FAQ: Formal procedure

FAQ: Formal procedure

FAQ: Formal Procedure for dealing with Harassment and Bullying for Staff

Contact Officer: Director of Personnel

Purpose
This series of questions and answers provides a brief overview of the formal procedure for dealing with cases of harassment and bullying:

All about the formal procedure:
When would the formal complaints and investigation be used?
What’s a “complainant”?
Who is referred to as an “alleged harasser/bully”?
How do I make a formal complaint – if the mediation process has not been followed?
How do I make a formal complaint – if the mediation process has been followed but not produced a resolution?
Who will be responsible for carrying out the formal investigation procedure?
How do I know that those involved with the formal investigation will be impartial?
What support will I receive during the formal procedure as either the person who feels they’re being bullied, the alleged bully/harasser or as a witness?
Could an individual be suspended when an allegation of harassment or bullying is very serious?
How long will it take for the investigation to get underway?
Who has to attend an investigatory meeting?
What happens at an investigatory meeting for the complainant?
What happens at an investigatory meeting for the alleged harasser/bully?
What happens at an investigatory meeting for a witness?
How is a decision made following investigatory meetings in harassment and bullying case?
How long will I have to wait before I know the outcome of the investigation?
What are the possible outcomes from an investigation?
What support will a complainant or alleged harasser/bully receive following the outcome of a case?
How long can I expect the whole of the formal procedure to take?
Are there any options for an appeal following the outcome of a case?
What information do I need to include when I request an appeal?
Who will be responsible for carrying out an appeal?

Guidelines/Frequently Asked Questions

When would the formal complaints and investigation be used?
If it hasn’t been possible to resolve an incident of harassment/bullying informally or through mediation, or if it isn’t appropriate to resolve the matter informally, e.g. if the incident is too serious for such approaches, the complainant is able to proceed straight to the formal stage. There is no obligation to attempt to resolve the matter informally or to use mediation, though it is strongly recommended where it would be appropriate. Back to top.

What’s a “complainant”?
The person making a formal complaint is referred to as “the complainant”, so if you are the person who feels they have been harassed or bullied you will be referred to in this way in the formal procedure. Back to top.

Who is referred to as an “alleged harasser/bully”?
The expression “alleged harasser/bully” refers to an individual against whom a complaint of harassment or bullying has been made. Back to top.

How do I make a formal complaint – if the mediation process has not been followed?
You will need to contact either the Director of Personnel or one of the Personnel Advisers. They will meet with you within 5 working days to talk through the nature and detail of the complaint. They will keep a written record of the complaint which will be agreed by both parties as an accurate description of the circumstances as presented. The Director of Personnel will advise your Head of Department that a member of their staff has raised a formal complaint. If the alleged harasser/bully is the Head of Department then the next level of management will be informed. Back to top.

How do I make a formal complaint – if the mediation process has been followed but not produced a resolution?
If you, the complainant, wish to invoke the formal procedure the Mediator will inform the Personnel Department. The Director of Personnel or one of the Personnel Advisers will meet with you within 5 working days to talk through the nature and detail of the complaint. They will keep a written record of the complaint which will be agreed by both parties as an accurate description of the circumstances as presented. The Director of Personnel will advise your Head of Department that a member of their staff has raised a formal complaint. If the alleged harasser/bully is the Head of Department then the next level of management will be informed. Back to top.

Who will be responsible for carrying out the formal investigation procedure?
An Investigating Officer will be responsible for gathering information to allow him/her to reach a conclusion on the complaint. The Investigating Officer will always be a more senior member of staff than the alleged harasser/bully. Back to top.

How do I know that those involved with the formal investigation will be impartial?
Anyone dealing with a formal complaint has to be independent of the complainant or alleged harasser/bully. If anyone is concerned about impartiality they should contact the Director of Personnel, or next tier of management. Back to top.

What support will I receive during the formal procedure as either the person who feels they’re being bullied, the alleged harasser/bully or as a witness?
The University will not assume guilt and will support all staff members and students involved in a case of alleged harassment, discrimination or bullying. Whether you are the complainant or the alleged harasser/bully you are entitled to receive support from an Initial/Harassment Advisor. In the formal proceedings the complainant, the alleged harasser/bully and any witness has the right to be accompanied at all stages either by a Trades Union representative or a work colleague. In exceptional circumstances an individual may make an application to the Director of Personnel to request an alternative companion. Back to top.

Could an individual be suspended when an allegation of harassment or bullying is very serious?
This would only be considered in exceptional circumstances, and only with the approval of the Vice Chancellor, where the nature and the severity of the complaint is extremely serious, or there is concern for the welfare of any of the parties involved. Back to top.

How long will it take for the investigation to get underway?
Investigations will be undertaken as quickly as possible, but normally within 10 working days of receipt of a formal complaint. If this is not feasible, the complainant will be advised of the reason(s). Back to top.

Who has to attend an investigatory meeting?
The complainant, the alleged harasser/bully and any witnesses will be asked to attend a meeting by the Investigating Officer. These meetings will be carried out individually, and each person has the right to take a companion along; either a trades union representative or work colleague for support. Back to top.

What happens at an investigatory meeting for the complainant?
The Investigating Officer will explain and discuss the procedure with you the complainant, and the details of the allegation will be confirmed. You, the complainant and any potential witnesses to the alleged harassment or bullying will then be required to attend an interview independently as part of the investigation. Please remember you as the complainant have the right to be accompanied at all stages either by a Trades’ Union representative or a work colleague. Back to top.

What happens at an investigatory meeting for the alleged harasser/bully?
The alleged harasser/bully will be informed of the substance of the complaint against them and also asked to attend a meeting. At the meeting the Investigating Officer will explain the procedure and the alleged harasser/bully will be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations. Please remember you as the alleged harasser/bully have the right to be accompanied at all stages either by a trades’ union representative or a work colleague. Back to top.

What happens at an investigatory meeting for a witness?
Any witness to an alleged incident of harassment/bullying will be asked to attend a meeting by an Investigating Officer, during which the procedure will be explained and discussed and the incident will be discussed. Please remember you as a witness have the right to be accompanied at all stages either by a trades’ union representative or a work colleague. Back to top.

How is a decision made following investigatory meetings in a harassment and bullying case?
Each case of alleged harassment/bullying will be considered on the facts of the case. On the basis of interviews and statements received, the Investigating Officer will compile a report and inform both parties in writing of their decision, normally within 10 working days of the investigatory meetings having taken place. Back to top.

How long will I have to wait before I know the outcome of the investigation?
Normally within 10 working days of the investigatory meetings having taken place, but within 20 working days of the formal procedure being invoked. Back to top.

What are the possible outcomes from an investigation?
Take no further action – where the facts of the case suggest the claim is unsubstantiated, felt to be unjustified or the evidence is inconclusive;
Resolve the matter by informal means – where it is considered that a conciliatory meeting between the two parties accompanied by appropriate members of management will be sufficient;
Arrange mediation for the two parties – where it is considered that this is a viable option and has the agreement of both parties;
Arrange counselling or training for the alleged offender – where it is felt to be sufficient to correct the behaviour or resolve the situation;
Arrange for the matter to be referred for consideration under the appropriate disciplinary procedures –
• where it is felt that the conduct of the staff member or student against whom the complaint was made does constitute misconduct;
• where it is felt that the complainant had knowingly made false or unsubstantiated allegations with malicious intent.
In either of the above situations these could, if proven, lead to disciplinary action being taken, up to and including dismissal or expulsion. Where the harasser/bully is a student action may be taken under the terms of the appropriate student disciplinary procedure. Where the harasser/bully is a member of staff action will be considered in accordance with the appropriate Staff Disciplinary Procedure. Back to top.

What support will a complainant or alleged harasser/bully receive following the outcome of a case?
Part of the outcome of the investigation will address any support for both the complainant and the alleged offender that is either requested or deemed appropriate. Back to top.

How long can I expect the whole of the formal procedure to take?
The aim is that the formal procedure should normally be completed and a written response provided within 20 working days of the receipt of a formal complaint. Where for reasons of complexity this is not possible, all parties will be kept informed. Back to top.

Are there any options for an appeal following the outcome of a case?
Yes. If following an outcome of an investigation, either the complainant or the alleged harasser/bully has reason to believe that the matter has not been handled fairly or properly, they can request a review by writing to the Director of Personnel within 10 working days of receipt of a formal outcome. Back to top.

What information do I need to include when I request an appeal?
You should include details of why either party is dissatisfied with the way the case has been handled or that the outcome is not reasonable and what resolution is sought. Copies of the correspondence exchanged during the preceding stages and any other relevant papers should be included with your written request. Back to top.

Who will be responsible for carrying out an appeal?
A Review Officer will be responsible for reviewing the information collated by the Investigating officer and their decision. The Review Officer will always be a more senior member of staff than the Investigating Officer. Back to top.

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Associated Documents
Staff Grievance [Word] and Disciplinary Policy and Procedure [Word] 
Whistle blowing Policy and Procedure [Word]

Date Approved 12.01.12
Approval Authority Director of Personnel

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