Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Human Resources

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Harassment and Bullying

Loughborough University takes the matter of harassment and bullying very seriously and is committed to the elimination of all forms of harassment and bullying.  Over the last few years there have been a number of harassment and bullying cases reported each year.  A wide range of cases are dealt with but tend to be mainly student to student or staff to staff issues.

Harassment and Bullying can take many forms, often involving the abuse of power or position.  These terms refer to behaviour which is hostile and/or offensive to the recipient or others, and which unreasonably interferes with an individual's work, academic performance or social life.

Such behaviour can create an intimidating environment which undermines the integrity or dignity of the individual.  It is unwelcome and can make an individual feel uncomfortable, unsafe, frightened or embarrassed.  Such behaviour may be physical, verbal or non-verbal, but the common link is that the behaviour is unwanted by the recipient or others, is unwarranted by the relationship and would be regarded as harassment or bullying by any reasonable person.

Guidance for staff - appropriate behaviours and boundaries

This information is designed to provide staff who, as part of their job are required to work with students, with advice on appropriate behaviours and boundaries to observe when working with students, and on what action to take if unwanted attention is received.

 1. Remember at all times that you are a member of staff and not a friend. Although your relationship with your students may become relaxed and informal, it is imperative that you do not become too familiar with them.
   
2. Socialising with students on Departmental occasions is perfectly acceptable whilst socialising individually or at events unrelated to their studies should not normally be encouraged. Private relationships should be avoided.
   
3. Students may come to you with their personal problems. If you are a Lecturer, you are expected to support students through any difficulties they are experiencing, but remember to keep a professional distance. Don’t start fighting their battles for them and do refer them to appropriate people as necessary, e.g. Counselling, the Head of Department, etc.
   
4. Ensure that you treat all students fairly and equally. You are bound to develop a better rapport with some students than others, but always make sure that you give similar attention to all students.
   
5. International students may have different ideas or perceptions about appropriate boundaries or behaviours. It is important to be aware of cultural differences and to treat any issues sensitively.
   
6. The law states that an adult in a position of responsibility (such as Lecturer) having a relationship with a child who is over the age of 16 but under the age of 18 and who is in full time education constitutes a breach of trust and could result in criminal prosecution.

What Lecturers should do if they receive unwanted attention

Sometimes, students want to develop their relationship with their Lecturer and this is not reciprocated. Examples include wanting to spend a lot of time with their Lecturer, wanting to know personal information about their Lecturer, inviting their Lecturer to go out with them or declaring their feelings to their Lecturer. Whilst this behaviour is rare, it is important that you are aware that it could happen and that you understand how you should deal with it. 

Below is some guidance if you should find yourself in that situation:

 1. Document what is happening and your response to it.
   
2. Make it clear to the student that this attention is unwanted and you want it to stop. This might be quite difficult, as you don’t want to offend or embarrass the student as you will still have to teach them, so try to be as sensitive as you can.
   
3. If the student continues to harass you, become more firm with your rebuffs and tell them that their behaviour is unacceptable. Remember to document everything, and retain email messages, etc.
   
4. Try to avoid being alone with the student, and if you do have to be alone with them, keep your office door open.
   
5. Talk to a member of the Confide Panel who may be able to advise you.
   
6. Talk to your Head of Department or other senior colleague so that they are aware of the problem. They may be able to give you support and advice on dealing with the problem and may also be able to speak to the student to advise them that they must change their behaviour.
   
7. If the problem persists, you can make a formal complaint of harassment to the Chief Operating Officer. This will be investigated in line with the Harassment Policy Complaints Process.

Types of Harassment

Harassment and Bullying comes in many forms, some of which are listed below:

 

Bullying is a complex phenomenon of unwanted offensive and malicious behaviour which undermines an individual or group through persistently negative attacks. There is typically an unpredictable and irrational abuse of power or position that can manifest itself in physical, verbal or non-verbal forms. There is usually an element of vindictiveness attached to bullying and the behaviour is calculated to undermine, patronise, humiliate, intimidate or demean the recipient.

Stalking is a form of harassment which is being more commonly reported. It involves pestering an individual, either in person or in writing or electronic formats or on the telephone. Stalking can also involve following an individual or spying on them, alarming the recipient or causing them distress and may involve violence or fear of violence.

Sexual Harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. It includes unwanted attention of a sexual nature that denigrates or ridicules or is intimidating. This may be physical, ranging from unwanted touching, groping or the invasion of personal space to sexual assault, rape or indecent exposure. Sexual harassment can be verbal and may include unwanted personal comments or sexual slurs, belittling, suggestive, lewd or abusive remarks, explicit ‘jokes’ or innuendo, and compromising invitations, including demands for sexual favours. Examples of non-verbal sexual harassment include: suggestive looks, leering, explicit gestures, sending sexually explicit emails or the display of pornographic material on University equipment or premises. (The IT implications are discussed further in the University’s separate Code of Practice on ICT Pornography). Most commonly, the reported incidents refer to the sexual harassment of women by men, although there are reports of women sexually harassing men and of same sex sexual harassment.

The Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005 define harassment for the first time and permits people to make a claim of sexual harassment. The new legislation prohibits sexual harassment described above, but also prohibits “sex-based” harassment, which is harassment on the grounds of someone’s gender.

Racial Harassment is unwanted behaviour based on race, ethnic or national origin. It includes written or verbal threats or insults based on race, ethnicity or skin colour, abusive comments about racial origins, ridicule based on cultural grounds, derogatory namecalling, racist jokes, damage to property, the display of offensive graffiti or insignia and incitement of others to commit any of the above.

Religious Harassment is unwanted behaviour based on religious beliefs or practices. This may take many forms including ridiculing items worn for religious reasons, denigrating cultural customs and dismissive treatment of requests for holidays for religious or cultural festivals, or derisory comments against an individual’s beliefs. It includes the incitement or persistent pressure through forms of evangelism and religious propaganda that suggests the answer no is unacceptable to the person trying to spread their ideas on religion or recruiting to their particular group.  Regardless of an individual's cultural/religious beliefs about different lifestyle choices (e.g. pertaining to gender, sexuality, dress), such beliefs must not manifest themselves in breach of the University's equal opportunities policies or legislation.

Disability Harassment is unwanted behaviour based on disability, impairment or additional need. Such behaviour may include comments that are patronising or objectionable to the recipient or which creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for people with disabilities. Disability harassment includes inappropriate reference to disability, unwelcome discussion of the impact of disability, refusal to work with and exclusion of people with disabilities from social events or meetings.

Sexual Orientation Harassment is unwanted behaviour based on known or presumed sexual orientation. Such behaviour includes namecalling, stereotyping, assault, verbal abuse, actual or threatened unwanted disclosure of sexuality, derogatory comments, excluding same-sex partners from social events or intrusive questioning about a person’s domestic circumstances.

Gender Identity, Transgender or Gender Reassignment Harassment: is ‘treating a person less favourably than another person because they have either submitted to, or did not submit to, sexual harassment or harassment related to sex or gender reassignment’. It is unwanted behaviour based on known or presumed gender identity. Such behaviour includes name calling, continually using the wrong pronoun instead of the preferred pronoun, stereotyping, assault, verbal abuse, actual or threatened unwanted disclosure of the person’s previous gender, derogatory comments, excluding partners from social events or intrusive questioning about a person’s personal, medical and social circumstances. The various examples of unwanted behaviours as outlined under ‘Sexual Harassment’ also apply.

Cases of Physical Assault - Physical assault is a criminal offence and if you have been attacked, it is important that you seek help immediately. Contact one of the sources of help listed at the end of this leaflet and they will offer support and help you decide what to do. You will be advised about the choices that are open to you. If a case of assault is being pursued through the Criminal Courts, the University will need to consider at what stage it is appropriate to initiate its internal procedures. During this period every effort will be made to ensure that you are given support and are not isolated.

 

What does the law say?

The Equality Act 2010: outlines three types of harassment:

  • Unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the complainant, or violating the complainant's dignity (this applies to all the protected characteristics such as disability, ethnicity, gender etc. apart from pregnancy and maternity, and marriage and civil partnership)
  • Unwanted conduct of a sexual nature (sexual harassment)
  • Treating a person less favourably than another person because they have either submitted to, or did not submit to, sexual harassment or harassment related to sex or gender reassignment.

Harssment may occur if, for example, a member of staff, student, contractor or visitor makes comments on an applicant's sexuality or age in a way that makes that applicant feel uncomfortable.

The perceptions of the recipient of the harassment are very important and harassment can have been deemed to have occurred even if the intention was not present, but the recipient felt they were being harassed.

Human Rights Act 1998: Inhuman and degrading treatment is prohibited under Article 3 of the Act.  Employers that do not try to prevent bullying and harassment outside the context of discrimination may be in breach of the Human Rights Act.

The Human Rights Act also has some bearing on certain harassment matters, including sexual orientation, in that it provides a right to respect for private and family life under Article 8.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974: Employers have a duty of care, so far as is reasonably practical, to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees.  Harassment and bullying are recognised as serious health hazards because of the stress they can cause. 

If the employer fails to carry out these duties then they may be found to be negligent and therefore liable to prosecution.

Protection from Harassment Act 1997: This Act was passed following concern that stalking was not well dealt with under existing legislation, however it does not refer solely to stalking and covers harassment in a wider sense. The Act says that it is unlawful to cause harassment, alarm or distress by a course of conduct and states that’

'A person must not pursue a course of conduct

(a) which amounts to harassment of another, and
(b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.'

If someone is harassed at their place of work they could decide to take action for damages using the Protection from Harassment Act rather than by going to an Employment Tribunal. An individual will need to establish the fact that harassment occurred and the damage it caused .

A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.  The Police have powers to issue restraining orders under this legislation.

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994: This defines a criminal offence of intentional harassment, which covers all forms of harassment, including sexual. A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, s/he:-

  • uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
  • displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.
Malicious Communications Act 1998: A particularly unpleasant form of harassment is that involving malicious communications either through the post, the telephone, Fax, by cyberstalking through the internet or, an increasing problem, by the use of Text or SMS messages sent to mobile phones.

Under this legislation it is an offence to send an indecent, offensive or threatening letter, electronic communication or other article to another person and under section 43 Telecommunications Act 1984 it is a similar offence to send a telephone message which is indecent offensive or threatening. Both offences are punishable with up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine. Because the Malicious Communications Offence is wider ranging than the Telecommunications offence it is more likely to be charged by the Police than is the Telecommunications Act offence.

Formal Complaint Procedure

Members of the University who wish to submit a formal complaint of harassment and/or bullying should do so in accordance with the grievance procedure.

 

Contact us

Tel: 01509 222169

Fax: 01509 223903