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Harassment / Bullying Policy

Scope and Purpose of the policy 1

This policy relates to all staff of University College London. UCL has a firm commitment to equality of opportunity and as such will not tolerate the harassment or bullying of one member of its community by another. The purpose of this policy is to assist in developing a working environment in which harassment & bullying are known to be unacceptable and where individuals have the confidence to complain about harassment & bullying, should it arise, in the knowledge that their concerns will be dealt with appropriately and fairly. The policy outlines procedures to be followed if a member of staff feels they are being harassed or bullied in the course of their work or as a result of their employment by UCL. Advice to students on harassment and bullying is issued in the Student Handbook.

Summary of Procedure (GIF format, PDF format)

1 UCL's commitment

1.1 UCL welcomes diversity and believes that every student and member of staff has a right to study and work in an environment which encourages harmonious relationships. UCL is committed to preventing harassment & bullying and it is the responsibility of all managers to make sure that their staff are aware of and understand the context of UCL's Harassment & Bullying Policy.

1.2 Every manager at UCL should aim to promote a working environment in which harassment and bullying cannot flourish. They should take immediate action if harassment and/or bullying is suspected or identified, whether or not a complaint had been made. Allegations of harassment and bullying received either formally or informally through this policy must be taken seriously and dealt with promptly and sensitively.  

1.3 In addition to its commitment to equal opportunity enshrined in the Charter and Statutes, UCL has a legal obligation 2 to ensure that harassment on the grounds of someone's race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, religion or belief, age, pregnancy or maternity, marital or civil partnership status or harassment on any other grounds, does not take place at work, as this is discrimination. In addition, UCL has a duty of care towards its staff under the Health and Safety Act 1974.

1.4 Every student and member of staff is also personally liable under the legislation, see footnote 2 . Allegations of harassment & bullying will be treated very seriously by UCL and could result in disciplinary action being taken against the perpetrator. UCL will ensure that any member of staff raising a concern under this policy is not victimised as a result.

1.5 As allegations of harassment & bullying are very serious, UCL will also treat very seriously any such allegations proven to be malicious and these are also likely to be the subject of disciplinary action.

2 What is harassment and bullying?

2.1 Harassment is unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, and in the perception of the recipient of the conduct, it should reasonably be considered as having that purpose or effect. 3

Harassment & bullying can take a variety of different forms ranging from repeatedly ignoring a colleague or subjecting them to unwelcome attention, to intimidation, humiliation, ridicule or offence. More extreme forms of harassment & bullying include physical threats or violence. Harassment & bullying may consist of a single incident or a series of incidents. Behaviour that may appear trivial as a single incident, can constitute harassment or bullying when repeated, or in the context of the staff/student or manager/employee relationship. Harassment & bullying behaviour may not always be intentional, but is always unacceptable, whether intentional or not.

UCL has a responsibility towards protecting staff from harassment and bullying within the workplace and off-site at work-related events (e.g. at conferences, departmental social events with work colleagues, or through deliberate exclusion from an event).

It is not always necessary for staff to be in the same room for harassment to take place. The potential for harassment or bullying by telephone and letter has now expanded to include so-called 'cyber-bullying' by, e.g. emails, text messages and material posted on web sites, including personal blogs or social networking sites.

Some of the most prevalent forms of harassment & bullying include the following:

Bullying is to be distinguished from vigorous academic debate or the actions of a manager making reasonable (but perhaps unpopular) requests of his/her staff.

The above list of examples is not exclusive and harassment can also take place on the grounds of a person's age, religion or any other characteristic that makes them different from the majority or from the person who harasses or bullies them. Although the terms 'harassment' and 'bullying' are not synonymous, the guidance in this policy document relates to both issues and the term 'harassment' will be used from this point onwards to encompass both.

2.2 Managers have an obligation to tackle issues of poor performance and therefore harassment and bullying is to be distinguished from a manager legitimately and appropriately invoking approved performance management or disciplinary procedures in accordance with UCL policy.

3 Harassment - general principles

3.1 The overriding principles in dealing with allegations or concerns of harassment are that they must be taken seriously, considered carefully and addressed speedily and where possible, in confidence.

3.2 A member of staff who feels that s/he is the subject of harassment (either by a colleague, a student or anyone else whom they come into contact with in the course of their work) may wish to make a note of incidents, dates, times and any witnesses, for future reference. Any member of staff who considers themselves to have been the subject of harassment has the right to be listened to and to be given informed advice on how the matter may be resolved. There are usually a number of options. Anyone who feels they have been harassed is likely to wish to speak to someone with whom they feel they share something in common. For this reason they should be able to approach one of a number of different people within UCL (see section 5.1 below).

3.3 Should harassment occur in a group situation, the person in authority within the group has the responsibility to recognise harassment when it occurs and to take speedy action to stop it. It is important that it is made clear to the perpetrator that such behaviour is unacceptable at UCL and will not be tolerated. Silence or inaction can be seen as collusion and endorsement of such behaviour. If the person in authority is the harasser, others within the group should support the individual being harassed in taking action to report the harassment.

4 How will allegations of harassment be dealt with?

4.1 In the event that a member of staff considers that they are experiencing harassment they have a number of options open to them. They may be able to speak directly to the individual concerned or to write to him/her expressing their concerns and requesting that the harassing behaviour stop immediately. Alternatively, (or subsequently if they achieve no success) they may wish to talk to someone in order to obtain another perspective on the situation and to ensure that someone else knows about it and can take action with them to ensure that it stops. A final option is to make a formal complaint.

5 The Informal Approach

5.1 Members of staff wishing to seek advice or discuss concerns about harassment may approach a nominated Dignity at Work Advisor (the names of whom are publicised on the Staff Anti harassment web site), their line manager or another manager within UCL. All Harassment Advisors, managers, senior Human Resources staff and members of UCL's Committee for Equal Opportunities will receive briefing on the implementation of this policy and training will be provided. It is acknowledged that some members of staff may wish to seek either informal or formal advice from their trade union representative.

5.2 Anyone approached by a member of staff who wishes to discuss the matter informally should

5.3 Confidentiality is very important in dealing with cases of alleged harassment as experience shows that they will be much more difficult to resolve informally if information about the matter becomes common knowledge. Anyone approaching a manager or Dignity at Work Advisor for advice may however wish to be accompanied by a work colleague.

5.4 If after having been approached, a Dignity at Work Advisor or manager wishes to seek advice on how to deal with an alleged case of harassment they should seek the agreement of the person who has confided in them to that course of action. Harassment Advisors or managers in such circumstances may consult their departmental Human Resources contact. If the Dignity at Work Advisor does not feel able to advise in a particular case they should explain the reasons to the person who has approached them and refer them to another advisor or to the Human Resources Advisory Services Team.

5.5 Having heard the facts about the incident and the context of the action or behaviour that caused concern, there are a number of informal options available to the individual to resolve the matter. For example the person who has experienced harassment could talk to the individual on his/her own, or with a colleague accompanying him/her. The purpose of the conversation would be to make the respondent aware of the way his/her behaviour has been perceived and ask him/her not to repeat it. Alternatively, the Dignity at Work Advisor or manager could facilitate a meeting between both parties to give the complainant the opportunity to talk to the respondent and explain his/her view of the offending behaviour. Normally, the Dignity at Work Advisor or manager advising should not take action following an informal approach concerning harassment, without the agreement of the individual concerned.

5.6 In some cases, both parties may wish to refer themselves for mediation.  If you are interested in finding out about the service, information can be found at: Your HR consultant or line manager can provide you with more information about the service.  Referrals are made to CiC via your HR consultant and his/her name and contact details can be accessed via the following link to the HR Staff Directory:

5.7 The action outlined above will be appropriate in many cases and will often be sufficient to resolve the matter. Where it is possible to resolve the matter by informal means, every effort should be made to do so and as swiftly as possible. A formal complaint should only be submitted as a 'final option', where the informal approach has not achieved satisfactory results, or in exceptional circumstances where the nature of the incident(s) warrants a more formal approach.

5.8 If an informal approach has failed or is inappropriate, a formal complaint can be made in writing to the Departmental Head. Complaints about a Head of Department should be made to the appropriate Dean or Vice-Provost and complaints about a Dean, Pro-Provost or Vice-Provost should be referred to the Provost. A complaint about the Provost should be addressed to the Chair of Council.

5.9 Staff who consider that they have experienced harassment from students can seek advice from staff Harassment Advisors. If the matter is not resolved informally to the satisfaction of the complainant, a formal complaint should be made in writing to the Dean of Students.

6 A formal Complaint

6.1 Once it has been established that the issue has not been resolved, a formal complaint must be registered in writing as soon as possible, with the Head of Department (or more senior manager if appropriate, see paragraph 5.8). A formal complaint of Harassment should include the nature of the complaint, with reference to dates, times and places (where possible) in relation to a specific incident(s) and any (unsuccessful) efforts to resolve the matter . The names of any witness(es) to the incident(s) should also be included. Witnesses can request anonymity and this will be granted if appropriate, but this is not encouraged in the interests of openness and 'natural justice'.

6.2 While the formal complaint is under investigation, an alternative location, or timetable for the work of the complainant will be considered where requested (although there can be no guarantees that an alternative location can always be found). Where it is necessary to facilitate ongoing professional relations between the two parties, other possibilities such as an embargo on one to one meetings between the parties, or meetings without a third party present should be considered and facilitated by the line manager and Head of Department.

Complaints involving Students

6.3 If the formal complaint involves allegations against a student, this must be registered in writing with the Dean of Students, and should be copied to your Head of Department (this may also be copied to the student's Head of Department if different to your own) so they are aware of the complaint and can provide appropriate support or temporary adjustments. A formal complaint of Harassment should include the nature of the complaint, with reference to dates, times and places (where possible) in relation to a specific incident(s) and any (unsuccessful) efforts to resolve the matter . The names of any witness(es) to the incident(s) should also be included. Witnesses can request anonymity and this will be granted if appropriate, but this is not encouraged in the interests of openness and 'natural justice'.

7 Investigating a formal complaint

7.1 On receipt, a formal complaint of harassment should be forwarded under confidential cover to the Director of Human Resources. S/he will consult with the Chair of the Committee for Equal Opportunities and where informal approaches have failed or the nature of the allegation warrants a formal investigation will convene an Investigatory Panel to examine the matter within the time frames set out below. Where there has been no attempt to resolve the matter informally, the complainant may be asked to follow an informal route to resolution before a formal panel is convened.

The Chair of the panel should take responsibility for ensuring the meetings take place within the agreed timeframe.




Register of formal complaint


As soon as possible after the incident

Formal acknowledgement /receipt of complaint by HR


Within 5 working days of receipt of formal complaint by HR

Respondent notified in writing by HR of complaint and date set for written response. Complainant given a copy.


Within 5 working days of receipt of formal complaint

HR set up investigatory panel and agree date of hearing from the outset


Within 10 days of receipt of formal complaint

Notification to all parties of date of hearing


Within 10 days of receipt of formal complaint

All written submissions to panel, complainant and respondent


Not less than 7 calendar days before the hearing

Pre meeting briefing for investigatory panel


Within one week of receipt of written submissions by panel

First meeting of panel


Within one month of being appointed


Panel decision in writing to chair of CEO and Director of HR


Within 5 working days of the last panel meeting

If case upheld, Chair of CEO and Director of HR determine what action needs to be taken


Within 5 working days of receipt of the investigatory panel report

Outcome of investigatory panel and action to be taken conveyed in writing to respondent,


Within 7 calendar days of decision regarding action to be taken

Outcome of investigatory panel conveyed in writing to complainant and heads of department where appropriate


Within 7 calendar days of decision regarding action to be taken

Witnesses informed in writing when investigation is complete and if case upheld


Within 7 calendar days of decision regarding action to be taken

N.B. Exceptionally, timescales may not be adhered to, or there may be delays through UCL closure, or absence of one of the parties etc. U


In exceptional circumstances, HR will write to all parties with a revised timetable as soon as possible.

7.2 The Panel of 3 will include a senior manager nominated by the Chair of the Committee for Equal Opportunity (CEO) who will chair the meetings and a member of the CEO. A representative of the Human Resources Division will advise the panel. No member of the Panel should be from the department in which the complainant, the respondent or any of the witnesses work and the panel should reflect a varied profile in terms of race, gender, disability age, religion or belief and sexual orientation wherever possible.

7.3 Guidance notes are attached to this policy to ensure maximum transparency of process for all those involved in the investigation of a formal complaint. A briefing on harassment and bullying will take place at the first pre meeting of each formal investigation panel. The Human Resources Division will ensure that the respondent is informed in writing of the complaint made against him/her and will ensure that all those attending a meeting of the Investigatory Panel are given sufficient notice in writing. Anyone required to attend an Investigatory Panel meeting may be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague. The complainant will have access to the respondent's submission or responses and any witness statements.

7.4 It is important to safeguard confidentiality that none of the parties to the complaint should discuss it with others, including members of the Panel outside the investigatory hearing, unless there is a legitimate reason for them to do so i.e. in order to be able to respond to an allegation, investigate and take action.

7.5 The respondent can seek support from their Trades Union or the Employee Assistance programme and can seek procedural advice from the HR Advisory Services team. Should the respondent and complainant both seek advice on the process from the same HR professional the HR professional will refer them to another colleague in HR explaining the reason

7.6 A complaint of harassment may involve matters that are distressing or personal and which the complainant may find difficult to discuss in detail. The Chair of the Panel will therefore conduct its meeting(s) with the utmost sensitivity. A written record of the meeting(s) will be made, which may be presented as evidence to any subsequent disciplinary hearing.

7.7 The role of the Panel will be to interview the complainant, the respondent and any other relevant people such as named witnesses and to produce a report of its investigation outlining any proposals for action resulting from the Panel's findings. In the event that there has been action which could be perceived as retaliation, or victimisation since the complaint was made, this will be considered by the Panel in the course of their investigation. Formal notes of the meeting will be made. The report will be submitted under confidential cover to the Chair of the CEO who in conjunction with the Director of Human Resources will determine what action if any, needs to taken. Where a formal complaint is upheld, action will be taken in all cases irrespective of the seniority or status of the respondent. The record of the meetings of Investigatory Panels will be stored confidentially in the Human Resources Division and will not be integrated with any individual's personal record file.

7.8 Where an allegation is of a serious nature amounting to gross misconduct under the Disciplinary Procedure relevant to the member of staff concerned, consideration will be given to immediate action under that procedure, which may include suspension of the respondent from work in accordance with agreed procedures. The procedures set out in this document do not inhibit any action that may be taken under UCL's Disciplinary Procedures.

7.9 The Director of Human Resources will convey the outcome of an Investigatory Panel meeting in writing to the complainant, respondent and the relevant Head(s) of department where appropriate and will explain any actions resulting from it. Where appropriate, training and/or counselling will be offered to the offender to assist him/her in understanding how to avoid repeating the offending behaviour. Counselling will also be offered to the complainant.

7.10 Following a formal harassment complaint, either party may be concerned about working with the other again. Due regard of such views should be taken into account when offering counselling or mediation and a transfer of one or both parties to another section, department or location may be appropriate in some cases. Where an Investigatory Panel confirms a complaint of harassment, the transfer of the complainant would only take place with his/her agreement. UCL's Mediation Service might facilitate the rebuilding of damaged relationships where this has occurred.

7.11 If either the complainant or the respondent feel that a formal investigation of a harassment complaint involving them has not been dealt with to their satisfaction, they may raise their concerns via the appropriate Grievance procedure.

7.12 Where a complaint of harassment and bullying has been upheld and disciplinary action is taken against the respondent, the HOD with advice from HR, should monitor the situation, to make sure there is no repeat in the offending behaviour and/or victimisation and/or lack of management, or support for the former complainant.

7.13 Following a finding of harassment or bullying any repeat behaviour of this type will result in disciplinary action.

8 Monitoring of the Policy

8.1 The Committee for Equal Opportunities will keep the implementation of this policy under review and will monitor its use annually.

9 Personal relationships at work

9.1UCL also has a Code_of_Conduct on personal relationships at work, which applies in circumstances where personal and professional relationships overlap.

10 Use of non-discriminatory language

10.1 UCL has developed guidelines on the use of non-discriminatory language which are aimed at assisting staff to ensure that their language does not exclude, patronise or offend. The guidelines are available here.

Approved by Human Resources Policy Committee

updated March 2010

1The policy was revised in April 2006 following consultation with UCL's harassment advisors, UCL's three recognised Trades Unions, members of investigatory formal panels convened in 2003-4, colleagues within the HR Advisory Services Team and the Committee for Equal Opportunities.

2Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and the Equality Act 2010.

3Employment Regulations 2003 definition of harassment


Visit Staff Harassment Website.