Bullying and harassment guidance for line managers

Line managers have certain specific responsibilities in relation to policy and procedure for dealing with complaints of bullying and harassment.

The University has a comprehensive policy and procedures for dealing with complaints of bullying and harassment.

The University is committed to providing a safe and harmonious working environment in which no member of staff feels they are being bullied or harassed. Bullying and Harassment are unacceptable and will not be permitted or condoned.

The recognised Trade Unions and the Students’ Union have been fully consulted in drawing up this policy and are all committed to its success.

As a line manager you have certain specific responsibilities in relation to this policy:

  • You must implement the policy and procedures and make every effort to ensure that bullying and harassment do not occur, particularly in the work area for which you are responsible;
  • You are responsible for seeking to resolve any incidents of bullying or harassment of which you are aware;
  • You must deal with complaints in your area; failure to do so could lead to you being held liable;
  • You must not bully or harass any of your staff; under-performance should not be dealt with by bullying or harassment;
  • You must ensure that you afford fair and unbiased treatment to anyone who is making a complaint of bullying or harassment, or has been accused of bullying or harassment.

In addition you must:

  • ensure that all your staff have a copy of and understand the policy and procedures;
  • take steps to promote the policy to your staff;
  • ensure that all staff know how to raise bullying or harassment problems;
  • set a good example by treating your staff with dignity and respect;
  • be responsive and understanding to any member of staff making a complaint, yet fair and unbiased;
  • providefull clear and impartial advice;
  • be alert to unacceptable behaviour.

These guidelines have been developed to assist you to fulfil your responsibilities.

  • What do I do if a member of my staff or one of my students tells me they are being bullied or harassed?

    You should advise them of the procedures, both informal and formal and provide them with a copy of the policy and procedures.

    As part of the procedures they may also wish to speak to one of the harassment advisers.

    You should also contact your Human Resources Consultant/Adviser immediately.

  • What happens at the informal stage?

    The complaint may be resolved informally by a number of means, for example by speaking to the person accused on behalf of the complainant. Alternatively with everyone’s agreement, a meeting of all parties may be held to try to resolve the issue. Both the complainant and the alleged harasser may wish to bring a colleague or their Trades Union representative to that meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to give both parties an opportunity to discuss what has happened, without resorting to a formal complaint.

    If however the matter cannot be resolved this way, then the complainant may still make a formal complaint. (No undue pressure should be put on either party to try to resolve the issue in this way).

  • What is my role? 

    As the line manager you have a neutral role, to listen to the complaint and to the response and to suggest a possible way forward which all parties can accept and which will enable them to move forward and continue to work together. You should make a note of the agreed outcome and decision(s) but you need not take detailed notes of the meeting.

    Assuming you reach a mutually satisfactory outcome, you will then need to keep an eye on the situation to ensure that the relationship between the parties does not deteriorate. You may seek advice from the Department of Human Resources or the Policy Implementation Unit at any time.

  • What happens if the situation cannot be resolved this way?

    The next stage is to consider mediation. The University has a pool of trained mediators who can be contacted via the Mediation Services Co-ordinator, Andrew Caldwell, Head of Employee Relations, Department of Human Resources. Either the complainant or the alleged harasser can request mediation. Mediation is an option in the informal process and can be used if both parties agree. The Mediation Services Co-ordinator will explain the service and what is involved.

    If however the matter cannot be resolved this way or if the complainant is unhappy with the outcome then s/he may still make a formal complaint.

  • What does the formal procedure involve?

    A formal complaint must be made in writing to the Provost of the campus where you are based (if the complaint is about a fellow student) or to Director of Human Resources (if the complaint is about a member of staff) outlining the nature of the complaint. Assistance may be sought from a harassment adviser, a Students’ Union representative or from the Policy Implementation Unit.

    The Provost/Director of Human Resources will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 10 working days and will appoint an investigating panel, which will include the Students’ Union President or his/her nominee.

    You may be asked to attend an interview with the investigating panel.

  • What should I do if a member of my staff tells me they are being bullied or harassed but doesn’t want me to take any further action?

    You have a responsibility as a line manager to deal with any issue of bullying or harassment of which you are aware. If the member of staff will not name the alleged harasser or asks you to do nothing, you should contact Human Resources or the Policy Implementation Unit for advice.

  • What should I do if I am accused of bullying or harassment?

    This depends on whether you are approached informally or formally. The policy advises individuals to raise issues with the person concerned in order to try to resolve differences at an early stage and so prevent situations from developing into formal complaints which can be difficult and stressful for all those involved. This informal process is not intended to embarrass or offend you. However, it may come as a shock or a surprise if someone tells you that they are offended or upset by something you have done or said.

If you are approached informally, it is important that you take the time to listen to and discuss the concerns of that person and try to think about how your behaviour was perceived. Ask the person to provide an example if you are unclear about the nature of the behaviour that upset them. Apologise for any offence that was caused. You do not have to agree with their point of view to say that you are sorry that an aspect of your behaviour upset them. By talking things through objectively, you are more likely to find a way to move forward from this situation. Advice and support is available to you from your line manager, a harassment advisor, your Trades Union Representative (if you are a member of your Union) or the Policy Implementation Unit.

It may be more of a shock or a surprise to be challenged formally about an aspect of your behaviour, particularly if you receive a letter inviting you to attend an investigation panel out of the blue. You should receive enough information about the allegations made against you to enable you to prepare your response prior to your meeting with the panel. However, it is important that you do not discuss the allegations with the person who has made the complaint, or with any prospective witnesses, in case you inadvertently escalate matters. If you are unable to talk to your line manager about the situation (perhaps because they have already been approached about it), advice and support is available to you from a harassment advisor, your Trades Union Representative (if you are a member of your Union) or the Policy Implementation Unit.

Try to remain objective and remember that role of the panel is to investigate thoroughly and impartially the allegations which have been made against you.

Appropriate training is available to all line managers on the implementation of the Bullying & Harassment Policy & Procedures.