Procedure for resolving complaints about harassment

1.  Scope of the procedure

a)  The School is committed to thoroughly investigating all complaints. This procedure is for use by members of staff at the School who feel that another member of staff has harassed them. It should be read together with the policy on harassment (including bullying). A modified procedure will apply in certain circumstances, details of which follow at paragraph 6.

b) Staff who have been the victim of a violent attack or sexual assault should inform the police immediately and seek medical help.

c) Where there is more than one harasser, the alleged harasser should be read as plural throughout the procedure. The Anti-Harassment Panel is referred to as the Panel throughout the rest of the Procedure.

d)  This procedure does not prevent members of staff who either claim to be harassed or are allegedly harassers from using their legal rights.

2. Exclusions

a)  The procedure is not intended for use by staff to cover grievances other than harassment. A separate Grievance Procedure applies for such other grievances and the LSE Public Interest Disclosure Procedure provides guidance on resolving complaints of harassment of people who have disclosed information.

b)  Staff who feel harassed by students are advised to use the Procedure for Considering Allegations of Harassment Involving Students.

3.  Advice

a)  A member of staff who feels harassed may find it helpful to approach the Staff Counsellor, a trade union representative, or a member of the Anti-Harassment Panel. The composition of the Panel is explained in Appendix C. The website| gives details of the names and contact details of current members of the Panel. Various external support groups also exist to give advice to people who feel that they are being harassed; details are given in Appendix A.

b)  The informal or formal procedure, as outlined below, may be used whether or not such advice has been sought.

4. General principles

a)  A member of staff who feels harassed should raise the issue with the alleged harasser within a reasonable amount of time.

b)  The procedure has two parts, informal and formal respectively. Informal resolution involves discussion between the complainant and the alleged harasser; an intermediary can assist if both parties agree that this would be helpful. The purpose of the discussion is to reach a better understanding between the parties so that the offending behaviour stops.

c) It is appropriate in some circumstances first to try informal resolution, followed by formal proceedings if necessary. However, the formal procedure should be immediately initiated when the alleged offence is serious or the working relationship between the parties has significantly deteriorated. Staff who have been the victim of a violent attack or sexual assault should inform the police, and immediate medical help and advice sought if sexual assault or rape has occurred.

d)  Where mediation takes place as part of informal resolution, the complainant shall be entitled to resort to the formal proceedings if resolution is not achieved and should do so within five days of the end of mediation.

e) The Panel is available to advise the person who feels harassed on whether to use the informal or formal part of the procedure and how to go about making a complaint. If the person is in any doubt about whether or not to take action, the Panel is there to provide prompt support without unnecessary or unexplained delay during the decision-making.

f) At all times, it is only the person who feels harassed who can make the decision to pursue or withdraw the complaint; if it is withdrawn, then no further action shall be taken and any records shall be destroyed (subject to paragraph 8). Before the withdrawal is made, it is advisable for the person to advise a Panel member of the reason for this decision. If, at the time of withdrawal, a formal investigation has begun and the alleged harasser knows of the complaint, then the alleged harasser may request a signed written simple withdrawal of the complaint. A member of the Panel should advise any witnesses already interviewed orally of the withdrawal.

5. Conditions

a) All those approached by the complainant for advice must protect that persons identity. Any disclosure can occur only with the express permission of the complainant. Also, the identity of the alleged harasser must not be revealed to any other person.

b) If the formal part of the procedure is chosen, then the identity of the complainant shall need to be disclosed to the alleged harasser. The investigator must check with the complainant that this is understood before any such disclosure is made. Once this understanding is confirmed, the investigator shall make clear the need to respect confidentiality to all those involved in the investigation (i.e., the complainant, alleged harasser, any witnesses, and trade union representatives or colleagues chosen to accompany either the complainant or alleged harasser).

c) The only exception to paragraphs a) and b) would be when the type of complaint is so serious that the School would be held to be negligent if it did not pursue it, in which case appropriate disclosures may be made (e.g., to the police). The complainant shall be informed if any such disclosure is made.

d) No record shall be put on to the complainants file in the Human Resources Division, whatever the outcome (subject to paragraph 8). Also, unless the result of the investigation is a formal warning or dismissal, there shall be no record on the alleged harassers file in the Human Resources Division.Informal resolution

6.  Informal resolution

Oral discussion or written communication between the complaint and alleged harasser

a) A person who feels harassed may wish to raise the issue directly with the alleged harasser, either face-to-face or in writing. It is normally expected that a specific example of the unacceptable behaviour and the impact on the complainant be given to the alleged harasser. If it is expected that a face-to-face meeting may be difficult, it may be requested that an additional silent observer (i.e., a member of the Panel, trade union representative or a friend) be present. Legal representatives are not appropriate at this stage. A person acting as a legal advisor is not recognised as a friend. If English is not the first language of either party, then this party may request the presence of an interpreter.

b) Both parties or an agreed third party should keep a written record of the discussion and any agreed outcome. A record should also be kept if the allegation is subsequently withdrawn.

Mediation

c) Where it proves impossible for two parties in dispute to become involved in the informal stage by their own efforts or the Panel recommends mediation as a way forward, it may be possible for the School to appoint a mediator to help towards a resolution, if both parties are agreeable. The first contact should be with Employment Relations, who will provide contact with an Acas mediator. Acas states that mediation can be arranged in a few days.

7.  Formal resolution

a) There are three main stages of the Formal Procedure:

Stage 1            The complainant puts the complaint in writing

Stage 2             A meeting is held

Stage 3             Appeal Hearing chaired by a more senior manager

8. Making the complaint

a) A formal written complaint using the form (shown as Appendix B) must be submitted to a member of the Anti-Harassment Panel no later than three months after the alleged incident/s has occurred or within one month of the conclusion of an unsuccessful informal resolution. The complaint should explain the reasons for the complaint and provide all available evidence.

b) The Anti-Harassment Panel will appoint two of the Panels members to investigate the complaint. If the complainant or the alleged harasser objects to the appointment of one or more of the investigators, s/he must submit a written statement , within three working days of being informed of the names, to request the appointment of one or more alternative members of the Panel, explaining his/her reasons. Further objections may then be made but only in relations to the newly appointed members.

9. Investigation

a) As soon as the complainant and alleged harasser have consented to the appointment of investigators or if no response is received normally within three days of informing the complainant and alleged harasser, the appointed members will begin their investigation. The investigators will carry out the investigation as quickly as reasonably possible and normally within twenty working days of the date of receipt of the written complaint. The complainant and alleged harasser will be advised in advance of any extension to this period with the reasons for the extra time.

b) The investigator may feel that during the investigation suspension, with pay and benefits, of the alleged harasser is appropriate. If so, a recommendation should be made to the Human Resources Director who may implement this and will ensure that the line manager understands that confidentiality must not be breached. Both parties shall be advised that the purpose of suspension is to allow the investigation to take place as effectively as possible with minimum stress to all parties. It shall be made clear that it is not a punitive measure and that it should be for as short a period as possible.

c) If the investigators do not feel that suspension is appropriate, they may nevertheless believe that the continued working together of the complainant or the alleged harasser is undesirable during the investigation, then a request can be made by either party for alternative working arrangements or special paid leave. Members of staff making such a request should approach the Human Resources Director who will try to make arrangements.

d) The complainant will be interviewed first and the alleged harasser interviewed second. Both parties have the right to be interviewed in the presence of a trade union representative or a friend.

e) If the investigators consider it necessary to interview witnesses, they will convey to the interviewee the need to respect confidentiality. The absence of witnesses shall not be taken to imply that the incident(s) did not take place.

f) One of the investigators will make a record of each interview and ask the interviewee to confirm that it is a true and accurate record of the meeting. Where agreement cannot be reached, the interviewees reservation shall be included in the record.

10. Report

a) On completion of the investigation the investigating Panel member will submit a written report, based on information gained through the investigation, to the Human Resources Director. The report will include the dates and details of the alleged incidents; an explanation of any previous attempts at informal resolution; and a recommendation whether to uphold the allegation of harassment. The report will also include a copy of the interview records.

11. Meeting

a) On receipt of the report, the Human Resources Director will meet separately with the complainant and the alleged harasser to inform them of the main elements of the report and to convey the decision s/he was minded to make, as well as explain the reason(s) for that decision. Both parties have the right to be accompanied by a local trade union representative or a friend and to make oral representations. . Each respective person shall be given an opportunity to add further comments before the Human Resources Director closes the meeting to make a decision. The Human Resources Director advises the complainant and the alleged harasser of her decision in writing within five working days.

b) If the recommendation is that the complaint should not be upheld, then the Human Resources Director may recommend that one or other, or both, of the parties consider training, counselling or voluntary transfer if the working relationship is considered to be untenable.

c) A follow-up meeting shall be held by the same Human Resources Director separately with each party within six months to assess the success of implementation.

d)  If the complaint is upheld, the Human Resources Director may invoke the disciplinary procedure for misconduct or gross misconduct.

12. Appeals

Both the alleged harasser and the complainant have the right to appeal against the decision of the Human Resources Director. The procedure for appeals is outlined in the document entitled Appeals Procedure which is available from the Human Resources Division.

13. Modified procedure

a) This statutory modified grievance procedure will apply when employment has ceased prior to the start or the completion of the grievance procedure and both parties have agreed in writing that this should be used rather than the standard formal procedure referred to above. The ex-employee should write to the Human Resources Director to request use of the modified procedure. The Human Resources Director responds in writing to advise whether or not the shortened, rather than the standard, procedure will apply.

b) There are two stages to the shortened procedure:

Stage one: The ex-employee sets out grievance and the basis for it in writing to a member of the Anti-Harassment Panel as soon as possible, but no later than four months, after leaving employment in accordance with paragraphs 8(a) and (b). A member of the Anti-Harassment Panel will investigate the complaint and will prepare a report based on the information submitted by the ex-employee and the interviews with the alleged harasser and any witness.

Stage two: The Human Resources Director responds in writing to advise whether or not the grievance has been upheld.

It should be noted that the stage 2 decision is final and there is no right of appeal.

14. Victimisation

a) The person making the complaint shall be protected from reprisal or unfair treatment because of making the complaint, whether or not the complaint is upheld. Another member of the Panel shall investigate allegations of victimisation and, if substantiated, the appropriate disciplinary procedure shall be invoked.

15. Malicious or vexatious complaints

a) If the investigator has substantial reason to believe that the complaint of harassment is based on false information or has been made maliciously, this shall form part of the report and may be investigated further. The disciplinary procedure may subsequently be applied. 

ER

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