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7.  What to do when you have experienced inappropriate behaviour

7.1.    Allegations should always be taken seriously, and action taken as quickly as possible to stop any inappropriate behaviour identified. This section summarises the procedures available in the University’s grievance and disciplinary policies to do this and explains the direct support available to individuals to address inappropriate behaviour. Specific information relating to the procedures for incidents of serious sexual misconduct, such as sexual assault, violence and rape, is included in section 7.10 (Raising complaints of serious sexual misconduct).

7.2.    Both informal and formal options are available in the University’s grievance and disciplinary policies to resolve issues.

  • Informal approaches are intended to help resolve one-off or minor incidents of inappropriate behaviour, to stop such behaviour early and to prevent it escalating. They include:
    • a direct informal resolution process
    • an informal resolution process with support
    • mediation and facilitated conversations.

This type of collaborative approach has been found to be the most effective way of resolving conflict, tackling inappropriate behaviour and minimising any negative impact on the individuals involved.

  • Formal grievances are more appropriate for serious instances or repeated patterns of inappropriate behaviour where previous informal attempts may have failed.

To explore the appropriate option to use, individuals should speak with their line manager or the person responsible for HR in their area or their central HR Business Partnering Team. The colleague approached may need to discuss the matter and collect further information about the alleged inappropriate behaviour disclosed to provide appropriate guidance. This may involve speaking informally but confidentially with other individuals involved in or witnessing the incident. Any such activity will be undertaken promptly for the purposes of identifying the most appropriate option to resolve the alleged behaviour and will not constitute a formal investigation. This will only be undertaken with the permission of the individual disclosing the incident (see section 7.10 for information on disclosing allegations of inappropriate behaviour but not raising them as a complaint).

Individuals can also discuss the matter and any guidance received on options for resolution with a colleague in confidence, a Dignity at Work Contact and/or a trade union representative when considering how to proceed.

7.3.    Individuals are encouraged to keep a record of the nature and frequency of the alleged inappropriate behaviour. This is to support them in raising their concerns and help the other party understand better the issues raised during the course of these discussions and the impact they have had.

7.4.    If, through the course of raising an issue for resolution, it is identified that the nature of any complaint is instead a matter for a College, the University may refer the issue to the relevant College to be addressed under its policies and procedures.


7.5.    Informal resolution

7.5.1.    An individual wishing to resolve issues informally should use the informal procedure set out in the grievance policy relevant to their staff category as set out in section 13 (Associated policies and statements). There are normally both a direct resolution process and a supported informal resolution process set out in these policies.

7.5.2.    A direct informal resolution process is where the individual experiencing the behaviour directly addresses the issue themselves. It is likely to be most effective when done in the early stages of experiencing the behaviour and in a constructive way, including specific examples of the unwanted behaviour, explaining why this made the individual feel uncomfortable or gave distress, and what the individual feels would resolve the issue.

7.5.3.    Support to help the individual prepare what they want to say is also available from any of the following:

7.5.4.    The individual raising the concerns may wish to try informal resolution but, understandably, feel unable or reluctant to directly approach the other party on their own. In an informal resolution process with support, the individual may ask for support to achieve an informal resolution.

This approach can particularly help when addressing issues concerning a line manager or a more senior colleague and help can be requested from:

  • their line manager (or equivalent)
  • the person responsible for HR in their area or their local HR team
  • their HR Business Partnering Team
  • the Head of Institution.

As part of this process, the supporting person can meet directly with the individual reported to have demonstrated the inappropriate behaviour to discuss what has happened and how to resolve it, or they can be part of any meeting between both parties. Where they are standing in for the individual raising the concerns, they provide regular updates on progress back to the individual. 


7.6.    Mediation and facilitated conversations

7.6.1.    It may be appropriate for the matter to be dealt with by way of mediation, depending on the nature of the issue. Mediation is a well-established, confidential process for resolving issues between individuals, involving two impartial mediators helping those involved find and agree their own solutions.

7.6.2.    Mediation can be used at any time as a means of informal resolution, including before or after an informal or formal process. The mediation process normally takes around a day, including a preliminary meeting with each party. Further information about this option is available from the University Mediation Service.

7.6.3.    The Mediation Service is also able to offer a shorter facilitated conversation between the two parties, involving an impartial facilitator. After an initial meeting with each party, the facilitator supports both parties in a 2 – 3 hour meeting where they can discuss the issue and find a way forward that works for them. This option may be preferable for more minor issues or conflict.

7.6.4.    Provided both parties wish to participate, a request for mediation or a facilitated conversation can be made to the Mediation Service directly by the parties themselves or through a referral from the Line Manager, the person or team responsible for HR in the area, or the HR Business Partnering Team.

7.6.5.    Both mediation and facilitated conversations are voluntary, confidential and either party can withdraw from the process at any time. No member of staff is required to use mediation or facilitated conversations before utilising the option of a formal grievance.


7.7.    Formal resolution

7.7.1.    There will be instances of inappropriate behaviour where an informal resolution process is not successful or is simply not appropriate due to the nature of the allegations. In these situations, the individual experiencing the inappropriate behaviour should raise a complaint using the formal process set out in the relevant staff grievance procedure as listed in section 13 (Associated policies and statements).  On review of the formal complaint with the relevant HR Business Partnering Team, a disciplinary process may be initiated instead as appropriate.  

7.7.2.    No member of staff is required to use the informal route before utilising the option of a formal grievance.

7.7.3.    Where the member of staff wishing to raise a formal complaint is under the age of 18 or is deemed to be an “adult at risk”, please refer to the Children and Adults at Risk Safeguarding Policy.


7.8.    Raising concerns anonymously

7.8.1.    As well as or instead of raising issues for resolution informally or formally, staff, students and visitors of the University can report any type of bullying, harassment, discrimination or victimisation to the University using the anonymous reporting tool for staff and students.

7.8.2.    This system has been in place since 2017, is completely anonymous and enables the University to understand the prevalence and type of misconduct taking place at the University. As the system cannot collect any information about the identity of the alleged perpetrator or detailed information about the incident, it will not result in any direct action (such as a University-instigated investigation). Instead, the statistical information collected will be used to monitor, plan and support appropriate preventative interventions.


7.9.    Raising alleged inappropriate behaviour without making a complaint

7.9.1.    It is the aim of this Policy to ensure all staff feel able to disclose alleged inappropriate behaviour so that it can be resolved. If an individual raises alleged inappropriate behaviour but does not want or feel able to proceed with either an informal resolution or a formal process, the colleague approached will:

  • Discuss ideas for how the individual can respond to the behaviour if it happens again
  • Encourage the individual to talk to them again after any future repetition of the behaviour
  • Make the individual aware that they may have to take action if the nature of what is disclosed invokes the University’s duty of care, particularly if the reported behaviour is impacting the individual’s mental or physical wellbeing
  • Suggest they may wish to report the concern anonymously on the anonymous reporting tool to enable the University to understand the prevalence and type of inappropriate behaviour taking place.
  • Provide information on University support services.
  • Check that the individual is aware of the informal and formal options available to resolve the alleged behaviour should they wish to reconsider at any point.

7.9.2.    Should there be multiple informal disclosures that give rise to sufficient cause for concern, or the nature of what is disclosed invokes the University’s duty of care, the Head of Institution in the area concerned may choose to conduct an investigation into the alleged behaviour (see section 9.2 for further details).


7.10.    Raising complaints of serious sexual misconduct

7.10.1.    If an individual has experienced serious sexual violence, such as sexual assault, violence or rape, it is important they feel supported. They also have a choice in what they do next and what is right for them. The University has dedicated information about the reporting options and support available – both within and outside of the University - on its Breaking the Silence website.

7.10.2.    Often a grievance process will not be appropriate in response to a complaint of serious sexual misconduct. When an individual has disclosed an incident of serious sexual misconduct and consented to that disclosure being treated as a complaint, careful consideration will be given to the most appropriate process for dealing with that complaint, whether through the relevant disciplinary or grievance policy.

7.10.3.    Information is also available on the Breaking the Silence website for anyone who is approached for advice and support by an individual who experienced serious sexual misconduct. This includes supporting colleagues who have very recently experienced serious sexual misconduct and may need immediate medical attention, as well supporting those in non-emergency situations.