Bullying and Harassment Policy
Multiverse is committed to providing a learning and working environment for all apprentices and staff that is comfortable and free from all forms of bullying and harassment. For apprentices experiencing bullying and harassment in the workplace, they should refer to and follow the bullying and harassment policies at work.
Multiverse operates a zero-tolerance approach towards bullying and harassment and
- Any apprentice who is found to have bullied or harassed another individual will be subject to disciplinary action under the Apprentice Code of Conduct.
- Any member of staff who is found to have bullied or harassed another individual will be subject to disciplinary action under the Multiverse Disciplinary Procedure that can be found in the Staff Handbook.
All apprentices and staff are expected to uphold the principles of this policy and to support and promote a bullying and harassment-free learning and working environment. The procedure set out in this Policy is to be followed by apprentices who wish to take informal or formal action against bullying and/or harassment against other apprentice(s), or members of staff, or visitors.
It is not possible for Multiverse to deal with allegations against third parties who are not apprentices or staff under this policy. In these circumstances, apprentices will be signposted to an external service. Multiverse is limited to what action it can take in relation to issues arising in private residences that have no affiliation with the provider.
If an apprentice alleges they are the victim of a criminal offence, the provider recommends that the alleged incident be reported to the police and strongly advises that they also inform the provider via the safeguarding lead. Where an apprentice chooses not to report an allegation of criminal activity to the police, the provider will consider doing so where the safety of apprentices or staff may be at risk.
Multiverse reserves the right to amend any provision of this procedure subsequent to appropriate consultation.
Where an allegation of bullying or harassment is found to have been made maliciously and there is evidence to substantiate this, disciplinary action may be taken against the complainant.
What is bullying
There is no single definition of bullying, but for the purposes of this policy it is defined as ‘unwanted offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient’. It is generally repeated behaviour (i.e. occurring more than once) which is intended to hurt someone either emotionally or physically. It is noted that, although bullying is typically repeated behaviour, it does not always need to be directed against the same person; it can also originate from more than one person.
Within this definition, bullying is distinct from vigorous academic debate, or the actions of a member of staff making reasonable requests. It is also distinct from techniques used to manage and improve performance, the distinguishing factor being that these have the effect of supporting and developing potential or promoting desired performance, whereas bullying has the effect of undermining, humiliating, or injuring the recipient.
It is also important to note that, consistent with the above definition, bullying is typically a step beyond simple miscommunication.
Behaviour that may fall within the definition of bullying may include a combination of the following:
- Ridiculing or humiliating an individual.
- Shouting or screaming at an individual.
- Unwarranted or invalid criticism.
- Persistently ‘singling out’ a person without good reason. Deliberately excluding, isolating or ignoring an individual; encouraging others not to be friends with them, spreading rumours and gossip, humiliating someone in front of others, or targeted ridicule.
- Physically hurting a person through pushing, biting, kicking, scratching, punching or other forms of physical violence.
The above examples are not exhaustive. They are, however, indicative of behaviour that is considered unacceptable conduct by Multiverse. As noted below, third parties can express concern on behalf of others. Please see below on Confidentiality for important notes relating to this.
Cyber bullying is a term used to refer to bullying through electronic media e.g. virtual learning environment, online, via social networking sites, messaging apps, gaming sites and chat rooms. It can be in the form of fake profiles, negative comments intended to cause distress, sharing personal information without permission, stalking, harassment, and trolling. When sending emails, apprentices should consider the content, language and appropriateness of such communications. This also applies to text messages and instant messaging.
If instances of what might be online bullying or harassment are reported they will be dealt with in the same way as if they had taken place in a face-to-face setting.
What is harassment
Harassment is defined as ‘unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them’.
Under this definition, which derives from equality legislation, harassment is seen to be directed at a person’s ‘protected characteristics’:
- Disability (covering physical disabilities, specific learning difficulties and mental health conditions)
- Gender reassignment
- Religion or belief (including lack of belief)
- Sex (including sexual harassment)
- Sexual orientation
Harassment related to these characteristics is unlawful
Harassment can be communicated verbally, be physical in nature, or be expressed through other means of communication, such as letters, emails, text messages and graffiti. It may be expressed directly to the individual, occur in their presence or be communicated about them to a third party. In most cases, harassment is targeted at a particular individual. Not all harassment fitting the definition need necessarily be addressed to a particular individual however: certain situations, such as the telling of racist jokes or homophobic comments, could also constitute harassment within the scope of the above definition.
Behaviour amounting to harassment may include instances of:
- Insults, name-calling and offensive language and gestures
- Inappropriate jokes
- Ridiculing and undermining behaviour
- Inappropriate or unnecessary physical contact
- Physical assault or threats of physical assault
- Intimidating, coercive or threatening actions and behaviour
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Isolation, non-cooperation or deliberate exclusion
- Inappropriate comments about a person’s appearance, intrusive questions or comments about a person’s private life and malicious gossip
- Offensive images and literature
- Pestering, spying or stalking
The above list is indicative, and alleged harassment will be assessed in context. For instance, it is noted that much humour is by its nature somewhat controversial, and that the definition of harassment at the beginning of this section would need to be engaged before implicating e.g. humour that may address sensitive topics on occasion, but still not fall within the definition.
Multiverse is fully committed to the principle and promotion of freedom of speech and expression.
What is sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 (the Act). It is also unlawful to treat someone less favourably because they have either submitted a complaint of sexual harassment or have rejected such behaviour. Under the Act sexual harassment is defined as occurring when a person engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of:
- Violating someone’s dignity, or
- Creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.
Sexual harassment includes a wide range of behaviours which may include:
- Sexual comments, jokes or name calling
- Displaying sexually graphic pictures, posters or photos
- Suggestive looks, staring or leering
- Propositions and sexual advances
- Making promises in return for sexual favours
- Sexual gestures
- Intrusive questions about a person’s private or sex life, and discussing your own sex life
- Sexual posts or contact on social media
- Spreading sexual rumours about a person
- Sending sexually explicit emails or text messages
- Unwelcome touching, hugging, massaging or kissing
- Criminal behaviour, including sexual assault, stalking, grooming, indecent exposure and sending offensive communications
As with all lists in this policy, the above are indicia, and not conclusive indicators of the proscribed activity.
Sexual interaction that is invited, mutual and consensual is not sexual harassment because it is not unwanted. Also, relatively modest advances (e.g. flirting) may not amount to harassment under the definition above, as such conduct may not meet the level of severity implied by the definition.
An individual can experience sexual harassment from someone of the same or different sex, and the recipient of the behaviour decides whether or not it is unwanted. Sexual conduct that has been welcomed in the past can become unwanted on a prospective basis, although it should be noted that invited, mutual and consensual activity in the past does not become harassment solely because that invitation is withdrawn. Further activity might therefore be categorised differently on a prospective basis, but with due regard to context.
Reports of harassment will be investigated on an individual basis, in context.
Bullying and harassment procedures
Behaviour occurring in Multiverse that is extreme and/or violent shall be reported directly to a member of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), who will follow the Multiverse Code of Conduct. No person will be treated less favourably or suffer any detriment for having raised or supported an allegation made in good faith.
If an apprentice believes they are being subjected to unlawful harassment and are in danger, Multiverse recommends that they contact the police.
If an apprentice believes they are being subjected to bullying and/or harassment it is recommended that, where possible and appropriate, those involved should attempt to resolve the situation informally in the first instance. An informal approach can effectively address the unwanted behaviour without recourse to formal procedures and can have the advantage of resolving the situation quickly and with minimal disruption to relationships. It is, however, up to the individual to decide if this approach is appropriate to their situation.
In all circumstances it is recommended that an apprentice who believes they are being subjected to bullying and/or harassment makes a written record of the incident of bullying and/or harassment as soon as possible after an incident occurs.
Written records should be signed, dated and include:
- Details of when and where the incident(s) took place (including dates and times)
- Details of the incident(s)
- Details of any witnesses to the behaviour
Apprentices may wish to contact the Apprentice Support Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) or their coach to seek advice and support.
Informal individual action
It is anticipated that the informal procedure will result in a positive outcome, where the parties involved resolve the situation. Multiverse recommends that anyone who believes they are being subjected to bullying and/or harassment should speak directly to those involved. The person conducting the alleged behaviour should be approached at the earliest opportunity.
When taking individual action, the apprentice should try to:
- Pick a time and a place where they can speak privately and without interruption.
- Clearly identify the behaviour that is causing concern, giving examples and instances of when it has occurred.
- Make it clear that the behaviour is unwelcome and must stop immediately. Keep a record of any discussions for future reference
Apprentices who do not wish to speak directly to those involved may wish to write their concerns down in a letter, addressed to those involved, or seek third-party intervention.
Informal third-party intervention
If approaching the person directly does not resolve the situation, or is inappropriate, seeking third-party intervention might be helpful. Asking an appropriate person who is not directly involved in the situation to speak with the person may help get the correct message across. Multiverse’s Apprentice Support Team or Coach are able to advise on who is an appropriate person.
The third party will seek to resolve the situation with minimal disruption by:
- Meeting with the person who has been reported for bullying and/or harassment to discuss the allegation and refer to this policy as a means to stop the behaviour.
- Facilitate a meeting between the persons involved to discuss the situation and jointly reach agreement on the way forward, which may involve ongoing mediation to help rebuild the relationship.
If the informal procedure does not resolve the matter, or is not appropriate, a formal allegation can be made.
Formal allegations are made in writing, addressed to Multiverse’s Apprentice Support Team (email@example.com) and include:
- The apprentices personal details
- An outline of the allegation (including dates, times and places).
- Details of the person conducting the alleged behaviour.
- Details of any witnesses.
- Details of any informal attempts which have been taken to resolve the situation and the outcome(s).
If the Apprentice Support Team receives allegations from apprentices about members of staff they must immediately pass them to People Operations.
Apprentices who want information about their concerns to be kept confidential must make this clear to the person they speak to, including their employer. Apprentices must be aware that in some circumstances it may not be possible for the information to remain confidential, for example where a criminal offence has been disclosed and investigation by a third party requires disclosure of information.
Apprentices must be aware that their request for confidentiality may make it difficult to investigate and resolve the issues. It is possible for an apprentice to report concerns about or on behalf of another apprentice. The same considerations apply as to protecting the identity of the source of the information, while this can be requested, it must be understood that this may impede investigation and resolution.
Reporting and monitoring of apprentice cases
The Apprentice Support Team will share statistical information relating to apprentice bullying and/or harassment cases on an annual basis to the Senior Leadership Team. It shall be the responsibility of the Senior Leadership Team to monitor the data and make recommendations as appropriate.