Susie Morgan is our Director of Human Resources. Here she tells us about the work being done to ensure we have a safe environment for our students and staff.

We find ourselves at a time when, at long last, the subject of sexual harassment, violence and hate crime has hit the headlines. In March, the Vice-Chancellor wrote about our work in this area in his blog and explained the high priority we give to ensuring a safe environment for our students and staff. It seems timely then to update you on the progress we are making.

Zero tolerance

This is the approach we take to dealing with inappropriate behaviour. This means that when an incident is reported we will take action and that the action we take will be proportionate to the circumstances of the case.

Reporting incidents

Currently, students and staff are able to report incidents in a variety of ways. One of these is to the Harassment Advisory Network. The University has appointed and trained a network of Harassment Advisers who will listen to you and offer advice and support. This network is currently being reviewed and will transform into the Harassment Reporting and Support Service which may be accessed by employees, workers, contractors, students and visitors to the University.

Reports of harassment or bullying received by an Harassment Adviser will be passed on, anonymously in the first instance, to either the Early Intervention Team in Human Resources (where the alleged perpetrator is an employee, worker, contractor or visitor) or to the Student Conduct Team (where the alleged perpetrator is a student) and appropriate action will be taken.

Where a complaint of harassment or bullying received directly by the Student Conduct Team involves an employee, worker, contractor or visitor, it will make Human Resources aware of the complaint and appropriate action will be taken. Where a complaint of harassment or bullying received directly by Human Resources through the Complaints of Harassment or Bullying Procedures involves a student, Human Resources will make the Student Conduct team aware of the complaint or report and appropriate action will be taken. In order for appropriate action to be taken the complainant’s anonymity may need to be lifted.

You can also raise concerns with your Head of Department/Section or line manager, Occupational Health or your trade union representative.

Improving reporting

Whilst being able to report incidents in a number of different ways has many benefits, it does mean that, once disclosed, not all incidents are channelled through the same mechanisms and this can impede the effectiveness of our response and cause those reporting some confusion about what the best method of reporting may be. To improve this, we are working towards establishing a single route for ‘report & support’ that offers an electronic mechanism to report incidents, allows for anonymity if preferred and signposts individuals to relevant internal and external support and is accessible to everyone – those within and without the University.

Significant progress has been made in this area. A group of University and Students’ Union staff and officers tasked with implementing a comprehensive action plan on tackling sexual harassment, violence and hate, has received a demonstration of a low cost system developed by the University of Manchester and we are actively pursuing adopting it. We hope to have a new system in place in the spring of 2018.

We are also establishing guidance on anonymous reporting to ensure that everyone is clear on how the University will deal with such reports.

A new Complaints Procedure for staff use is also under consideration.

How we work at Essex

Most importantly it is how we behave towards each other and how we assess our impact on others that determines everyone’s safety and happiness. To help us with this, we are about to consult on an updated staff Code of Professional Conduct which will articulate our shared understanding of how we work together.


Please don’t forget that advice, support and training is available to anyone who has either experienced harassment, violence or a hate crime or wants advice about how to challenge unacceptable behaviour.

Remember, it is up to each and every one of us to ensure that this University is free from this type of behaviour.