QMUCU calls for action to follow zero tolerance statement on bullying and harassment

QMUCU has been calling on the university to take a public zero tolerance stance for years. We welcome this statement, even if it has come so late. But words are not enough.

Five deeds that will make a difference

1) Overhaul the Grievance policy and Grievance panels

The only formal procedure currently available to QM staff who experience bullying and harassment is the Grievance procedure. Yet this procedure is simply not fit for purpose.

QMUCU has recently received worrying information through freedom of information requests. Despite the last staff survey showing that on average 1 in 10 members of staff experience bullying and harassment, in the last five years only 27 grievance cases were even heard by the university about the issue, and only 4 of these were upheld.

The data shows that many staff clearly do not trust the grievance procedure to provide a resolution, and with good reason. Another issue relates to the diversity of grievance panels. The vast majority of those who hear grievances are white (>85%) and come from senior pay grades. Our data reveals that none identified as Muslim and none had any disabilities.

QMUCU calls on the university to urgently review its Grievance procedure and its Grievance panels. The university should also conduct an Equality Impact Assessment of the policy.

2) Urgently review the new Capability policy and review the use of the Appraisal and Probation policies

We have evidence that the new Capability policy has been widely abused and misused in ways which are likely to give rise to bullying and harassment. QMUCU only agreed to this policy on the condition of a 12 month review, a period which has now elapsed. It is now clear to use that the policy is not fit for purpose. It puts far too much power in the hands of Heads of School to make decisions on individual performance. The policy has been (wrongly) applied in cases of ill-health. It has also been used to coerce staff to meet unrealistic publication or grant targets and to switch roles, often away from research. We call for an urgent review and Equality Impact Assessment of the policy.

We are also concerned about possible misuse of Appraisal and Probation policies. These policies are meant to be supportive mechanisms for career development. Too often we hear reports that they are instead being used by managers as disciplinary tools and causing stress and ill-health among members. We call for the use of these policies to be reviewed and Equality Impact Assessments conducted.

3) Institution-wide risk assessments of workplace stress and bullying and harassment

The university produces a risk assessment for every building in the university and for every hazardous substance. Yet it has not conducted any institution-wide risk assessments of stress or bullying and harassment, even though these are the most common workplace hazards in the education sector. These should be carried out as a matter of priority, following the stress management standards laid out by the Health and Safety Executive.

4) Review all fixed-term contracts to reduce casualisation

The Affinity Health at Work report made a very clear link between problems of casualisation and problems of bullying and harassment. Employees on fixed-term contracts are often in the weakest structural position when workloads are allocated and productivity is monitored. It can be much harder for precarious staff to stand up to bullying and harassment because of the threat or fear of repercussions. To give employees better protection at work, we call on QMUL to commit to review all fixed-term contracts in partnership with UCU with a view to improving staff wellbeing and job security.

Members on casual contracts can help us improve our work on casualisation by filling out our survey.

5) A review of managerial performance and an overhaul of management training

The Affinity Health at Work report revealed that management training is inadequate at Queen Mary. The university should review the performance and training of line managers in relation to bullying and harassment. We believe all line managers should be required to work towards an ACAS certificate in Internal Workplace Mediation.

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