Bullying and harassment policy

Any queries or feedback on these policies should be sent to the VSU.

The IET is committed to ensuring that all employees are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace and at workplace related events, and that they are able to work in an environment which is free from bullying and harassment.

Where appropriate, the complaint will be pursued through the disciplinary procedure with penalties considered up to and including dismissal for any employee who is found to have acted contrary to this policy towards another employee.

1. Introduction

Any form of harassment or inappropriate behaviour which causes offence, whether intentional or not, will be treated very seriously, and where appropriate will lead to disciplinary action, which could include dismissal

This policy is provided for your guidance only and is not intended to be contractually binding.

2. Policy aims

To create a harassment free environment through training and general awareness to ensure all employees gain the knowledge and skills necessary to operate this policy effectively.

This policy will be incorporated into all aspects of training where appropriate, e.g. induction and management development programmes, thereby promoting awareness of  the issues and strategies to tackle and eradicate bullying and harassment and encourage a high standard of behaviour and communication within the IET.

3. Responsibilities

The IET is under a legal obligation; a duty of care, to provide both a safe place and a safe system of work.  Any harassment that is reported must be dealt with in accordance with the following procedure in order to comply with this duty of care.

The management of the IET is responsible for ensuring that all employees are aware of this policy and the procedure for dealing with complaints, and that confidentiality is maintained when dealing with any form of bullying, harassment or inappropriate behaviour, whether or not they have been made officially aware of it.

The IET expects all employees to treat their colleagues with respect and to value them.  All employees are responsible for ensuring that their behaviour does not cause offence or distress to others.  If an employee is aware that a work colleague is experiencing harassment or inappropriate behaviour from another employee, it is their duty not to allow this to continue by reporting it to their line manager or to the human resources department.

4. Harassment

What is harassment?

Harassment comprises a wide range of behaviour and there is no single definition.  It can consist of unwelcome comments or actions that might create an intimidating work environment.  Under the Sex Discrimination Act (1975), Race Relations Act (1976), the Disability Discrimination Act  (1996) and the Protection from Harassment Act (1997), individuals have legal rights, while other forms of harassment are less clearly covered.

Harassment can be conducted in person, over the phone, and via email, text or other electronic or written forms of communication. 

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment has been defined by the European Union as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of women and men at work.  This can include unwelcome physical, verbal or non verbal contact."

Behaviour covered by this definition could be:

  • Unwelcome remarks of a sexual nature such as jokes, innuendo, teasing, verbal abuse;
  • The display of pin ups, pornographic pictures or sexually suggestive subject matter;
  • Unwelcome remarks about a person’s dress, appearance or marital status;
  • Behaviour which condemns or ridicules a person because of their sexuality;
  • Unwelcome physical contact or demands for sexual favours.

Racial harassment

Racial harassment can be described as behaviour affecting the dignity of an employee through verbal or written abuse, or physical attack on their person, family or property on the grounds of skin colour, race, ethnic origin or nationality.

Behaviour covered by this definition could be:

  • Racially derogatory remarks or racist jokes;
  • The display of racially offensive material or graffiti;
  • Insulting behaviour, threats or physical assault;
  • Deliberate isolation or non co-operation at work.

5. Religious discrimination

This can be discriminatory behaviour which fails to acknowledge the rights or needs of people with different religions, beliefs or practices.

Discrimination against people with disabilities

This can be discriminatory behaviour or harassment, undignified treatment, ridicule or exclusion of people because of their disability, vulnerability or perceived reduced independence.

 

6. Age discrimination

This can be discriminatory behaviour or ridiculing or demeaning behaviour focused towards people because of their age.

Harassment does not mean:

  • Mutually acceptable friendship or flirtation;
  • Enjoying a joke at work, providing that it is not at someone else’s expense.
     

7. Bullying

Bullying is a misuse of power or position to persistently criticise and condemn; to openly humiliate and professionally undermine an individual's professional ability so that they become fearful, their confidence crumbles and they lose belief in themselves. 

These attacks on an individual may be sudden, irrational, unpredictable and usually unfair.  Bullying at work may include:

  • aggressive behaviour towards another member of staff;
  • sudden rages, often over "trivial" matters;
  • personal insults or name calling;
  • action that directly undermines an individual's dignity at work;
  • intimidation or belittling;
  • misuse of power or position.

Less obvious bullying may include:

  • setting objectives with impossible deadlines;
  • removing areas of responsibility;
  • refusal of reasonable requests;
  • blocking a person's promotion;
  • being the subject of excessive scrutiny.

It is the pattern of such events that is crucial when determining if bullying is taking place. 
Any one of the above examples may occur in isolation and can be "out of character" for the person who perpetrates them.  However, the bully will consistently use one or more of the above methods to intimidate the victim.

Bullying is best understood as a pattern of unjustifiable actions experienced by the victim as being stressful.  Bullying can occur in any situation in which one person is financially, materially, emotionally or socially dependent on another.  It is not limited to managers, team leaders and their subordinates.

8. Victimisation

This is where a person is treated less favourably than other people because, for example, that person has brought proceedings, given evidence or complained about the behaviour of someone who has been harassing or discriminating against them, or they have assisted someone who has brought such a complaint.

9. Procedure

This procedure has been designed to deal with complaints of bullying, harassment or victimisation which need to be handled in a sensitive manner.  The procedure therefore seeks to ensure minimal stress for the complainant, timely resolution of complaints, and a degree of flexibility appropriate to individual circumstances.

At all stages of the procedure, the need to maintain confidentiality will be paramount,
except in circumstances where the alleged incident is serious enough to pose a risk to that individual or other person. 

The procedure is separate from the disciplinary policy and procedure but this policy may
be used should the result of an investigation into complaint of bullying or harassment establish a case for disciplinary action.

A person complaining of bullying, harassment and or victimisation and the alleged bully or harasser both have the right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative.

9.1 Informal procedure

In the first instance, wherever possible, the complainant should ask the alleged bully or harasser to stop, pointing out that their behaviour is unwelcome and is causing offence.

If the employee finds that this course of action is not possible because it is too embarrassing or difficult, or the harassment already complained about continues, then the complaint should be referred to the immediate line manager and/or the human resources department.

If the alleged harasser is the employee’s immediate line manager, then the complaint should be referred to the next line manager or the human resources manager.

The employee will be responded to, verbally, as soon as reasonably possible but ideally within five working days.

If the alleged behaviour is more serious, or the matters complained of informally have not been resolved, then the employee may follow the formal procedure set out below:

9.2 Formal procedure

If matters complained of informally have not been resolved or the alleged behaviour against an employee is of a more serious nature, then the employee should formally register their complaint in writing to the human resources manager providing details of the allegations and any attempts they have made to resolve the matter informally.

A confidential investigation will be undertaken to determine the facts.

Where appropriate, the complaint will be pursued through the disciplinary procedure with penalties considered up to and including dismissal for any employee who is found to have acted contrary to this policy towards another employee.