THE COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE
Staff and students who feel that they are being subjected to any form of harassment, bullying or victimisation should use the following procedures. These procedures aim to promote fairness and consistency in dealing with complaints.
These procedures are to be used in good faith and disciplinary action may be taken in cases where it has been found that a complaint is malicious or vexatious. A malicious complaint is one where clear and objective evidence disproves the allegation of behaviour prohibited under this Policy and establishes a deliberate intent to deceive. A vexatious complaint is one where the person making a complaint (the “complainant”) makes a complaint on essentially the same matter that has already been considered and has exhausted the complaints procedure.
All complaints will be treated seriously and taken to be made in good faith unless there is clear and objective evidence that they were made maliciously or vexatiously. The fact that a complaint is not found to be justified or to be substantiated does not mean that it has been made in bad faith.
The University will seek to ensure that complaints and those assisting in investigations arising from complaints are protected against victimisation for making the complaint or assisting in the investigation. Anyone found to have victimised someone will be subject to disciplinary action under the University’s disciplinary procedures.
- RESOLVING COMPLAINTS
2.1 There are two stages to these procedures – an informal stage and a formal stage. A complainant need not follow both stages and use of the informal stage does not automatically lead to, or preclude, the use of the more formal stage. The procedures set out under the informal procedure are the same for staff and students whilst those under the formal procedure differ for staff and students.
Stage 1: Informal Action
An individual who believes that they are being bullied or harassed, should take the following informal steps:
- Approach the person about their behaviour directly or indirectly
Bring the person’s behaviour to his/her attention (either orally or in writing) and let them know that their behaviour is unwelcome or upsetting and should be stopped immediately. He/she may also be notified that if their behaviour continues, a formal complaint may be made. Having an informal discussion with a person about their behaviour may help them to understand the effect that it is having on someone else and the discussion may help that person to change his or her behaviour.
If an individual feels unable to take such action him/herself, he/she can ask someone else, e.g. a colleague, fellow student or one of the people listed at 3 below, to approach the person on their behalf.
- Document incidents
Keep a record of any incidents that occur and note the dates, times, circumstances and names of any witnesses. Where appropriate, this record should include a note of the date on which the alleged harasser/bully is informed of his/her behaviour and what was said and done. This will be useful evidence if the unacceptable behaviour continues and the individual who feels harassed/bullied wishes to make a formal complaint.
Members of staff can contact one of the University’s trained Working Relationship Advisers who help individuals to deal with the issues, arrive at a realistic assessment of them and talk through the options available in confidence. A member of the Human Resources Department or trade union representative may also be contacted for similar support.
Students can approach their tutors, heads of department, heads of college, college chaplains, programme board student representatives, student union representatives, student welfare officers or their course supervisors to discuss issues and seek advice on available resolution options.
Where the behaviour causing concern has taken place between students living in University accommodation, the warden of the accommodation is an appropriate person to approach. If the behaviour is from another student on a particular module or within a study group, an appropriate person would be a personal tutor or module leader or another member of the student support team within the student’s school/college.
If after discussing the resolution options an individual decides to deal with the situation through a facilitation meeting and the other party agrees to such a meeting, an appropriate facilitator will be identified, who will meet with the parties and attempt to find an outcome acceptable to both parties.
Human Resources will work with the Working Relationship Advisers and the complainant to identify an appropriate facilitator, who will be sufficiently independent of both parties. Facilitators are generally Working Relationship Advisers who have received specialist training as facilitators. Trained Student Welfare Officers serve as facilitators in student matters.
If the matter remains unresolved, through the informal process or if the problem continues following an agreed resolution, the complainant may consider other options such as discussing the matter again with his/her line manager, a member of Human Resources or other individual identified at paragraph 3 above. He/she may also consider making a formal complaint.
Stage 2: Formal Action for Staff
This stage is the formal procedure of the University’s Grievance Procedure and is based on statutory requirements for internal procedures. An Employment Tribunal will not consider a claim if an employee has not made use of this internal procedure.
An employee who wishes to formally raise a grievance against another employee, should put his/her complaint in writing to his/her supervisor/line manager, stating that he/she is invoking the grievance procedure. If the grievance is against the line manager, this notice must be given to his or her line manager Guidance on the procedure to be followed is outlined in the University‘s Grievance Procedure which can be found at: http://my.roehampton.ac.uk/information/HumanResources/Documents/Grievance%20a nd%20Harassment/Grievance%20Procedure.docx
If the employee’s complaint is against a student, consideration can be given to taking the following actions:
- Approaching the student directly or through another individual such a line manager or head of department/service as described above in paragraph 1 under Informal Action.
- Taking formal action in serious or persistent Bullying and Harassment are identified as inappropriate behaviour under the Student Code of Conduct and failure to comply with this Code constitutes non-academic misconduct which may result in students being referred to the University disciplinary procedures. Complaints can be made by way of the procedure set out for the referral of non-academic offences under the Student Disciplinary Regulations, available at: http://www.roehampton.ac.uk/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=2147493152
Stage 2: Formal Action for Students
Students should refer complaints in relation to the behaviour of other students in writing to the Deputy University Secretary for further action.
Complaints in relation to the behaviour of members of staff student should be referred in writing to the complainant’s Head of Department or equivalent, who will then decide the appropriate investigating officer.
- REPRESENTATION AT MEETINGS
Both the complainant and the person accused of prohibited conduct will be advised that they may bring a trade union representative or colleague to any formal meeting. A Working Relationship Adviser or a Student Welfare Officer (in the case of student complainants) may attend a formal meeting with the complainant. Individuals attending meetings with complaints are to do so in a supportive role rather than a representative role
- ARRANGEMENTS DURING AND AFTER AN INVESTIGATION
The investigating officer will consider the evidence and make one of the following recommendations:
- Take no further action. This is appropriate in cases where the allegations have not been substantiated or where there is insufficient
- Proceed to a disciplinary hearing. This is appropriate in cases where it has been found that there is a case to answer or where conflicting accounts need to be considered
- Take alternative action. This is appropriate in cases where disciplinary action is not appropriate. Alternative action may include:
- putting arrangements in place to monitor the situation
- directing the person accused of prohibited conduct to attend training (e.g. Equality and Diversity awareness training)
- arranging for the parties to attend a facilitated meeting, mediation or counselling in cases where both parties so agree
- arranging the redeployment of one or both parties (either on a temporary or permanent basis)
- arranging for both or either party to take a period of leave or to work
The University will try to ensure wherever possible, that the complainant and the person accused of prohibited conduct are not required to work or interact with each other while the complaint is under investigation. Where possible, the University may give the complainant the option of moving temporarily to a different post/place of work or accommodation; working or studying from home; or taking annual leave or other leave (if a student).
Where an allegation relates to behaviour that may amount to gross misconduct, the person accused of prohibited conduct may be suspended (on full pay) during the investigation. In cases where a disciplinary hearing is to be held, suspension may continue until the hearing has been concluded.
If the complaint is upheld and the person found to have committed prohibited conduct continues to be employed by the University or to study at the University, the University will try to avoid wherever possible, and if requested by the complainant, the parties having to work alongside each other or having to interact with each other. Work or study options will be discussed with the complainant and may include the transfer of the other person or the transfer of the complainant to another post, or residence for example.
If the complaint is not upheld, the Human Resources department will support both parties and their manager(s) in making arrangements for the parties to continue or resume work or study and to help repair working relationships. Efforts will be made where possible to avoid the complainant and the person accused of prohibited conduct having to work alongside each other or interact with each other, if either of them does not wish to do so.
The appeals procedure as set out in the Grievance Procedure for University Staff should be followed if on completion of the formal stage, the complaint has not been resolved to the complainant’s satisfaction
In relation to student related matters, the appeals procedure as set out in the Student Disciplinary Regulations should be followed.
- GUIDANCE FOR THOSE ACCUSED OF PROHIBITED CONDUCT
Individuals who are approached informally about their behaviour should be sensitive towards the person approaching them, and should be mindful that what may have been a joke for them or considered by them as normal behaviour, may be offensive for another. It is possible to offend someone without intending to. Different people find different things acceptable and everyone has the right to decide what behaviour is acceptable to them and to have their feelings respected by others.
The concerned party may be content with an explanation, an apology and/or an assurance that the behaviour will not be repeated in future. This may be sufficient to end the matter.
Individuals accused of bulling or harassment may seek advice/support from one of the University’s Working Relationship Advisers (or Student Welfare Officer if a student).
Formal complaints made under these procedures will be fully investigated. Individuals accused of bulling or harassment have the right to be informed of the allegations against them. They also have the right to be accompanied to formal meetings by a trade union representative, a colleague or Working Relationship Adviser or Student Welfare Officer as appropriate.
Bullying, harassment and victimisation can amount to gross misconduct and if proven, could lead to dismissal without notice or to exclusion from the University.
If it is found that a complaint against an individual has been malicious, appropriate disciplinary action may be taken against the complainant.