Personal Relationships and Conflicts of Interest in the Workplace
The purpose of this policy statement is to provide guidance to all University staff regarding personal relationships within the University, in order to avoid any real or perceived conflicts of interest, or misuse of power and authority.
It is recognised that the nature and kinds of personal relationship that exist in the University are many and varied. Whilst most social and personal relationships are entirely beneficial in that they promote good working and academic relationships, it is recognised that there will be particular circumstances where the staff member(s) concerned will need to withdraw from certain decisions or from undertaking certain roles, in order to protect themselves and the University from any possible criticism of unfair bias.
It is neither desirable nor possible to define in advance all the different types of relationship or sets of circumstance where there may be real or perceived conflicts of interest, but these will include:
- decisions relating to financial matters - refer to "Conflicts of interest" in the University’s Financial Regulations
- decisions relating to the recruitment, salary, terms and conditions of service, management, promotion, allocation of duties etc. of members of staff
- decisions involving academic assessment and supervision
Code of Practice
It is not possible to provide guidance on every eventuality: it is the responsibility of each member of staff to declare personal relationships to their Head of Department/Manager in order to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest. (If it is not possible, or inappropriate to inform their Head of Department, staff should advise the Director of HR and Communications). Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action. Where Heads of Department/Managers have been informed of close relationships, they should take the necessary action (including, where necessary and if possible, re-organisation of duties).
- Staff should conduct themselves at all times in ways that are consistent with their role and duties, and that are in line with all University staffing policies (including those relating to equal opportunity, harassment and any codes of conduct for particular occupational groups).
- When dealing with students (in any capacity), members of staff should recognise that they are in a position of trust, and that it is their professional and ethical responsibility to protect the interests of students. They should accept the constraints and obligations inherent in that responsibility.
- The University places the responsibility on individual members of staff to withdraw from decisions where, owing to their personal relationships, there might be either real or perceived conflicts of interest.
- Wherever possible, line managers should withdraw from exercising managerial/supervisory responsibilities where a close relative/partner/friend is involved. In all cases involving line management, close relationships must be declared by the line manager to the Head of Department/Manager.
- In the event of involvement in a relationship with a student where there may be real or perceived conflicts of interest, the member of staff is required to declare this relationship to his/her Head of Department/Manager.
Reporting Conflicts of Interest
- In addition to the above individual responsibilities, where any member of staff feels that there is a possible or actual misuse of power/authority or conflict of interest, then they should raise this in the first instance with their Head of Department/Manager, and/or raise this under the University's Public Interest Disclosure procedures.
- If staff themselves believe they may be personally adversely affected by a misuse of power/authority or conflict of interest, they should raise this with their Manager and may raise the issue under the relevant University procedures (Grievance or Harassment).
Guidance for Managers
Guidance for managers on staff declarations of potential conflict of interest can be found at: www.sheffield.ac.uk/hr/guidance/contracts/conflictsofinterestmngr
Last Update: 08/11
Date of Next Review: 12/13