The Arbitration and Conciliation Service (ACAS) publishes Codes of Conduct for UK employers. This is the bare minimum that any employer should follow. If a university fails to follow this legal minimum, then employment tribunals will take this into account when considering relevant cases. Note that internal University codes of practice like ‘Dignity at Work’ are not statutory. Universities suffer no repercussions if they break their own internal procedures. ACAS provides advice on bullying and harassment. If the matter remains unresolved and you decide to raise an informal or formal Grievance, then Universities should follow the best practice on disciplinary and grievance procedure. This includes the steps any employer should take to deal with your Grievance, including advice on timescales and carrying out any investigation. There is also a formal Code of Practice which all employers should follow. We recommend studying the material on this very helpful site carefully. If a University is not following ACAS best practice, then you should protest immediately. If you do not protest, you may later be deemed to have consented to malpractice.
The 1752 Group is UK-based research, consultancy and campaign organisation dedicated to ending staff sexual misconduct in higher education. It offers advice and support for victims of sexual harassment in academic life. Like the 21 Group, it does not undertake detailed casework, but is campaigning for national change.
WhistleblowersUK exists to support Whistleblowers in the UK. If you report serious bullying of others, then you may be a Whistleblower. Whistleblowing applies to:
- a criminal offence
- failure to comply with legal obligations
- financial or non-financial maladministration or malpractice or impropriety or fraud
- academic or professional malpractice
- a risk to the health or safety of any individual
- environmental damage
- attempts to suppress or conceal any information relating to any of the above.
- a miscarriage of justice
If the bullying is causing a risk to the health or safety of a victim, then you are a Whistleblower. Importantly, you are then protected by Whistleblowing legislation (the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998). In particular, a university is not permitted to carry out any form of retaliation against you. As this gives you much more protection, universities normally fight ‘tooth and claw’ to prevent this. You must insist, no matter how tough the battle. WhistleblowersUK can advise you on whether your disclosure is Whistleblowing and provide you with free and confidential assistance supported by a legal panel.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission or Equality Advisory and Support Service can be contacted if the bullying or harassment is occurring because of the protected characteristics of the Equality Act (2010)
- gender reassignment
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
This may constitute a criminal offence. Lawyers are normally keen to take on such cases, so you should consider carefully whether this may apply to you.
The National Bullying Helpline is a general site dealing with workplace bullying, as well as bullying in schools and cyber-bullying. There is a helpline (0300 323 0169) on work days between 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. There is a very helpful set of pages on Bullying at Work, covering types of bullying, collusion and exclusion, unfair and constructive dismissal and legal action. Although the scope is much broader than universities, the site contains much valuable advice.
University and College Union is the trade union for academics and professional service staff in UK Universities. If you are a member, then you can ask the trade union to help with discrimination, bullying and harassment issues through negotiation. If you later need to take legal action, then the trade union can also offer you legal support. If you are not a member of a trade union and are being bullied, we strongly recommend you join. You have to be a member for 6 months before some services can be accessed.
BulliedAcademics is an anonymously-run blog that reports on issues pertaining to bullying in universities worldwide. It contains news articles, academic studies and reports on all manner of campus bad behaviour. Some bullied victims also report their cases on the site. If a university persists in ignoring or blocking your concerns, then publicity may be a powerful weapon. Bullied individuals have named their universities and departments on this blog to shame them into action. We do not recommend revealing the name of your bully or harasser, unless convicted, as this may expose you to legal action. The 21 Group supports the naming of universities that are not taking this matter seriously — or even worse, universities whose public stance on bullying is very different to what actually happens in practice. There is a special circle of hell for university administrators who reduce anti-bullying to a glossy public relations exercise.
The Academic Parity Movement is a non-profit organization that campaigns against bullying in academia. It collects reports of bullying to understand the prevalence of bullying in different countries. It has an international focus, whereas the 21 Group is dedicated to causing radical change in the UK universities.