• Policy Statement

  • Code of Practice

  • Guidelines for Individuals who feel they have been subjected to harassment, bullying, intimidatory or violent behaviour

  • Guidelines for Managers and others to whom harassment is reported

  • Violence at Work - Guidance for Managers on Risk Assessment and reporting mechanisms

Appendix 1 - Further advice on the hazard identification & risk assessment process
Appendix 2 - Examples of different forms of harassment and violent behaviour
Appendix 3 - Useful contacts for advice, guidance and support


Aston University is committed to the provision of a safe, supportive and productive work and study environment for staff, students and visitors. All members of the University community are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. The University is committed to promoting and sustaining an environment of warmth and respect. This commitment is in keeping with Aston’s 2012 Strategy Document and its Equality and Diversity Policies and codes of practice. The 2012 Strategy Document clearly states that Aston is a University:

  • that values and respects the diversity of the Aston Community

  • that promotes justice, integrity and sustainable growth in society

  • that pays particular attention to student welfare and well-being

  • that is safe and healthy, with a good work-life balance

To ensure that these values are upheld, all members of the Aston Community are required to accept a number of responsibilities in relation to their personal behaviour. In particular they should:

  • recognise and adhere to these University values

  • treat other members of the University Community, visitors, partners and stakeholders with dignity and respect

  • be positive, helpful and friendly in their dealings with others

  • respect the authority and decisions of others

  • deal with disagreement in a constructive and helpful manner

  • respectfully challenge inappropriate behaviour in others

  • work in a manner that considers the personal safety of others and their own safety

  • recognise and thank others for their efforts

  • respond positively and sympathetically to members of the Aston Community who report harassment

The University recognises that the work and study environment needs to be free from harassment, bullying, intimidation or violent behaviour of any kind. Harassment or intimidation of one member of the University community by another or by an external person will constitute unacceptable behaviour and the University is committed to the eradication of such behaviour. All members of staff and students are responsible for helping to ensure that individuals are not subjected to unacceptable behaviour of this kind. Equally, the University, in accordance with its Health and Safety Policy, will undertake to assess the risks to their staff and students of potentially violent behaviour and to take action to control any risks that are identified.  Any incidents of harassment, bullying, intimidation or violent behaviour on the part of staff or students will be regarded as grounds for disciplinary action which may result in dismissal or expulsion from the University. Victimisation of any individual who makes a complaint of harassment, bullying, intimidation or violent behaviour is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. The University will take appropriate action to protect and respond to such behaviour from external people. It will also provide appropriate support for its staff in circumstances where they are subjected to such behaviour.

This policy also recognises the particular relationship of trust and authority between staff and students.  If a student feels that they are being subjected to harassment, bullying or intimidation by a member of staff or vice versa they may use the steps outlined in the attached guidelines.



In Law, harassment is defined as unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of:

a) violating dignity or

b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

Harassment may occur where the harasser has a position of authority but may equally occur in other contexts. Differences of attitudes, expectations and background may mean that what is perceived as harassment by one person may not seem to be so to another; nevertheless this may not make such behaviour acceptable. However, the University recognises that what is perceived as harassment covers a wide spectrum of behaviours and actions with different consequences for the people concerned. The University will take appropriate action to deal with reported harassment in a manner that is proportionate to the particular circumstances.

In its extreme manifestation, harassment can also include violent behaviour. The Health and Safety Executive’s definition of work-related violence is:

“any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work”.

However, it is made clear that verbal abuse and threats are the most common types of incident, with physical attacks being comparatively rare.

Examples of different forms of harassment, bullying and violent behaviour can be found at Appendix 2.


All forms of harassment raise serious employment issues.  The definition given above, and adopted by the University, is contained within the Equal Opportunities Legislation. A more extensive definition of sexual harassment is contained below in Appendix 1. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 specifically clarifies the law in the area of harassment, creating new criminal offences and a civil right to damages.  The Act states that a person must not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment, and which he or she knows or ought to know amounts to harassment. The perpetrator does not have to intend to cause the victim to feel harassed; it is sufficient that any reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would perceive the behaviour as harassment.

It is important to recognise that it is not only the University but also individual members of the University Community who have a responsibility to uphold the law. Employees are also protected by the duty of care imposed on employers by the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974.

Guidance Principles

1          The University will take seriously its responsibilities to:

  • promote a culture of dignity and respect

  • prevent harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence against staff and students

  • support the victims of such behaviour where this does occur

  • respond seriously and promptly to any reported cases of such behaviour

  • provide training on dealing with bullying and harassment for all managers

2          Advice and information will be available from appropriate members of the University’s staff (as defined in the Guidelines for Individuals who feel they have been subjected to Harassment, Bullying, Intimidatory or Violent Behaviour) to any student or member of staff. 

3          The University has a team of staff trained as Dignity at Work and Study Contacts. The names of these contacts can be found on the HR and Equal Opportunities Websites or can be obtained from the Equal Opportunities Unit or Human Resources.

4          When reported, complaints of harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence will be considered with all possible speed and the University will take appropriate action. Subject to the timescales of the respective formal procedures, the University will conclude its investigations and decisions within four weeks.  Should any delay occur, explanations will be given to all of the parties concerned.

5          The University will undertake to identify those areas of work and activities which give rise to particular risks from intimidation or violent behaviour, undertake risk assessments and put into place measures that will protect staff from such behaviour.

6          Cases of harassment, wherever possible and appropriate, will be resolved informally. However, in certain circumstances, harassment will provide grounds for disciplinary action against individuals up to and including dismissal from the University.

7          Panels which handle disciplinary or grievance procedures relating to harassment, bullying, intimidation and violent behaviour should consider seeking advice from the Equal Opportunities Advisor or another appropriately trained member of staff.

8          The University recognises that it has an equal duty of care to both the person making the complaint and the alleged harasser and allegations will be properly and sensitively investigated.

9          Cases of alleged harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence will be investigated impartially by the University, which will ensure that the alleged harasser(s), and the person making the complaint are given a clear account of the allegations and are able to seek appropriate guidance and assistance in presenting their case.

10         Any allegation of harassment will be treated with due care and discretion. However, the University has a duty of care to all of its members, both staff and students, and to visitors to the campus. When informed of an incident it may be necessary, in exceptional circumstances, for further action to be taken even if this is not the course of action sought by the complainant. In these circumstances the complainant will be advised of the action to be taken and the reasons for doing so. In all cases, information will only be divulged to key individuals within the system who have the responsibility and authority to take action on harassment.

11         The University will treat as confidential all records concerning allegations or complaints of harassment.

12         The possibility that complaints might be brought with mischievous or malicious intent is also recognised by the University. Such behaviour may provide grounds for disciplinary action against the complainant and could result in disciplinary action, potentially leading to dismissal from the University.

13         The University will monitor cases of harassment on an anonymous basis and report the data to the Equal Opportunities Monitoring Group for analysis and action, where appropriate. The Monitoring Group will provide the forum for updating and discussion with the trade unions.


If you feel that you are being subjected to harassment in any form, do not feel that it is your fault or that you have to tolerate it.  You should not be deterred from making a complaint because of embarrassment or fear of intimidation or publicity.  The University will treat all complaints sensitively and appropriately and take all reasonable action to protect you, the complainant.

There are various steps that you or the University can take to deal with harassment, both on an informal or formal level. The type of action you need to take will depend both on the nature of the behaviour to which you have been subjected and the impact this is having on your work and wellbeing. The following are points to keep in mind when deciding how to proceed:

  • You should take any action you decide upon as quickly as possible.

  • Whichever route you choose, you are advised to keep a written record of all relevant incidents, including dates and times, and the names of any witnesses. It is also useful to keep documentation of any other evidence such as memoranda, emails, text messages or social network entries.

  • You may need to think about sources of support for yourself either through the University Counselling Service or other contacts listed in Appendix 2.

One or more of these options are available to you at any stage of the process:

1        Personal Action

1.1        If you feel able to, you should make it clear to the person causing the offence that such behaviour is unacceptable to you and that you want it to stop.  In many instances this may be sufficient to put an end to the harassment. However, if you feel unable to make your concerns known to the person concerned, this does not constitute consent to the harassment, nor will it prejudice any complaint you may bring.

1.2        You are strongly advised to keep a diary detailing any incidents of unacceptable behaviour to which you are subjected.

2        Contact a Dignity at Work and Study Contact

2.1        If you do not wish to raise the matter with the individual personally or if the behaviour continues following your request for it to stop, you are advised to get in touch, if you have not already done so, with a Dignity at Work and Study Contact. The option of speaking to a Contact is open to you at any stage of the process.

2.2        The Contact is not there to tell you what to do, but will listen to your concerns and give you information and advice about the courses of action open to you and the sources of support available both within and outside the University.

2.3        Other than in exceptional circumstances, the Contact will operate within an agreed boundary of confidentiality.

3        Informal Action

If the situation cannot be resolved at a personal level or you are concerned at the serious or persistent nature of the harassment from one or more people then you are advised to inform the University of your concerns as follows:

3.1        If you are a member of staff, you should arrange to meet and talk to your supervisor or line manager. Where this is not possible or appropriate you should contact your HR Advisor, the Equal Opportunities Advisor or your Trade Union Representative. There may be other managers or staff within the School, Department or University with whom it would be appropriate to discuss the issue; the important thing is to talk to someone who you feel will be able to help. The Counselling Service is also available as a source of support.

3.2        If you are a student you should arrange to meet and talk to your Personal Tutor, Personal Advisor, Residence Officer and/or Tutor, Student Support and Counselling, the Student Advice Centre in the Students' Union or the Equal Opportunities Advisor. There may be other staff within the School or University with whom it would be appropriate to discuss the issue; the important thing is to talk to someone who you feel will be able to help. The Counselling Service is also available as a source of support.

3.3        You may wish to be accompanied to the arranged meeting, the purpose of which will be to discuss the nature of the harassment and ways of resolving the issues. It may be helpful to put the nature of your complaint in writing but this is not essential.

3.4        At this stage in the process it may still be possible to resolve the issues at an informal level through the intervention of the appropriate manager or advisor or through a conciliation or mediation process. However, by taking this step you will be officially notifying the University of your concerns and, in certain circumstances, the University may be required to take action either in your interests or in the interests of other members of the University Community.

3.5        If you feel that the nature of your job regularly subjects you to unacceptable behaviour from staff, students and/ or visitors to the University you should report this to your line manager or, where this is not appropriate, to the Chair of your local Health and Safety Committee. This course of action is appropriate where there would not be cause for complaint about an individual or specific group of people.

3.6        If an incident happens out of hours and needs an immediate response you should contact Security. See Emergency Action (5) below for contact details

4        Formal Action

4.1        You, or someone you have authorised to act on your behalf, may make a formal complaint under the grievance or complaints procedure, as appropriate. 

4.2        Formal complaints should be made in writing, giving full details of the complaint, to the Chief of Operations and Estates.

4.3        The Chief of Operations and Estates will ensure that a thorough investigation is undertaken and the Student Complaints or Employee Grievance procedure will be followed, as appropriate.

            The Student Complaints Procedure can be found at: http://www1.aston.ac.uk/registry/for-staff/regsandpolicies/complaints-procedure/

            or from Registry and Planning.

            The Employee Grievance Procedure for support staff can be found at:


and for academic staff at:


or from Human Resources.

Where the results of investigation under either of these procedures substantiates that harassment or bullying has occurred, the Disciplinary Procedures will be invoked.

5        Emergency Action

If you are assaulted or are the victim of intimidation, violent behaviour or the threat of violent behaviour on Campus you are advised to contact Security by ringing 222 or 2222 from Residences or seek assistance from someone who can contact them for you. The external telephone number is 0121 359 2922. Security will report such incidents to the police and the Chief of Operations and Estates, as appropriate and, except in very exceptional circumstances, this will be done only with your consent. 

If you have been physically or sexually assaulted or raped, you will need to seek medical help and advice. Once involved, the Police will make these arrangements for you. For your own protection and for the protection of others it is important that the offender be dealt with. 


There are a range of staff, including managers and people in other key positions who may, on occasion, have to deal with allegations of bullying and harassment within the University. Such allegations may come from staff or students.  People often choose to speak to someone they know and trust. Dealing with allegations of workplace harassment is not easy or straightforward. It requires those to whom such allegations are reported to be both sensitive to the needs of individuals and aware of the consequences of particular types of action. It is important to familiarise yourself with the Policy Statement and Code of Practice on Dignity at Aston – Preventing harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence at work.


Most people who have experienced harassment need to speak to someone on a confidential basis before they make a decision about how to proceed. Trust in this confidentiality is crucial if people are to feel able to make this first step in resolving the issue. The Code of Practice makes it clear that a decision to break confidentiality will only be made when those involved with handling the harassment complaint believe there to be an unacceptable risk to the complainant, another person or to the University itself and only after consultation with the individual concerned. However, it is always possible to consult the Equal Opportunities Adviser on a confidential basis without naming the individual concerned.

When an individual approaches a Manager or other Contact or adviser with a complaint of harassment it is important to show care and discretion with the information received. In most circumstances the manager/ adviser would not speak to anyone about the allegations without the individual’s permission but they should also be clear about the limitations of that confidentiality agreement. In other words, if the manager/ adviser felt that the reported behaviour presented a threat to the safety and welfare of this or other individuals they would need to seek further guidance from a more senior member of staff. If such a threat were serious it should be reported to the Chief of Operations and Estates and to Security.

Support and Routes to Solutions

When people report harassment or inappropriate behaviour there are two things to consider: routes for solutions and routes for support.

The options of routes for resolving the issue raised will be different depending on the circumstances and the wishes of the individual. These are set out in the Code of Practice on Preventing Harassment, Bullying, Intimidation and Violence at work and include:

  • For the individual concerned to speak to the alleged harasser about their behaviour and ask them to stop

  • For the individual to monitor the behaviour for a set period of time and keep notes of future incidents

  • For you, as the manager, to try to find an informal solution in discussion with the Equal Opportunities Advisor or your HR Advisor. This could include your speaking to the alleged harasser (where you are also their manager) or your speaking to the manager of the alleged harasser or your arranging a mediation session

  • For the individual to have a further discussion with a Dignity at Work and Study Contact or the Equal Opportunities Advisor

  • For the individual to make a formal complaint

  • In cases of violence, threatened violence or other exceptionally serious cases, to report the behaviour under the Emergency Action part of the procedure

Informal solutions should be considered other than in exceptional circumstances since these will normally provide a better outcome for the individual concerned and offer the opportunity to address any problems in work relationships and the work environment. However, the choice to make a formal complaint is always open to the complainant.

Sources of support may include:

  • colleagues, friends or family

  • the Dignity at Work and Study contacts

  • the University Counselling Service

  • Trade Union Representatives

  • the Student Advice Centre

  • external agencies such as those listed in Appendix 3


There are certain principles which will help when considering how to advise people who experience harassment or other forms of inappropriate behaviour. Irrespective of your relationship to the individual concerned and your existing knowledge of and responsibility for the people involved, it is advisable to:

  • listen carefully and sympathetically

  • acquire a detailed account of the situation through sensitive questioning. This will include a description of any incidents which have taken place, the context in which these have occurred, the response of the complainant to these incidents and the general culture of the workplace

  • clarify any issues which are unclear and summarise the major points raised

  • try to be objective about what you hear – remember that you have only heard one interpretation of events

  • do not make assumptions about people’s motives (either those of the person reporting harassment or those of the alleged harasser)

  • work through the routes to solutions and discuss the options for how to proceed

  • don’t be afraid to take time to think through the alternatives

  • give the person time to think through the options

  • help the person to identify appropriate sources of support

  • take advice when needed, even if this is on an anonymous basis

  • assist the person to choose a course of action with which they feel comfortable rather than telling them what action they should take

Workplace Culture

As a manager you can do a great deal to promote a positive working environment which discourages harassment and bullying:

  • ensure that your personal management style does not encourage bullying and harassment – lead by example

  • make staff aware of the Dignity at Aston Policy

  • make a personal statement (in Section Meetings, other regular forms of communication with staff) about your commitment to promoting dignity in the workplace and the fact that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated

  • incorporate appropriate training into your Annual Training Plan

  • take advice from HR staff if problems arise

  • take action when you become aware of inappropriate behaviour in your section or department



Aston University has a good record in relation to safety and security of its staff, students and visitors. The aim of this guidance is to ensure that this record is maintained and improved.


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines ‘Violence at Work’ as any incident in which an employee is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.  Any risk assessment therefore needs to cover both physical and psychological aggression and should take account of written, oral or physical abuse or threats. Additionally, the assessment needs to cover not just the workplace but elsewhere when violence arises out of the employee’s activity.

Incidents of violence at work can be seen on a spectrum which includes:

  • incidents of bullying or harassment

  • bullying and intimidation by ‘ganging up’ on people

  • verbal abuse in person or on the phone

  • threatening emails, text messages or letters

  • one-off or repeated insults

  • threats of violence

  • physical or sexual assault

  • armed robbery or malicious damage

Such behaviour may come from colleagues, students, relatives or visitors to the University or unauthorised members of the public.


The University’s Policy Statement, ‘Promoting Dignity at Aston’ states the University’s position on preventing harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence at work. This sets out the responsibilities of both the University and individual members of the University Community in terms of appropriate behaviour. The University has a responsibility to assess the risks to staff and students of potentially violent behaviour and to take action to control any risks that are identified. This responsibility will be delegated to managers of specific services by the relevant School or Departmental Health and Safety Committee.

Effective Management of Violence

In line with the HSE Guidance this guidance follows a four stage process:

Stage 1            Finding out if there is a problem
Stage 2            Deciding what action to take
Stage 3            Taking action
Stage 4            Checking what you have done

Stage 1       Finding out if there is a problem

The first step is to identify the hazard. It is likely that reported incidents are rare within your area of work. However, rather than assume that there is no problem, it is important to take adequate steps to find out whether this is the case. Such steps should include:

(i)      Identifying those aspects of work that are most likely to incur a risk of violence, e.g:

  • handling goods, cash or valuables

  • lone working, working after ‘normal’ hours or working in remote locations

  • handling drugs

  • student and staff placements in places where the above or other risk factors may apply

(ii)     Talk to the appropriate staff and/or users of the service

This may be done informally through discussions with managers, supervisors, safety representatives and front line staff or through the use of a short questionnaire to all relevant staff. Discussions in team or section meetings will have the advantage of being able to consider solutions to issues raised. It is good practice to give feedback on the results of any consultation to staff and what is proposed in relation to issues raised.

(iii)    Keep detailed records of any incidents which occur

Incidents of threatening or violent behaviour are reported in a variety of different ways, but are most commonly reported through Security. Security will notify the relevant Executive Dean or Head of Department of any such incidents which occur during the course of an employee’s work.

Where incidents are reported to managers, it is important to record these in order to build up a picture of issues of concern. Records should include:

  • An account of what happened

  • Details of the victim(s), the assailant(s) or perpetrator(s) and any witnesses

  • Details of the location and time of the incident

  • The outcome, including any injuries or distress caused and any working time lost to both the individual and the organisation as a whole

You should contact Security to ensure that the appropriate Incident Form is completed.

For a variety of reasons employees and/or students may be reluctant to report incidents of aggressive behaviour which makes them feel threatened or worried. They may feel, for example, that accepting abuse is part of the job. It is, therefore, important to encourage people to report incidents promptly so that a comprehensive picture of any problems can be established.

Stage 2       Deciding what Action to take

If it is discovered that violence can be a problem for your employees, decisions will need to be made about what is to be done. Continue the risk assessment by taking the following steps to help you decide what action you need to take:

(i)      Decide who might be harmed, and how

Identify which employees are at risk: those people who have face-to-face contact with the public are normally the most vulnerable. Where appropriate, identify potentially violent people in advance so that risks from them can be minimised.

(ii)     Evaluate the Risk (See Appendix1 for further advice)

Check existing arrangements to see if precautions are already in place or whether more should be done. It is usually a combination of factors which gives rise to violent incidents. Factors which you can influence include:

  • the level of training and information provided

  • the environment

  • the design of the job

Consider the way these factors work together to influence the risk of violence.

Examples of preventative measures could include:

Training and Information

  • Ensure that appropriate training is given so that employees can spot the early signs of aggression and either avoid it or deal with it in an appropriate manner.

  • Make sure that they fully understand systems that are in place for their protection.

  • Provide employees with any information they might need to identify service users or members of the public with a history of violence or threatening behaviour so that they can anticipate factors which might make violence more likely

The Environment

  • Provide better seating, lighting in public waiting areas and more regular information about delays

  • Consider physical security measures as appropriate, taking advice from the Safety Office or Security

The Design of the Job

  • Make arrangements for employees who work away from their base to keep in touch with colleagues

  • Maintain specific numbers of staff at the workplace to avoid a lone worker situation developing where this may present a risk

  • Ensure that staff take adequate precautions in relation to off-site meetings with clients

(iii)    Review your Findings

Keep a record of the significant findings of your assessment. The record should provide a working document for both managers and employees.

(iv)    Review and Revise your assessment

Regularly check that your assessment is a true reflection of your current work situation. Be prepared to add further measures or change existing ones where these are not working. This is particularly important where the job changes. If a violent incident occurs, look back at your assessment, evaluate it and make any necessary changes.

Stage 3       Take Action

Make employees aware of these procedures and safety precautions through your Health and Safety Committee and other relevant briefings.

Stage 4       Check what you have done

Check on a regular basis how well your arrangements are working, consulting employees and their representatives as you do so. Keep records of incidents, examine them regularly and report your findings to your Health and Safety Committee. Decisions can then be made about whether the measures are working well or need to be changed. It may be necessary to revisit the different stages to identify other preventative measures.

What about the victims of violent incidents?

If there is a violent incident involving an employee or student you will need to respond quickly in order to avoid or mitigate long-term distress.

You may need to consider the following:

  • debriefing -victims may need to talk through their experience as soon as possible after the event

  • time off work or study – individuals will react differently and may need different amounts of time or different settings in which to recover

  • counselling – in some circumstances people may need specialist counselling. Guidance on this can be given by the University’s in-house counselling service

  • other employees or students – may need counselling, guidance or training to help them to cope with their own reaction or to respond appropriately



Evidence shows that work activities that will require detailed assessment of risk associated with violence are, typically, for:

1. high risk activities/environments:

  • inspection, control and ‘authority’ functions

  • handling goods, cash or valuables

  • lone working, working after ‘normal’ hours or working in remote locations

  • handling drugs

  • student and staff placements in places where the above or other risk factors may apply

2. medium risk activities/environments

  • inspection, control and ‘authority’ functions

  • providing front line service – contact with clients, students

  • poorly managed operations – this can increase aggression in clients eg not producing what was required in time and/or content, lack of resources (physical and staff), lack of respect for staff, etc.

For the above risks, you should consider:

  • What legislation and supporting codes of practice are applicable?

  • Is there any good practice (eg internal or external codes or guidance) for this activity?

  • What other control measures are currently in place - are these acceptable and how do they tie-in the requirements of legislation and good practice?

  • If not already in existence, could other reasonable control measures/ procedures be introduced to reduce the risk? eg:

    • Policy on harassment, team building, improve client information and client assessment, policy on client aggression

    • Clear procedures for management of aggression.

    • Earlier referral to supervisor, complaints to be in writing and management review of complaints.

    • Issue of mobile phones, personal alarms, etc, to staff

    • Regular “location to base” checks for isolated personnel.

    • Secure workplace, limited access, enclosed work stations, good lighting levels

    • Surveillance camera and signage, static security eg security guards.

  • Has appropriate training been undertaken? – this should include details of how to understand, avoid and manage workplace violence:

    • Outline of violence and aggression – and an overview of issues affecting your workplace.

    • Information on the legal rights of staff and clients - discrimination, harassment, assault, self-defence and protection of others.

    • The University’s policies on customer/client service, harassment, aggression and violence and the strategies that it has employed to control the violence risks, and how to implement these strategies, such as the systems of work, operation of safety devices.

    • Dealing with difficult clients and members of staff; recognising the warning signs/situations that may lead to assaults.

    • Strategies on how to de-escalate the aggressive behaviour and how to interpret simple body language.

    • What to do during and after a violent incident: standard response action plan, first aid, other impact management, reporting, debriefing, counselling, compensation or legal assistance.

Supervisors and managers should be trained in their specific duties as above. They should have a thorough understanding of the violence risk management approach their operations.

After carrying out the above, the assessor needs to consider if the residual risk is acceptable, taking into account any evidence relating to likely frequency and possible outcomes.



Personal harassment takes many forms, and can range from subtle, derisory remarks to violent behaviour. The behaviour may be persistent or may be unacceptable even on a single occasion e.g. violence.  Differences in culture, attitudes and experience, or the misinterpretation of social signals can mean that what is perceived as harassment by one person may not seem so to another.  Personal harassment can also be experienced because of the collective action of a group or because of persistent individual criticism and/or inappropriate behaviour from a group or series of individuals.

Sexual harassment is defined as:

1.         Unwanted conduct on the grounds of your sex:
You must be able to show that the treatment is because you are a woman (or a man). An example of this could be if you are being bullied at work and the harasser would not treat somebody of the opposite sex in this way. The conduct does not have to be of a sexual nature for this form of harassment. The conduct must be done with the purpose of, or have the effect of, violating your dignity, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you. 

2.         Unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature:
If the conduct is of a sexual nature, this is unlawful in itself and you do not have to compare yourself to how somebody of the opposite sex would be treated. This could include:

  • Comments about the way you look which you find demeaning

  • Indecent remarks

  • Questions about your sex life

  • Sexual demands by a member of your own or the opposite sex

Again, the conduct must be done with the purpose of, or have the effect of, violating your dignity, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you.  You will also have a claim for harassment if your employer treats you less favourably because you have rejected, or submitted to, either form of harassment described above.

The law also protects people who are undergoing gender reassignment from harassment. This applies at any point during the reassignment process and those who have undergone reassignment.

Racial harassment may be defined as any hostile or offensive act or expression by a person of one racial group or ethnic origin against a person of another, or incitement to commit such an act.    Such behaviour includes derogatory name-calling, insults and racist jokes, racist graffiti, verbal abuse and threats, physical attack, and ridicule of an individual based on perceived cultural differences.   Racial harassment occurs when any such behaviour creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for employment or for social life. 

Harassment of disabled people may be defined as conscious or unconscious conduct towards people with disabilities which undermines their dignity, self-confidence and career opportunities.  Such behaviour includes offensive language, derogatory name-calling, ‘jokes’ and mockery, uninvited, patronising or unnecessary assistance with duties, unfair or impractical work expectations.

Harassment on the grounds of Sexual Orientation may be defined as any behaviour, conscious or unconscious, pertaining to sexual orientation, which is found to be offensive or objectionable to recipients and which creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.  Such behaviour includes homophobic remarks or jokes, innuendo or gossip, threats of disclosing sexuality, exclusion from School/Departmental activities.

Harassment on the grounds of age is based on attitudes or assumptions and stereotyping which are prejudicial to older or younger people. Some examples of ageist harassment are derogatory remarks or behaviour, expressing prejudicial assumptions about abilities or excluding people from social activities. It is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their age.

Religious Harassment includes the use of embarrassing or derogatory remarks, drawing unwelcome attention to an individual’s religious beliefs, exclusion from social activities, ridicule or religious jokes. The law applies equally to people of any religion or belief or none.

Harassment on the grounds of Trade Union Affiliation or Political Belief includes any behaviour which takes place because an individual belongs to a trade union or holds a specific set of political beliefs.

Bullying is threatening, abusive, intimidating or insulting behaviour, which may be an abuse of power, position or knowledge.  Bullying can happen in public or in private and attacks are often irrational and unpredictable and serve to undermine an individual’s self-confidence and ability.  Such behaviour includes instantaneous rages, often over ‘trivial’ matters, derogatory or belittling remarks, constant criticism, shouting or sarcasm, setting impossible deadlines or workloads and making threats associated with failure to achieve, public humiliation, removing areas of responsibility without consultation.

Violent Behaviour
The Health and Safety Executive’s definition of work-related violence is:
“any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work”.
It should be noted that verbal abuse and threats are the most common types of incident, with physical attacks being comparatively rare. Verbal abuse and threats, however, can cause anxiety or stress, particularly when these are persistent.

Hate Crime
Hate crimes and intolerance can manifest themselves in a number of ways including verbal abuse, incitement, harassment or victimisation, threats to staff or students or conflicts between different groups and individuals within the University Community. Such behaviour tends to be motivated by prejudice, hatred or intolerance. Hate crime may damage good campus relations and inhibit academic freedom, which is an essential part of academic and university life.

Other Forms of Harassment The University deplores all forms of harassment and therefore harassment of any kind and on any basis will not be tolerated.  The University also regards the inappropriate use of modern technology as a form of harassment such as offensive e-mail, text messages or faxes, inappropriate screen savers or posting inappropriate messages on social networking sites such as ‘Facebook’ etc.



For staff and students:

Equal Opportunities: 4587 or email j.m.tyrrell@aston.ac.uk 

University Counselling Service: 4711 or email staffcounselling@aston.ac.uk

or studentcounselling@aston.ac.uk

Aston Dignity at Work and Study Contacts can be contacted by the Equal Opportunities Unit or directly:

Jenny Thompson: 3257
Sue Rudd: 3219

Emergency Contact:

Security: 222 or from Residences: 2222

Students may also contact the following:

Student Advice Centre in the Guild of Students: 4848 or email sac@aston.ac.uk
Personal Tutor
Personal Advisor
Residence Officer and/or Tutor

Staff may also contact the following:

Trade Union Representative
HR Advisor

If you feel that you have been the victim of a hate crime, there is a Hate Crime Reporting Centre available to students and staff in the Student Advice Centre in the Guild of Students. Contact sac@aston.ac.uk

Useful External Organisations:

Dignity at Work Now (DAWN): http://www.dignityatworknow.org.uk/

Rape Crisis: http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/

Samaritans: 0121 666 6644 or 0847909090 or jo@samaritans.org.uk


Approved by University Council on 10th December 2008