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Staff Bullying, Discrimination and Harassment Prevention and Response Policy

Section 1 - Purpose

(1) The Staff Bullying, Discrimination and Harassment Prevention and Response Policy aims to help us build a University community free from bullying, discrimination and harassment. It details the obligations of Macquarie University Staff and Affiliates in relation to the prevention of and response to bullying, discrimination and harassment.

Background

(2) Bullying, discrimination and harassment can have a serious and damaging effect on an individual, a team and a community. It can affect an individual’s health and wellbeing, as well as impact work performance. It can create a hostile work environment for those who experience or witness it.

(3) Bullying, discrimination and harassment in employment is unlawful under a range of state and federal laws. The University does not tolerate bullying, discrimination, or harassment under any circumstances. We are committed to building a culture of mutual respect and collaboration. Behaviours constituting bullying, discrimination and harassment are a serious violation of those values.

(4) The terms ‘bullying, discrimination and harassment’ are used generally throughout this document to describe both the unlawful behaviour captured by this Policy, as well as behaviour that constitutes victimisation and vilification - behaviours which are also unlawful and not tolerated by the University.

(5) As a University, we must also provide a supportive and inclusive environment for students to study and research. Staff and Affiliates of Macquarie University play an important role in building and maintaining a community and environment that supports our students to realise their individual potential and ensures that their experience at Macquarie is positive and rewarding.

Scope

(6) This Policy applies to all Staff and Affiliates of the University.

(7) This Policy applies to any activity that is connected with the University, including:

  1. all aspects of employment, recruitment and selection, conditions and benefits, training and promotion, task allocation, shifts, hours, leave arrangements, workload, equipment and travel;
  2. on-site, off-site or after-hours work;
  3. any form of contact or communication that is relevant to work or University activities whether initiated in person, by email, phone, via social media or other electronic means and whether occurring within ‘work hours’ or outside of ‘work hours’;
  4. attendance at a University campus, residence or facility;
  5. using University equipment (e.g. IT equipment, vehicles or facilities);
  6. attendance at a University event, function or activity, or events, functions or activities connected with the University, including after-hours or off-site social functions; and,
  7. participating in any activity as a representative of the University (e.g. meetings, field trips, practicums, conferences, etc).

(8) The scope of this Policy may be broader than the application of relevant legislation.

(9) For Macquarie University students affected by bullying, discrimination or harassment, refer to the Student Code of Conduct, and Student Wellbeing Services.

(10) For staff affected by Sexual Harassment, please refer to the Staff Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response Policy and Student Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Procedure.

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Section 2 - Policy

(11) Macquarie University is committed to providing a safe and inclusive work environment that is free from any forms of bullying, discrimination and/or harassment.

(12) University Staff and Affiliates must not engage in conduct that constitutes bullying, discrimination or harassment.

(13) All members of our community need to play an active role in following this Policy and helping to ensure that the University is known as a safe, respectful and collaborative community where bullying, discrimination and harassment are not tolerated.

(14) The University will take steps to:

  1. create a work environment free from bullying, discrimination and harassment;
  2. actively promote respectful and collaborative behaviours within our community at all times;
  3. provide support to Staff and Affiliates who raise concerns about bullying, discrimination or harassment;
  4. encourage Staff and Affiliates to speak up about bullying, discrimination and/or harassment, and report incidents that they become aware of;
  5. respond to reports of bullying, discrimination or harassment in a manner that is, to the extent possible, confidential, timely and fair;
  6. protect Staff or Affiliates who raise concerns or make complaints from victimisation or reprisal action;
  7. hold Staff and Affiliates who engage in bullying, discrimination or harassment accountable for their behaviour; and
  8. implement staff and manager training and build community awareness of behaviours that constitute bullying, discrimination and harassment.

Part A - What is bullying?

(15) The law defines bullying as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards another individual or group that creates a risk to health and safety. Unreasonable behaviour means behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would expect to victimise, humiliate, intimidate or threaten. 

(16) To amount to bullying, the behaviour needs to be repeated. A one-off incident will not constitute bullying. Bullying does not need to be intentional or deliberate. 

(17) In severe circumstances, bullying can amount to breaches of Work, Health and Safety legislation or amount to possible criminal conduct.

(18) Bullying can happen to anyone. Evidence shows, however, that people who identify as members of distinct social groups are more likely to experience bullying, or experience bullying in particular ways due to stereotypes, assumptions, and biases. These groups include, but are not limited to, people who identify as: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, culturally and linguistically diverse, people of diverse sexuality or gender, people with Disability, and women.

(19) Examples of bullying include:

  1. repeated unjustified criticism or complaints,
  2. repeated inappropriate jokes or comments,
  3. repeated and deliberate exclusion of a colleague from important meetings, team updates or informal social events,
  4. repeated verbal abuse.

(20) There will be some behaviours experienced at work that may not constitute workplace bullying under the legal definition, but do not foster an inclusive or supportive workplace environment. We would encourage anyone experiencing behaviours that make them feel uncomfortable or are unwelcome to raise these experiences with your supervisor, a member of the Human Resources team.

(21) Reasonable management action will not constitute bullying when it is undertaken in a reasonable way. What constitutes reasonable management action will need to be considered in the circumstances, but may include: issuing work directions, allocating work in accordance with business needs, addressing unsatisfactory performance or conduct concerns, setting performance expectations and deadlines, rostering or implementing organisational change.

Part B - What is discrimination?

(22) Discrimination occurs when a person or a group of people are treated less favourably because of a particular characteristic protected under anti-discrimination legislation (see Grounds of Discrimination below). This type of behaviour is unlawful.

(23) Unlawful Discrimination can be direct or indirect:

  1. Direct discrimination happens when a person, or a group of people, is treated less favourably than another person or group because of their background or certain personal characteristics (see Grounds of Discrimination).
  2. Indirect discrimination is imposing or intending to impose a requirement, condition or practice that is the same for everyone, but which has an unequal or disproportionate effect on an individual or group because of a personal characteristic (see Ground of Discrimination below).

(24) In some circumstances, unlawful discrimination may occur where a person is treated less favourably because they are assumed to have a protected attribute (for example, a disability) or are associated with someone who has a protected attribute.

(25) Unlawful discrimination can occur even if it the behaviour is not deliberate or intentional.

(26) Examples of direct discrimination include:

  1. Refusing to work on a project with a team member from a different cultural background.
  2. Withholding career development opportunities to older workers because of an assumption that they will retire shortly.
  3. Not providing an adjustment for a Staff member with a disability at staff meetings.
  4. Making offensive jokes or comments about a person’s sexuality.
  5. Insisting that all employees speak English, including on their breaks.
  6. Not allowing a colleague to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender.

(27) Examples of indirect discrimination may include:

  1. Requiring years of continuous experience in job descriptions. This might discriminate against applicants based on age, or people who have taken career breaks and/or parental leave.
  2. Not allowing flexible work options or breaks. This might amount to discrimination against staff who are religious and need time for daily prayers, or staff who need time to breastfeed or have other carer’s responsibilities.

    Indirect discrimination would be considered on a case-by-case basis taking into account the circumstances and reasonableness of the requirement.

Grounds of Discrimination

(28) This is a non-exhaustive list of grounds of discrimination:

  1. sex
  2. intersex status
  3. gender identity or gender expression
  4. pregnancy, potential pregnancy, or breastfeeding
  5. parental status or responsibilities
  6. carer status or responsibilities
  7. marital or domestic status
  8. race, including colour, national or ethnic origin or immigrant status
  9. age
  10. disability or presumed disability
  11. sexual orientation
  12. religious belief.

Part C - What is harassment?

(29) Harassment is a broad concept and is often thought of as unwanted behaviour that is offensive.

(30) Harassment can amount to unlawful behaviour – for example, when the behaviour is targeted at an individual because of a Ground of Discrimination or linked to racial hatred. In this regard, harassment may be a type of behaviour that would amount to Bullying, Discrimination, Vilification or Victimisation. 

(31) However, even when harassment does not amount to unlawful behaviour, it may still be a serious matter that has a significant impact on another Staff member or Affiliate. This type of behaviour may be best addressed through the Complaint Management Procedure for Staff.

(32) Sexual harassment is any unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature that makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. Sexual Harassment is addressed through the Staff Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response Policy.

Part D - What is vilification?

(33) Vilification is a public act which incites hatred, severe contempt or severe ridicule of a person or group because of their race, colour, nationality, decent, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, disability, gender identity or HIV/AIDS status. Serious vilification can involve threats of physical violence.

(34) Vilification can occur even if it the behaviour is not deliberate or intentional. In some circumstances, vilification can amount to a criminal offence.

(35) Examples of vilification include:

  1. making a highly offensive comment about transgender individuals at a staff meeting.
  2. sending a group email with derogatory comments about a colleague who identifies as a lesbian.
  3. displaying a racist poster which encourages retaliation against a group of people based on their race.
  4. posting sexist abuse towards a colleague on social media.

Part E - What is victimisation?

(36) Victimisation occurs when a person or persons are treated less favourably because of their participation in making, supporting, or resolving a complaint of bullying, discrimination, harassment or vilification. This includes a person or persons who have agreed to be a witness in relation to a complaint. Victimisation can occur regardless of whether the participation was actual, intended or presumed.

(37) Examples of victimisation include:

  1. refusing to allocate work to a person because they have made a complaint against another individual.
  2. isolating an individual because they participated in a workplace investigation against you.

Part F - When, where and how can bullying, discrimination and harassment occur?

(38) Workplace bullying can occur when Staff or Affiliates engage in any activity that is connected with work, including;

  1. any form of contact or communication that is relevant to work or University activities whether initiated in person, by email, phone, via social media or other electronic means,
  2. attendance at a University campus, residence or facility,
  3. using University equipment (e.g. IT equipment, vehicles or facilities),
  4. attendance at a University event, function or activity,
  5. participating in any activity as a representative of the University (e.g. meetings, field trips, practicums, conferences, etc.),
  6. carrying out functions in connection with the University, including at places external to University premises.

Social media, online activity and electronic messaging

(39) Staff and Affiliates need to be mindful about interactions which might be ‘outside of work’ but which still impact on or are connected with work or University activity. This includes social media use, online activity and electronic messaging. It is possible that conduct or interactions which occur using technology and which include or involve other staff or affiliates (such as being ‘friends’ with work colleagues on Facebook or sending text messages to a work colleague you are friends with) or which might otherwise be connected with the University, may amount to workplace bullying, discrimination, harassment, vilification or victimisation even if the activity is not itself clearly ‘work related’.

Jokes, nicknames and innuendo

(40) In a community as large and diverse as ours at Macquarie University, we need to be mindful that jokes and nicknames that might be funny to some people may be offensive and disrespectful to others. Jokes, nicknames and/or personal remarks may be disrespectful, offensive, belittling or humiliating for members of our community and may constitute bullying, discrimination and/or harassment.

Part G - Responsibilities

Responsibilities of Staff and Affiliates

(41) All Staff and Affiliates have a responsibility to:

  1. treat others with dignity and respect;
  2. follow the standards of behaviour set out in this Policy at all times;
  3. not engage in bullying, discrimination or harassment;
  4. offer support to anyone who is being bullied, discriminated against, harassed, vilified or victimised and let them know where they can get help and advice;
  5. not victimise or retaliate in any way against any person who seeks support or reports bullying, discrimination or vilification or who is involved in any procedure in response to a complaint;
  6. maintain confidentiality, which means that information about a concern or complaint is only provided to those people who need to know in order for the complaint to be properly actioned;
  7. cooperate during any process; and,
  8. undertake training in relation to workplace bullying, discrimination, harassment, vilification and victimisation prevention and response and contributing to a respectful workplace culture.

Responsibilities of Managers and Supervisors

(42) Managers and supervisors at Macquarie University have a responsibility to:

  1. monitor the working environment to ensure that acceptable standards of conduct are observed;
  2. model respectful behaviour;
  3. if they observe or suspect bullying, discrimination or harassment in the workplace or behaviour that otherwise breaches this Policy, promptly take appropriate steps to address the behaviour or, if unsure, seek advice and assistance in relation to addressing the behaviour;
  4. promote this Policy and respectful and collaborative behaviours within their teams, departments and faculties;
  5. make Staff aware of the options available in relation to reporting bullying, discrimination and harassment in accordance with the Complaint Management Procedure for Staff;
  6. treat all reports of bullying, discrimination and/or harassment seriously and take appropriate action to respond to the report in accordance with the Complaint Management Procedure for Staff;
  7. treat all reports of bullying, discrimination and/or harassment confidentially, which means that information about a concern or complaint is only provided to those people who need to know in order for the complaint to be properly actioned;
  8. take appropriate steps to protect any person making a report of bullying, discrimination and/or harassment from victimisation; and,
  9. undertake training in relation to their responsibilities as a manager in relation to workplace bullying, discrimination and/or harassment prevention and response and contributing to a respectful workplace culture.

Part H - Breaches of this Policy

(43) The University will take appropriate action against any Staff member or Affiliate proven to have engaged in bullying, discrimination, harassment, vilification or victimisation or otherwise proven to have breached this policy. Depending on the circumstances and the severity of the case, for staff this may be disciplinary action, ranging from counselling or a written warning up to and including termination of employment. For Affiliates this may be cessation of their contract or relationship with Macquarie University.

(44) Staff and Affiliates are legally responsible for their own behaviour and are notified that behaviour in breach of this Policy can be against the law and is not tolerated by Macquarie University. Legal action can be taken against individual employees and/or against an employer (i.e., Macquarie University) for bullying, discrimination, harassment, vilification and/or victimisation.  

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Section 3 - Procedures

(45) See the Complaint Management Procedure for Staff.

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Section 4 - Guidelines

(46) Nil.

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Section 5 - Definitions

(47) Commonly defined terms are located in the University Glossary. The following definitions apply for the purpose of this Policy:

  1. Affiliate(s) means persons holding Honorary titles with the University and contractors and volunteers working for the University.
  2. Staff means all persons employed by Macquarie University, including continuing, fixed term, and casual Staff members.
  3. University means Macquarie University.