Procedure- Dignity at Work

Informal Procedure

The University of Sheffield recognises that it can be difficult to raise a complaint of harassment, discrimination, bullying or victimisation whether on an informal or formal basis and encourages staff to access the appropriate sources of support available. The University seeks to ensure that people who feel that they have been the subject of harassment, discrimination, bullying or victimisation are able to raise their concerns, and to have them addressed appropriately.

Advice and support can be sought from a trained specialist through the Dignity at Work network, Human Resources and the Trade Unions at any time.

An informal approach may effectively address the unwanted behaviour without recourse to formal procedures. However, there are some circumstances where the alleged behaviour is deemed to be sufficiently serious to warrant an immediate formal investigation such as where there has been discrimination, assault or a prolonged abuse of power.

Unacceptable behaviour should in the first instance be raised by the individual who perceives that they are the recipient of unacceptable behaviour with the person involved if they feel comfortable. It is recommended that issues are raised at the earliest opportunity.

Talking to the person concerned

• This response is most appropriate when the working relationship is still reasonably positive and when the unwanted behaviour is recent.
• A mutual willingness to discuss the issues and to work for a win–win solution is a good indicator of success.
• Before speaking to the other person, it is important to identify the behaviours that are being experienced as unpleasant or bullying.
• It is helpful to make sure that the specific incidents are clearly defined in terms of the time, content and frequency of behaviours.

Writing to the person concerned

• If it is more suitable, the individual who perceives that they are the recipient of unacceptable behaviour should put their concerns in writing.
• This will create a written record of the issue that has been raised and is useful when a meeting is not possible due to distance or timing.
• It is important to prepare by thinking about what behaviours are causing the problem and how they could be changed.The letter/email should clearly describe the negative behaviours and explain why the behaviours are unwanted. The desired alternative behaviours should be described and a suggestion made as to how the situation could be resolved.
• The letter/email should be short and to the point. Care should be taken to avoid any blaming statements or emotive language.

Talking to a manager

• Where a staff member perceives that concerns relate to an immediate manager, the staff member may wish to discuss this informally with the next level of manager if they feel that they are unable to approach the named manager directly.
• The focus of the meeting is to explore whether the issue can be resolved through discussion/informal intervention and in particular on ways of avoiding similar matters arising in the future.
• A line manager has a responsibility to advice and support an individual to try and resolve the concern raised.

Seeking support from the Dignity at Work Network

• The staff member can contact a Dignity at Work Adviser to receive advice by phone or by email.
• A Dignity at Work Adviser can assist the staff member to explore options for informal resolution of the issue and indicate whether the matter is so serious that it warrants consideration under the formal procedure.
• A Dignity at Work Adviser can provide confidential advice and support to University staff.
• A Dignity at Work Adviser will be familiar with the appropriate procedures and are available to help the staff make a decision on how they want to handle their concern by presenting all the options.

Involving a third party

• If approaching the person directly does not resolve the situation, or is inappropriate, it may be appropriate to ask a third party to assist. Ideally, the alleged harasser should be approached at the earliest opportunity.
• Cessation of the behaviour and an apology (if there has been any unacceptable behaviour) may be sufficient to bring the matter to a close. The individual making the complaint may ask for someone to accompany them, this maybe a trade union representative or a colleague.

Seeking advice from Human Resources

• Confidential advice and support on how to address issues and a strategy for resolution can be sought through your Faculty/Professional Services HR Manager.
• A HR Adviser can assist the staff member to explore options for informal resolution and indicate whether the matter is so serious that it warrants consideration under the formal procedure.

Seeking advice from the Trade Union

• If you are a member of a Trade Union confidential advice and support on how to address, issues and a strategy for resolution can be sought at any point during the process: www.sheffield.ac.uk/hr/guidance/tu.
• A Trade Union representative can assist the staff member to explore options for informal resolution and indicate whether the matter is so serious that it warrants consideration under the formal procedure.

Investigating options for Formal Mediation

• Mediation is an important consideration for resolving issues at an early stage. It is a voluntary process where an impartial third party enables two or more people to work through conflict or disagreement, with a view to improving their working relationship.
• Sometimes certain behaviours can be perceived as discrimination, harassment or bullying, when that is not how they were intended. Mediation can be a good way to help see the other person’s perspective and help the other side see how their behaviour is affecting their colleagues.
• Guidance about formal mediation with a trained mediator and whether it would be appropriate should be sought through your Faculty HR Manager: More information on mediation can be found here.

Workplace Health and Wellbeing - Juice

• Workplace Health and Wellbeing provide a wide range of professional advisory services to protect and enhance the physical and psychological health and wellbeing of all staff.
• For guidance on how to access counselling, the online health portal and lists of health information and guidance offered by the University and external sources see here.

Whilst many situations can be resolved at an informal level, formal action can be taken if the above stages fail to be effective in stopping the harassment or where the behaviour is of such a serious nature that informal measures would be inappropriate.

Formal Procedure

If attempts to resolve any unacceptable behaviour informally prove unsuccessful or if the matter is sufficiently serious to address formally it will be dealt with through the formal grievance procedure for staff.