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Statement of Policy

The University is dedicated to creating and maintaining a safe, welcoming, inclusive and diverse community which nurtures a healthy environment and culture of mutual respect and consideration, allowing all members of the University Community to thrive without fear of harassment, bullying, sexual violence, abuse, coercive behaviour, sexual harassment or related misconduct.  

The Dignity at Work Policy details this commitment and explains what actions can be taken if its principles are not observed. The University encourages individuals and managers to make every effort to resolve dignity at work problems informally in the first instance as this is often the most effective method of dealing with unacceptable behaviour, although it is recognised this may not always be appropriate.

The University defines harassment as single or repeated incidents involving unwanted or unwarranted conduct towards another person which it is reasonable to think would have the effect of (i) violating that other’s dignity or (ii) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for that person. Harassment may be verbal, psychological, or physical, in person or via a virtual platform, or through other methods of contact. Examples of behaviour which may amount to harassment under this Policy include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • making sexually offensive comments about dress or appearance, the display or distribution of sexually explicit material, or demands for sexual favours;

  • engaging in harassment on the grounds of a person’s sexuality (or assumptions about a person’s sexuality) including making derogatory homophobic, transphobic, or biphobic remarks or jokes aimed at a particular person, offensive comments relating to a person’s sexuality, refusal to acknowledge a person’s gender or identity, or threats to disclose a person’s sexuality to others;

  • making offensive references to a person’s race, ethnicity, skin colour, religion or nationality, dress, culture, background or customs which have the effect of ridiculing or undermining an individual or fostering hatred and/or prejudice towards individuals or particular groups;

  • ignoring, disparaging, or ridiculing a person because of assumptions about their capabilities, or making offensive reference to an individual’s appearance which may or may not be in the context of their disability;

  • controlling or coercive behaviour, such as pressure to subscribe to a particular political or religious belief.

Online harassment may take the form of intimidating, offensive, or graphic posts or threats on social media sites or chat rooms, or communications by email, text, or instant messaging.

Sexual misconduct includes the following, whether or not within a sexual or intimate relationship, including where consent to some form of sexual activity has been given and then withdrawn, or if consent has been given on previous occasions:

  • sexual intercourse or engaging in a sexual act without consent;

  • attempting to engage in sexual intercourse or engaging in a sexual act without consent;

  • sharing private sexual materials of another person without consent;

  • kissing without consent;

  • touching inappropriately through clothes without consent;

  • inappropriately showing sexual organs to another person;

  • repeatedly following another person without good reason;

  • making unwanted remarks of a sexual nature.

When a criminal offence may have been committed, the Dignity at Work Procedure may not be appropriate. These cases include, but are not be limited to, serious assault or threat of serious assault. Staff members may wish to seek advice from their HR School Team, the Director of Human Resources and/or approach the Police directly. Student members can seek advice from the Head of the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals and/or approach the Police directly. Further guidance on dealing with cases of sexual assault or sexual violence is available at here.

Dignity at work may involve equalities issues and UK discrimination law provides specific protection against discrimination, harassment and victimisation on a variety of grounds. The University takes its responsibilities in these areas very seriously. The Equality & Diversity web pages provide more detailed information on these aspects of the law and the University's responses: https://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/hr/equality/.