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Dignity at Work Policy December 2008 1 Scope and Purpose 1.1 This Dignity at Work Policy is not contractual. It applies to all employees at all levels and at all grades and is a statement of the current policy of the University College and its on-going commitment to aim to provide and to promote a working environment where everyone is treated with respect and dignity, where no-one feels threatened or intimidated and where everyone can do their work free from harassment and/or bullying. It also aims to provide an appropriate environment in which the University College is able to resolve complaints about matters covered by this Dignity at Work Policy as quickly as possible in the circumstances, and where fairness, consistency and non-discrimination drive the policy. Although in this Dignity at Work Policy the University College refers to “complaints” not “grievances” throughout, the statutory requirements for grievance procedures have been incorporated in the event that they do apply. This Dignity at Work Policy takes into account the recommendations of ACAS. To ensure that this Dignity at Work Policy remains effective and relevant the University College reserves the right to amend it as necessary from time to time. Unacceptable behaviour by students is outside the scope of this Dignity at Work Policy (except where the student is also employed by the University College and is acting in that capacity) but will be dealt with under the relevant University College Regulations. 1.2 The University College is mindful that some complaints result in the identification of other employees and workers and could result in serious damage to their professional reputation. The University College is committed to handling complaints under this Dignity at Work Policy in a fair and balanced way. However, employees who, after investigation, are proven to have deliberately made false or vexatious statements and/or in bad faith will be subject to action under the University College’s Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedure. 1.3 Unlawful harassment of whatever type (including on grounds of gender, sexual orientation, marital status, civil partnership status, race, nationality, gender reassignment, colour, ethnic or national origin, age, religion or similar philosophical belief, or disability) and/or bullying will not be tolerated and will be treated with the utmost severity. Whilst it will normally be dealt with under the University College’s Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedure, it should be noted that: - in exceptional circumstances it may also constitute a criminal offence; - serious cases of harassment or bullying will be treated as gross misconduct and may, depending on the circumstances, result in dismissal without notice and without pay in lieu of notice; - should the University College incur civil liability by reason of the harassment by an employee of a fellow employee, worker or third party, the University College reserves the right to recover such damages (together with its legal costs) from the harasser. 1.4 The University College recognises that in an academic institution there will be differences of opinion and academic disagreement. There is no intention by the University College to limit academic freedom but if there are occasions when behaviour falls below the standards set out in this policy, then the University College will implement the procedures in this Dignity at Work Policy. 1.5 If an employee’s complaint is about equality and inclusivity (including discrimination) other than harassment which is covered by this Dignity at Work Policy, employees are reminded that these are dealt with exclusively under the University College’s Grievance Procedure. The procedure in this Dignity at Work Policy and the Grievance Procedure are alternatives to each other and cannot be used in succession for the same grievance/complaint. 2 Personnel Responsible for Implementation of Policy 2.1 It is the responsibility of all employees to comply with this Dignity at Work Policy and ensure that behaviour towards fellow employees and workers cannot be considered to be harassment or bullying. Managers have a specific responsibility to operate within the boundaries of this Dignity at Work Policy and to facilitate its operation by ensuring that employees and workers understand the standards of behaviour expected of them and by identifying and acting upon behaviour that falls below these standards. 2.2 All employees should ensure that they take the time to read and understand this Dignity at Work Policy. Employees should disclose any instances of harassment or bullying of which they become aware to the Human Resources Adviser (“the Designated Officer”). Questions about this Dignity at Work Policy should be directed to the Human Resources Department. 3 What is Harassment and Bullying? 3.1 Harassment is not always obvious and does not have to be directed at one individual. Harassment is any behaviour that is unwanted by the recipient, is unwarranted and causes a “detriment” to that person such as creating a hostile working environment or where it is used as the basis for an employment decision. Harassment may also be behaviour which is intended to/or likely to cause the recipient alarm and/or distress. Harassment can be related to matters such as gender, sexual orientation, marital status, civil partnership status, race, nationality, gender reassignment, colour, ethnic or national origin, age, religion or similar philosophical belief, or disability. It is the impact of the behaviour which is relevant not the motive or intent behind it. Harassment generally arises where an employee has made it clear that they find certain behaviour unwelcome and that behaviour has continued unchanged. Harassment can also arise as a result of a single incident provided it is sufficiently serious. It is important to remember that even though conduct may only be unwanted or offensive to one individual it can still amount to harassment. Employees who believe they are being subjected to harassment should not hesitate to use the procedures set out below. All employees should consider whether their actions could be offensive to others. Harassment covers a wide range of behaviour including (but not limited to): (a) physical contact ranging from unnecessary touching or brushing against a person, to unwelcome sexual advances, actual physical contact or serious assault; (b) verbal and written (including e-mail) harassment through making derogatory, inappropriate or offensive suggestive or unwanted remarks or jokes, expressions of discriminatory views and/or intimidating comments, obscene gestures, pin ups, flags, graffiti, and/or display of offensive (including pornography) material; (c) isolation or non co-operation at work, exclusion from social activities; (d) pressure or requests for sexual favours, pressure to participate in political or religious groups; (e) intrusion by pestering, spying, stalking etc; (f) subjecting an individual to less favourable treatment for rejecting unwanted behaviour. The list is not exhaustive and other behaviour may constitute harassment. 3.2 Bullying can include (but is not limited to) offensive, insulting, intimidating or malicious behaviour or an abuse or misuse of power to humiliate or undermine the confidence and competence of the recipient. 3.3 This Dignity at Work Policy covers harassment or bullying which occurs both in the workplace itself and in settings outside the workplace, such as business trips, events or social functions organised by or on behalf of the University College and on or off the University College’s premises. 3.4 It is extremely important that if an employee believes that they have suffered or are suffering any form of harassment and/or bullying that they bring it to the attention of the University College at the earliest opportunity i.e. immediately after the first occasion on which such harassment and/or bullying takes place. Employees should not wait for it to occur a second time before informing the University College. The University College understands that employees will be apprehensive about doing so but employees’ complaints will be treated seriously and dealt with sensitively, fairly and, where possible, confidentially. 4 Right to be accompanied at Meetings 4.1 If an employee has a complaint or a complaint is raised about them under this Dignity at Work Policy, they normally have the right to be accompanied at all formal stages of this Dignity at Work Policy (including an appeal) by a certified trade union representative or fellow worker of their choice. The same chosen companion should not represent both the employee who has made the complaint and the alleged harasser/ bully. An employee should not normally need to be accompanied at discussions under the Informal Procedure in paragraph 7 below but if an employee feels unable to attend such discussions without being accompanied the University College will consider a reasonable request to be accompanied. It is up to the employee to make a reasonable request to be accompanied. 4.2 If the chosen companion cannot attend the proposed meeting for a reason that was not foreseeable at the time the meeting was arranged, an alternative companion can attend with the agreement of the relevant manager or the employee who made the complaint or alleged bully/harasser as appropriate can suggest a reasonable alternative time and date (having regard to the availability of the relevant manager) provided that it is within 5 working days after the date originally proposed by the University College, or the University College agrees a mutually convenient date. The timing of any alternative meeting should be convenient to all parties. 4.3 The chosen companion has a right to address the meeting, but not to answer questions on behalf of the employee. The right to address the meeting allows the chosen companion to: Put the employee’s case Sum up the case Respond on the employee’s behalf to any view expressed at the hearing Confer with the employee during the hearing 4.4 Prior to the date of the meeting the employee is required to confirm, to the manager conducting the meeting, who will be accompanying them to the meeting. At the commencement of the formal meeting the rights of the chosen companion will be clarified and the employee will confirm in what capacity the chosen companion is attending the meeting. 4.5 The University College expects the behaviour of participants at informal and formal meetings to be respectful and professional at all times. 5 Witness Statements 5.1 The University College believes that employees have an obligation to comply with reasonable management requests to provide a statement should they have witnessed a matter that is being investigated under this policy. Should an employee refuse to comply with a reasonable request to provide a witness statement the University College will consider the employee’s reasons for this but, if the explanation given is not considered reasonable in the circumstances, disciplinary action may be considered. The University College will ensure that, when considering the explanation an employee may offer for their refusal to provide a witness statement, the balance will be maintained between the desirability to protect informants who are genuinely in fear and the requirement to provide a fair hearing of issues for the accused(s). 6 Notes of Meetings 6.1 A representative from Human Resource will attend meetings arranged in accordance with this Policy in order to take formal notes of the meeting. Once the notes are typed HR will ensure that all attendees of the meeting receive a copy of the notes. At the bottom of the notes a table will state the name of the note taker, the date the notes were taken and the names of those who have received a copy of the notes. 6.2 Employees will be informed if notes are required for other stages of the formal process i.e. at subsequent disciplinary or appeal meetings. 7 What an Employee should do if they have been Bullied or Harassed: Informal Procedure 7.1 If an employee considers that they are being bullied or harassed, they should initially attempt to resolve the problem informally, explaining clearly to the person creating the problem that the behaviour in question is offensive, is not welcome and should be stopped. If this is too difficult or embarrassing for the employee to do on their own, they should seek support from a fellow employee, their Line Manager, or trade union or employee representative. If the complaint relates to the employee’s Line Manager, the employee should discuss it with the next level of management. Managers will provide confidential advice and assistance to employees who complain that they have been bullied or harassed and will assist in the resolution of any problems, whether through formal or informal means. 7.2 If an employee is in any doubt as to whether an incident or series of incidents which have occurred constitute bullying or harassment, then in the first instance they should approach their Line Manager confidentially on an informal basis. They will then be able to advise the employee as to how the matter should be dealt with. If the complaint relates to the employee’s Line Manager, the employee should discuss it with the next level of management. 7.3 If the conduct continues or it is not appropriate to resolve it informally, the employee should follow the 3 step formal procedure set out below in paragraphs 8, 9 & 10. 8 What an Employee should do if they have been Bullied or Harassed: Formal Procedure 8.1 The informal procedure may not be appropriate due to the nature of the harassment or bullying or because the employee does not feel able to talk directly to the person creating the problem. In these cases, or where the informal procedure has been unsuccessful, the employee should, if they wish to make a formal complaint, raise their complaint in writing with the Designated Officer. This is step 1 of the formal procedure. The role of the Designated Officer is to achieve a solution wherever possible and, where possible, to respect the confidentiality of all concerned. See paragraph 8.3 below for details of the information required to be included in the employee’s written complaint. If the complaint concerns the Designated Officer, the employee should refer it to the Head of Human Resources. If the complaint concerns the Deputy Principal, the employee should refer it to the Principal. If the complaint concerns the Principal, the employee should refer it to the Clerk to the Governors of the Corporation (in which case the complaint will be heard by a Sub-Committee of the Governors of the Corporation which will perform the role of the Investigative Officer save that the Sub-Committee of the Governors may, at its discretion, appoint an external investigator to perform the role of Investigative Officer where this is deemed by it to be appropriate). 8.2 As a general principle, the decision to progress a complaint rests with the employee. However, as the employee’s employer, the University College has a duty to protect all employees and workers and the University College may pursue a complaint independently if the University College considers it is appropriate to do so in all the circumstances. In these circumstances, the University College will respect the confidentiality of the employee who decides not to progress a complaint. 8.3 If an employee wishes to make a formal complaint, they should write to the Designated Officer or, if the complaint is about the Designated Officer, the Deputy Principal or the Principal, then to the appropriate person identified in paragraph 6.1 above, setting out full details of the unwanted conduct. These details should include the name of the fellow employee or worker who is the subject of the complaint, the nature of the alleged harassment or bullying, the date(s) and time(s) when the alleged harassment or bullying occurred, the names of any witnesses and any action taken so far to attempt to stop the alleged harassment or bullying. If the employee would like the University College to help them write about their grievance because they have a disability which prevents them from doing so they should seek advice from the Senior Officer (Equalities). 8.4 A representative from Human Resources will meet with the employee to discuss how their document/allegations will be shared with the accused(s). If the employee does not consent to the whole document being shared with the accused(s) HR will hold further discussions with the employee to gain agreement as to which parts of the document/allegations will be shared with the accused(s) i.e. can parts of the document be blanked out or can the allegations be summarised. If a summary document is compiled, the employee will be required to submit their written agreement of the summary and agree that this summary will be shared with the accused(s). 8.5 In dealing with Dignity at Work matters the University College recognises the protection afforded to employees under the Data Protection Act and seeks to balance these requirements with the obligations it has to completing a thorough and transparent investigation into any allegations raised. 8.6 The University College will take reasonable steps to ensure that there is no unreasonable delay by the University College in dealing with a complaint raised under this Dignity at Work Policy. However, if at any time it is not possible for the person dealing with a complaint (at any stage) to comply with the time scales set out in this Dignity at Work Policy, the employee will be told why there is a delay and informed of the likely time scale. 9 Formal Procedure: Investigation 9.1 At the outset, save where the complaint has been referred to the Clerk to the Governors of the Corporation, an investigative officer (“the Investigative Officer”) will be appointed by the Head of Human Resources. The Investigative Officer or, if the complaint concerns the Principal, a Sub-Committee of the Governors of the Corporation (hereafter called “the Sub-Committee”) shall investigate. This is step 2 of the formal procedure. The Investigative Officer will (where possible) be someone who is not directly involved in the matter being investigated. The University College may, at its discretion, use an external investigator to perform the role of the Investigative Officer where this is deemed by it to be appropriate. The investigation will be thorough, impartial and objective, and will be carried out with sensitivity and with due respect for the rights of all parties concerned. 9.2 The University College will normally arrange for someone to attend all meetings (and any appeal hearing) to take notes. These notes together with a copy of the employee’s written complaint, the report of the Investigative Officer or the Sub- Committee as appropriate, the decision made (including the outcome of any appeal), notes of any action taken and subsequent developments will be kept confidential on his/her personnel file and in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. 9.3 The University College will take reasonable steps to ensure that the location and timing of any meeting held under this Dignity at Work Policy is reasonable and will take reasonable steps to ensure that meetings held under this Dignity at Work policy are conducted in a manner that enables both parties to explain their case. The employee who has made the complaint must take all reasonable steps to attend meetings arranged under this Dignity at Work Policy. If they are unable to attend for whatever reason they should let the University College know as soon as possible so it can consider rearranging the meeting. An employee may propose an alternative date for a meeting if their chosen companion is unable to attend. Further guidance on this is set out in paragraph 4.2 above. 9.4 Once a formal complaint of harassment and/or bullying has been made, the University College has to consider whether arrangements should be made to avoid contact between the employee who has made the complaint and the alleged harasser/bully. Appropriate action may include removing the alleged harasser/bully to another area of work (where possible) away from the employee who has made the complaint until the matter has been resolved. Where allegations of serious harassment or bullying have been made, consideration will be given to suspending the alleged harasser/bully on full pay while the University College investigates the complaint. In some cases it may be appropriate to move or suspend both parties for the duration of the investigation. Suspension under this Dignity at Work Policy is not a disciplinary act and does not imply that there has been any misconduct or that there is any suggestion of guilt. Both parties will be advised that there should be no communication between them, directly or indirectly, regarding the complaint and the investigation. 9.5 Following receipt of the letter of complaint, the Investigative Officer or Sub-Committee as appropriate will write to the employee who has made the complaint within 5 working days of receipt of the letter of complaint to inform them that an investigation will be undertaken and ensure that they are made aware of the process that will be adopted during the investigation. The Investigative Officer or Sub-Committee as appropriate will investigate the complaint and invite the employee who made the complaint to a meeting to discuss the complaint within 10 working days of receipt of their complaint. In the event that the employee has not provided sufficient details to enable the University College to understand and investigate their complaint this meeting may be delayed whilst the University College obtains further information from the employee. Such meeting will take place after the Investigative Officer or Sub- Committee as appropriate has met with the alleged harasser/bully. The Investigative Officer or Sub-Committee as appropriate will also meet with the alleged harasser/bully to outline the nature of the complaint, confirm that it is being handled under the formal procedure, and ensure that the individual is aware of the next stages of the procedure. 9.6 After the initial meeting with the employee, the Investigative Officer or Sub-Committee as appropriate will write to the alleged harasser/bully outlining the nature of the complaint and set a date for a formal meeting to be held to discuss the employee’s complaint with the alleged harasser/bully. The formal meeting will normally take place within 15 working days of receipt of the complaint. Further meetings will be held if necessary with the employee who made the complaint and the alleged harasser/bully. 9.7 It may also be necessary to interview other relevant people. These may include managers, work colleagues, anyone who observed the alleged incident or who observed the demeanour of the employee who made the complaint and that of the alleged harasser/bully after the alleged incident. The importance of confidentiality will be emphasised. 9.8 At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigative Officer or Sub-Committee as appropriate will decide whether to uphold the complaint and whether to take any disciplinary and/or other action (see paragraphs 9.9, 9.10 and 9.11 below). Where the Investigative Officer or Sub-Committee considers disciplinary action may be appropriate, the matter will be referred to the appropriate authority in accordance with the University College’s Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedure. 9.9 Where the complaint is upheld but it was appropriate to take disciplinary action other than dismissal against the harasser/bully the University College will consider whether it needs to take any other action to enable the employee who made the complaint to continue working without embarrassment or anxiety. This could include mediation, counselling or amending working practices to minimise contact between the employee who made the complaint and the harasser/bully. If the complaint is found to be false and made in bad faith the employee who made the complaint will face disciplinary action (see paragraph 9 below). 9.10 Where the complaint is upheld, the University College will monitor the situation to ensure that the harassment or bullying has stopped and will offer and provide support (such as counselling and training) as necessary. 9.11 Even if the complaint is not upheld, (for example because of inconclusive evidence) the University College may, in its sole discretion, give consideration to rescheduling the work of either the employee who made the complaint or the alleged harasser/bully rather than requiring them to continue to work together against their respective wishes. In the event that neither of them will agree to such a rescheduling but the University College reasonably considers such action to be necessary, the University College reserves the right to take further action, including as a last resort the termination of the contract of either the employee who made the complaint or the alleged harasser/bully. 9.12 The employee who made the complaint and the person against whom the complaint was made will be notified of the decision in writing usually within 10 working days of the final investigation meeting. Details of any disciplinary action taken against any individual will however remain confidential. 10 Formal Procedure: Appeal 10.1 If the employee who made the complaint is not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation, they may appeal the decision within 5 working days of the date of the decision. This is step 3 of the formal procedure. The employee who made the complaint must inform the Head of Human Resources, or, if the complaint is against the Principal, the Clerk to the Governors of the Corporation, in writing of the grounds on which they are making the appeal and set out full details of why they are not satisfied with the outcome (see guidance on writing about the complaint in paragraph 6.3 above). The grounds for appeal must relate to the complaint which was raised by the employee. 10.2 The Head of Human Resources will nominate the person to hear the appeal (where practicable this will be a manager senior to the Investigative Officer) save that in the event that the Investigative Officer is the Principal or Deputy Principal, any appeal will be heard by a Sub-Committee of the Governors of the Corporation and in the event that the first hearing was by a Sub-Committee of the Governors of the Corporation, any appeal will be heard by the Governors of the Corporation who were not involved in the first hearing. 10.3 As soon as possible, and in any event within 10 working days of receipt of their appeal, the person hearing the appeal will arrange a meeting with the employee who made the complaint to discuss their appeal and any other people as, in the discretion of the person hearing the appeal, are necessary. The employee who made the complaint may be accompanied by a work place colleague or certified trade union representative of their choice in accordance with paragraph 4 above. 10.4 The employee who made the complaint will normally be provided with a written decision on their appeal within 10 working days of the final meeting taking place. Copies of the decision will be sent to all parties. The decision of the person who hears the appeal is final and there is no further right of appeal. 11 No Victimisation and False Complaints 11.1 Employees will not be victimised for making a complaint. However, any false complaints made in bad faith will be treated as gross misconduct and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against them, and/or any employee who supports or assists in the bringing of the false complaint, under the University College’s Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedure. Where the University College reasonably believes that gross misconduct has been committed, the normal result will be dismissal without notice and without pay in lieu of notice. 11.2 Victimisation or retaliation against an employee, who has in good faith made, supported or assisted in the making of a complaint of harassment and/or bullying, will be treated as gross misconduct and appropriate disciplinary action taken against them under the University College’s Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedure. Where the University College reasonably believes that gross misconduct has been committed, the normal result will be dismissal without notice and without pay in lieu of notice. 12 Confidentiality 12.1 Confidentiality is very important throughout all parts of the procedure under this Dignity at Work Policy. It is the responsibility of everyone involved in the procedure under this Dignity at Work Policy to protect the high level of confidentiality that is required where that is possible. Breach of confidentiality in such circumstances may give rise to disciplinary action under the University College’s Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedure. 13 Circumstances in which the University College may depart from this Procedure 13.1 There are limited statutory circumstances in which the University College may not be obliged to follow or continue with the statutory dismissal or disciplinary procedures (which have been incorporated into this Disciplinary and Dismissal Procedure). In accordance with ACAS guidance statutory procedure does not need to be followed if circumstances beyond the control of either party prevent one or more steps being followed within a reasonable period e.g. where there is a long period of absence abroad. The employee will be advised in writing in the event that these circumstances apply. 14 Complaints Raised After Termination of Employment 14.1 The University College hopes that this Dignity at Work Policy will enable employees to raise any complaint while they are employed with the University College. However, if this is not possible for any reason and an employee wants to raise a complaint after their employment has ended (or they have raised a complaint but the formal complaint procedure has not been completed before they leave the University College), the University College can either follow the formal complaint procedure or can agree (in writing) that it will consider the complaint without holding a meeting with the employee. If they do raise a complaint after their employment has ended, the University College asks them to do so as soon as possible while memories are still fresh. 14.2 If the University College agrees that a meeting should not be held, the employee would still need to submit their complaint in writing (assuming they have not already done so), together with full details of the basis of their complaint, to the Head of Human Resources. The University College would then consider it and then send them its written decision within the normal timescales. There would be no right of appeal if the University College agreed to follow this option.
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