The same behaviour may be inoffensive to one person and deeply offensive and intimidating to another.

What is harassment?

Harassment is unwanted conduct that occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of an individual or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

It can be carried out by an individual or group of individuals.

It frequently involves someone in a position of authority bullying someone in a lesser position, but bullying of people in a more senior position by people in a lesser position and between people in an equal position does occur. All are equally unacceptable.

Forms of harassment

Forms of harassment are wide-ranging and complex. The same behaviour may be inoffensive to one person and deeply offensive and intimidating to another. Unintentional or misinterpreted behaviour may cause feelings of harassment. Differences in attitude, background or culture can mean that what is perceived as harassment by one person may not seem so to another.

Most people would not deliberately seek to cause upset or distress. However, it is important to recognise that behaviour that is acceptable to you may not be acceptable to others. For example ‘teasing’ a colleague about their sexuality or religion can create a humiliating or offensive environment for that person that is likely to be considered harassment.

Individual responsibility

Each of us has a responsibility to acknowledge that views, opinions held by others and decisions made by managers and supervisors may not always coincide with our own; such differences in themselves do not constitute harassment. Similarly, each of us has a responsibility to acknowledge that while academic debate, including vigorous speech and comment, and legitimate management of the performance of staff or students can be distinguished from bullying behaviour, we all have a duty to take care to ensure that individuals are not made to feel intimidated.

Harassment can be persistent or a single occurrence.

Examples of unacceptable behaviour

Harassment may include inappropriate behaviour based on the protected characteristics of sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, age, disability, race, religion or belief.

But it is not limited to these protectected characteristics - harassment may be judged to have occured on the basis of inappropriate behaviour based on, for example, someone's nationality, accent, gender identity or gender expression.

Some examples of unacceptable physical and verbal conduct which could constitute harassment are given below:

Unnecessary physical contact; jokes of a sexual nature; displaying sexually explicit material; indecent demands or requests for sexual contact Could constitute sexual harassment
Intrusive or inappropriate questioning, derogatory name-calling, offensive remarks or jokes Could constitute harassment
Making fun of personal circumstances or appearance  Could constitute personal harassment 
Unmerited criticism, isolation, gossip or behaviour that is intimidating or demeaning  Could constitute bullying 
Leaving repeated or alarming messages on voicemail or email, following people home, or approaching co-workers to ask for personal information  Could constitute stalking 
Any inappropriate communication sent via social media  Could constitute harassment 

University consideration of harassment claims

In considering whether conduct constitutes unlawful harassment, the University will take account of whether it is "unwelcome" or "offensive" to the person experiencing the conduct; whether it has the effect of violating their dignity; whether it creates an environment which is "intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive... for that person". The "perception" of the person experiencing the conduct is one of the factors which must be taken into account in making this judgement. The University will apply a Test of Reasonableness in responding to reports of harassment.

In summary, this means that harassment will have occurred if any independent, reasonable individual deems it to have occurred.

(The University will apply the definition of harassment in Section 26 of the Equality Act 2010 which states that a person harasses another if that person engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating the other person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. In deciding whether conduct has the effect of violating a person’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, a court/tribunal will take into account the perception of the other person, the other circumstances of the case; and whether it is reasonable for the conduct to have that effect.)