UCL Human Resources


Personal Relationships Code of Conduct

1. Scope and Purpose of the Policy

This policy covers all staff of UCL. It is intended to provide guidance in areas where personal relationships overlap with working relationships and to ensure that individual members of staff do not commit acts of impropriety, bias, abuse of authority or conflict of interest and do not lay themselves open to allegations that they have done so.

2. Introduction

2.1. UCL values and relies upon the professional integrity of relationships between members of staff and in the staff/student relationship. In order that UCL business is conducted and perceived to be conducted in a professional and proper manner it is necessary to distinguish between, and take account of, personal relationships which overlap with professional ones. 
In the context of this document, a personal relationship is defined as:

  • a family relationship,
  • a business/commercial/financial relationship
  • a close personal friendship or
  • a sexual/romantic relationship

3. Relationships between staff and students

3.1. The University believes that the professional relationship between a student and a member of staff is vital to a student's educational development and affirms that the teaching relationship is based on trust, confidence and dependency. In this context a professional relationship is defined as one where there is an assessing, supervising, tutoring, teaching or pastoral role or a role providing administrative or technical support. Students are entitled to equality of treatment and it is important that a personal relationship between a member of staff and a student is not perceived by others to prejudice that equality of treatment.

3.2. Staff are strongly advised not to enter into a sexual/romantic relationship with a student for whom they have a responsibility for assessing, supervising, tutoring, teaching, for pastoral care or for whom they are required to provide administrative or technical support. Further, staff should not enter into a business, commercial or financial relationship with a student which could compromise, or could be perceived to compromise, the objectivity and professional standing of the teaching relationship.

3.3. UCL recognises, however, that such relationships may exist when a member of staff is appointed or when a student enrols, or that a relationship may develop between a member of staff and a student during a programme of study. Where a member of staff has a professional role in relation to a student with whom (s)he has a personal relationship, it is the responsibility of the member of staff to inform his/her Head of Department (or Dean or Vice-Provost if the member of staff is a Head of Department), in order that alternative teaching, tutoring or assessment arrangements may be made.

3.4. For further advice regarding the treatment of relationships between PhD students and their supervisors please see section 5 of the UCL Academic Manual. Staff may seek guidance on the implementation of this Code, on a confidential basis, from Human Resources Business Partnering. Students may seek guidance on the implementation of the Code on a confidential basis from the Dean of Students or from one of the Advisers to Women Students.

4. Relationships between members of staff

4.1. Although the existence of a personal relationship between members of staff does not necessarily constitute a bar to the employment or promotion of either party, staff should declare to their line manager any personal relationships which may give rise to a real or perceived conflict of interest, trust or breach of confidentiality.

4.2. Where a personal relationship exists or develops between members of staff who are in a line management or supervisory relationship at work, they must not be involved in recruitment, selection, appraisal, promotion or in any other management activity or process involving the other party. Additionally, staff in a personal relationship should not work together in any circumstance whereby a conflict of interest, breach of confidentiality or unfair advantage may be perceived to be gained from the overlap of a personal and professional relationship. In any such circumstances, the relationship must be declared in confidence, to the Head of Department (or Dean or Vice-Provost in the case of a Head of Department). The manager to whom the information is disclosed will then make alternative management arrangements and confirm them in writing to the individuals concerned. If it is considered unavoidable to inform other members of staff about the relationship in order to explain a change in management arrangements, this will be discussed with the individuals concerned, before it is disclosed.

5. Declaration of personal relationships where they overlap with professional roles

5.1. Staff who are uncertain about whether they should take action regarding a personal relationship, are invited to seek guidance in confidence, from Human Resources Business Partnering  or their trade union representative.

5.2. A case whereby any personal relationship as defined within this code, is not declared and results in an unfair advantage or disadvantage to either of the parties to the relationship (be they a member of staff or a student), will be considered a serious matter and may lead to disciplinary action.

5.3. While not a bar to employment with UCL, applicants for employment will be asked to declare any personal relationship with existing members of staff, students, or members of UCL Council.

6. Harassment & Bullying at Work

6.1. UCL will not tolerate harassment and bullying at work and its statement on Dignity at Work together with the UCL Staff Grievance Policy, can be found on the Human Resources Web pages or can be obtained in printed form from the Human Resources Division.