The following process describes three levels for resolution of a harassment complaint: personal resolution, informal action and formal action. It is possible (although unlikely) that complainants will use each of these stages, but they are not obliged to do so. The action taken or discussed will depend upon the circumstances of each case. In all but the most serious cases, the Institute would hope that the complaint can be addressed through the personal resolution or informal action stages.
Whatever action the complainant takes, it is sensible to keep a note of dates and details of any harassing incidents, including a note of any ways in which the incidents cause the complainant to change or modify her/his daily routine, pattern of work and/or social life.
a) PERSONAL RESOLUTION
People may be able to resolve many of the forms in which harassment or bullying occurs by making it clear to the individual(s) concerned that the behaviour is not welcome, that it offends or makes them uncomfortable. Alternatively, complainants may wish to discuss the situation with colleagues. Anyone who has been subjected to harassing behaviour can also choose to get in touch with a member of the Panel, as listed in the annex. The Panel members are informed members of the Institute who will listen sympathetically and in confidence to the problem, provide advice on Institute procedures and other sources of support, and help complainants decide what, if anything, they wish to do.
b) INFORMAL ACTION
This procedure envisions the participation of a panel member in resolving the situation. Informal action may be invoked in the first instance or if an attempt at personal resolution does not succeed. The complainant should draw the situation to the attention of a member of the Panel. Complainants may wish to be accompanied at this meeting by an Institute colleague or friend or researcher representative or post-doctoral fellows' representative.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, the person with whom the complainant has raised the issue may investigate the allegations or take action which may include either chairing a meeting between the complainant and the alleged harasser(s), or approaching both parties - complainant and alleged harasser(s) - separately. Account will be taken of the alleged harasser’s/harassers’ right to state her/his/their case. Every attempt will be made to deal with the complaint as quickly as possible.
This informal stage may not in itself result in any further formal internal investigation or disciplinary action, but is intended to facilitate a local resolution between the parties. The importance of confidentiality will be stressed to all those interviewed and everyone will be strictly required not to discuss the complaint with colleagues or friends. Breach of confidentiality may give rise to the Panel recommending disciplinary action.
c) FORMAL ACTION
Where personal or informal resolution is not appropriate (because of the seriousness of the allegations or because the conduct continues), or is not requested, or where the outcome has been unsatisfactory, then a formal complaint may be brought to the Panel. Complainants should note, however, that only in exceptional circumstances will a formal complaint be considered more than three months after the most recent incident of alleged harassment.
Complainants should also keep records of the events and indicate evidence of the facts (letters, emails, witnesses). All complaints must be reported and dealt with within a reasonable time. Complaints will be investigated in an independent and objective manner by a Panel convened by the President.
In the first instance, the role of the Panel will be to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support the complaint or whether the complaint is without foundation. As appropriate, the Panel may then refer the matter on through the Institute’s disciplinary procedures. Both the complainant and the alleged harasser(s) may be accompanied by an Institute colleague or friend or researcher representative or post-doctoral fellows' representative.
The importance of confidentiality will be stressed to all those interviewed and everyone will be strictly required to refrain from discussing the complaint with colleagues or friends. Breach of confidentiality may give rise to the Panel recommending disciplinary action.
The investigation will focus on the facts of the complaint. Neither the complainant, nor the alleged harasser(s) will be required to repeat distressing or embarrassing details any more than is necessary. The complainant will not be required to give evidence with the other party present. Neither party will have the right to cross-examine the other. The Panel will report to the President and make recommendations as to further action, as appropriate. Where the alleged harasser(s) is/are (a) researcher(s) or post-doctoral fellow(s), or (a) member(s) of administrative or academic staff and a case exists to support the complaint, the Panel may refer the matter on through the Institute's disciplinary procedures.
The difficulty in defining what conduct constitutes harassment or bullying should not stop researchers, post-doctoral fellows, academic or other staff members from discussing, or complaining about, behaviour which is causing them distress, to a supervisor or panel member. However, it should also be recognised that it is everyone’s personal responsibility to limit public discussion of allegations of harassing/bullying behaviour, as this may make it more difficult to achieve a satisfactory and just resolution.