Harassment is defined in three ways by the Equality Act 2010:
- Unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the complainant, or violating the complainant's dignity (this applies to all the protected characteristics apart from pregnancy and maternity, and marriage and civil partnership).
- Unwanted conduct of a sexual nature (sexual harassment).
- Treating a person less favourably than another person because they have either submitted to, or did not submit to, sexual harassment or harassment related to sex or gender reassignment.
There is no definitive list of behaviour which could be defined as harassment, but examples could include physical violence or intimidation, public humiliation, personal insults, persecution, racist/homophobic insults, stalking and shouting. More subtle forms of harassment could be excluding someone, excessive monitoring of work or failure to safeguard confidentiality.
In deciding what harassment is, it is the perceptions of the recipient of the behaviour that are important. Harassment can have been deemed to have occurred even if the intention was not present, but the recipient believed they were being harassed.
Additional protection from recurrent harassment which is not covered by the Equality Act 2010 is provided for in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. This Act, like harassment based on a protected characteristic, creates vicarious liability for employers.
In order to protect and support members of the University from harassment, the University has developed a Dignity@Work scheme. This scheme provides guidance on behaviour which may constitute harassment, information and advice for victims of harassment and informal dispute resolution through a trained network of advisors.
Additional support and guidance is available from the HR Business Managers/Advisors, the Equality and Diversity section, the University's Staff Diversity Networks and the CUSU/Graduate Union.