.ac.uk/media/wlv/pdf/UW-Student-Complaints-Procedure.pdf.

Where the behaviour takes place on Student Union premises or involves an officer of the Students Union acting in an official capacity, the matter should be taken up under the Student Union’s own harassment procedures. 

Allegations against Students by Members of Staff

Staff who feel that they are being subjected to bullying, harassment or victimisation in any form by a student, should take action following the advice in the sections above. The informal procedure under Section B may involve making the student aware of their behaviour and its effect, either by the member of staff raising this directly, or by involving the line manager or other Faculty staff as appropriate in trying to resolve the situation informally.  In more serious or persistent cases, the matter may be more appropriately dealt with via the Student Code of Conduct and Disciplinary procedure through the Conduct and Appeals Unit.

6. Training

Relevant courses are available via the corporate staff development programme and these include:-

  • Managing people for Success
  • Managing staff performance issues
  • Chairing meetings for managers
  • Manager investigation training
  • Unconscious Bias training
  • Dignity at Work training

7. Law Related to this Document

  • Equality Act 2010
  • Equality Act 2010 (Statutory Duties) (Wales) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/1064)
  • Draft Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011
  • Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242)

Appendix A

Examples of Harassing and/or Bullying behaviour: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/o/c/Bullying-and-harassment-at-work-a-guide-for-employees.pdf

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Appendix E

Appendix F

Appendix G

Appendix H