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5.  What constitutes inappropriate behaviour?

5.1.    All University employees and workers are expected to behave professionally and appropriately and have the right to expect professional and appropriate behaviour from others. Inappropriate behaviour for the purposes of this Policy means bullying, harassment, discrimination, sexual misconduct and victimisation.

5.2.    When deciding the appropriateness of behaviour, factors that will be taken into consideration include the specific context, the motive or intent of the individual demonstrating the behaviour, the impact on the individual and whether that impact or effect is reasonable in the circumstances and the standards set out in the Code of Behaviour. The University’s Statement on Freedom of Speech protects the right to express or describe views within the law that others may find offensive; this will be taken into consideration as part of the specific context or circumstances where relevant.

5.3.    Inappropriate behaviour may:

  • be perpetrated by an individual or a group
  • be intentional or unintentional
  • take place either on or off University property, via University IT systems, or online via email, the internet or social media
  • range from overt and easy to recognise one-off instances, to numerous, small remarks and acts sending denigrating messages to the recipient, linked to an individual’s characteristics or status.

Examples, drawn from sources such as the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), are provided to illustrate how each of the individual types of inappropriate behaviour listed in 5.1. may be demonstrated.

5.4.    Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the terms “bullying” and “harassment” describe different types of behaviour. Acas defines bullying as unwanted behaviour from a person or group that is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting to the recipient. It may involve an abuse or misuse of power that makes a person feel undermined or humiliated or causes physical or emotional harm. Power does not always mean being in a position of authority but can include personal strength, status and the power to coerce through fear or intimidation. As such, it can also be perpetrated upwards to a manager or senior colleague. Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct. Such behaviour is considered unacceptable in the workplace by the Health and Safety Executive.

Examples of bullying could include:

  • Spreading a false rumour about a colleague
  • Consistently giving heavier workloads to one particular individual in a team
  • Unjustly cutting off or preventing a colleague from reasonably expressing their views in a meeting
  • Regularly undermining the authority of a more senior colleague.

5.5.    Unlawful harassment under the Equality Act 2010 is unwanted conduct that is either related to the protected characteristics set out in section 5.5.1 or is conduct of a sexual nature as set out in section 5.5.2. The Act defines harassment as unwanted conduct that must have either the purpose or the effect (where it is reasonable for it to have that effect) of violating a person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. Harassment can be physical, verbal or non-verbal. It can be a single incident or repeated behaviour and can include imagery, graffiti, gestures, mimicry, jokes, pranks, and physical behaviour that affects the recipient. It can also include treating someone less favourably because they have previously submitted or refused to submit to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or to unwanted conduct that is related to sex or gender reassignment.

5.5.1.    When harassment relates to protected characteristics, it refers to the following characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation.

Examples of harassment relating to protected characteristics could include:

  • Using derogatory terms in connection with a team member’s race or age
  • Belittling a colleague because of their disability
  • Disclosing a colleague’s transgender status without their permission
  • Creating a hostile environment for a team member because they hold a protected philosophical belief.

5.5.2.    Sexual harassment is a form of sexual misconduct, an umbrella term that describes all types of unwanted and unpermitted behaviour of a sexual nature including sexual abuse. The intention or reasonably perceived effect of this type of harassment is to violate the recipient’s dignity or create an environment that is intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive for the recipient. It can happen to and be demonstrated by women, men and people of any gender or sexual orientation.

Sexual harassment includes serious sexual misconduct, such as sexual assault or rape. Other examples of sexual harassment and misconduct could include:

  • Emailing, texting or messaging sexual content or making sexually offensive jokes to your team, unless relevant to course content or academic debate
  • Unwanted flirting or making sexual remarks about a colleague’s body, clothing or appearance
  • Touching a colleague or student without their permission, such as hugging them.

5.6.    Exposure to course material, academic debate and discussion or speakers’ views that may be experienced as offensive are unlikely to be considered either unlawful harassment under the Equality Act 2010 as defined in section 5.5, or bullying as defined in section 5.4, unless they are specifically intended to violate a person's dignity or to create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, insulting, malicious or offensive environment for them. We have a duty to allow those views to be expressed within the law as part of academic freedom and freedom of speech.

5.7.    Unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 is when the recipient is treated unfairly because of any of the following characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation.   Discrimination can be direct (when someone is treated less favourably than another person in the same situation - but without the protected characteristic - is or would be treated) or indirect (where rules or arrangements apply to a group of employees or job applicants, but in practice are less fair to a certain protected characteristic).

Examples of discrimination could include:

  • Not offering a promotion to an individual because of their sex
  • Excluding a colleague from team social events because they are close friends with a LGBT person
  • Drawing inferences about an applicant’s religion because of their name and rejecting that individual for that reason
  • Advertising a role and specifying a minimum number of years’ experience.

5.8.    Unlawful victimisation under the Equality Act 2010 occurs when a person is subject to a detriment because they made a complaint of unlawful discrimination or provided evidence or information in connection with a complaint of unlawful discrimination, or because someone believes that they have done so or may do so.