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Policy on bullying and harassment

Genomics Aotearoa considers bullying and harassment of any kind, in any context, to be unacceptable. All people working for us, working with us, or involved in GA activities should be able to work in an environment where everyone treats others, and is treated, fairly and with respect.

This policy forms part of the conditions for receiving funding in a Genomics Aotearoa project.

Bullying and harassment

Bullying is any offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour. It involves the misuse of power and can make the person being bullied feel vulnerable, upset, humiliated, undermined or threatened.

Harassment is any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. It may be persistent or a single incident.1

What we expect from people involved in Genomics Aotearoa activities

We expect all participants involved in Genomics Aotearoa activities to treat each other with dignity and respect. Participants include members of GA governance, management and advisory groups, partners, associates, staff, principal investigators, co-investigators, supervisors, researchers, students, collaborators, contractors, consultants and suppliers.

We expect participants to adhere to the standards of behaviour outlined in the policies and codes of conduct of the institutions where they work.

What we expect from organisations that receive funding in Genomics Aotearoa projects

Project leaders and key personnel identified in a Genomics Aotearoa project are in positions of trust. Before an organisation receives funding in a Genomics Aotearoa project, they must confirm that the project leader and key personnel have not had an allegation of bullying or harassment upheld against them for which there is a current formal disciplinary warning, an active sanction, or a warning or sanction that has occurred within the past 2 years. If they have, we may reject their participation in the project.

It is the organisation’s responsibility to:

  • Have a policy in place that clearly sets out the standards of behaviour it expects from staff and their procedure for responding to complaints.
  • Make sure there is an equivalent policy in place at any sub-contractor organisation, if relevant.
  • Investigate allegations of bullying and harassment in an impartial, fair and timely manner, and take appropriate action.
  • Tell the Director of Genomics Aotearoa, in confidence, about any allegations of bullying or harassment that are upheld. This should happen after the full internal process is complete, i.e. after any appeal. This applies to any employee at the organisation who is associated with a Genomics Aotearoa project or advisory group.

The organisations that receive funding in Genomics Aotearoa projects are responsible for fully investigating any complaints and for complying with New Zealand law.

Sanctions

If an organisation upholds a bullying or harassment allegation, or if an employee resigns before an investigation is completed, Genomics Aotearoa may independently impose any conditions it considers necessary to protect its personnel, other participants and its reputation. GA may:

  • Require monitoring of the way the person manages staff or students
  • Remove the person from the affected GA project(s) or advisory group(s)
  • Withdraw funding from the person
  • Bar them from being a supervisor of GA staff or students
  • Temporarily or permanently restrict them from future Genomics Aotearoa projects or activities.

These conditions will be imposed in a way that does not penalise researchers, postdocs or students working with or for that person.

Genomics Aotearoa may take action if we find that an organisation has failed to respond to a bullying and/or harassment complaint promptly and objectively, or failed to keep GA informed (as outlined above). We may:

  • Not accept the organisation into new projects for a limited period of time
  • Suspend the organisation from participation in existing projects in extreme cases.

How Genomics Aotearoa handles allegations

Each organisation that Genomics Aotearoa works with is responsible for following its own procedures for handling allegations of bullying or harassment. GA will reserve any judgement about an allegation until the investigation is ended.

Genomics Aotearoa does not carry out its own investigations, but we may ask for information about an organisation’s processes, check that an organisation has a policy and is following it, or ask for follow-up information on any allegation that comes to our attention.

If an allegation of bullying or harassment is made directly to a member of Genomics Aotearoa staff rather than to the employer organisation, GA will respond in a sensitive, timely way:

  • We will first discuss the circumstances with the informant.
  • The Director of Genomics Aotearoa will decide on steps to take within the guidance of this policy. E.g., GA may advise the informant to take action through their employer, or may directly inform an appropriate individual at the relevant employer organisation.
  • If an informant wants to remain anonymous, we will respect this unless we have a legal obligation to reveal their identity. We will tell the informant before we do this.

How Genomics Aotearoa handles information

Where an organisation provides information to Genomics Aotearoa, it should only include the name of the person against whom an allegation has been upheld, a brief factual statement about the nature of the allegation, and a brief factual statement on the outcome of the investigation, including any sanctions. The information provided should not include any sensitive personal information, e.g. relating to criminal offences or convictions, or personal information about other people, e.g. the person making the claim.

Genomics Aotearoa will store any information sent to it in accordance with legal requirements to protect data and the policies of our host institution, the University of Otago. Information will be communicated to our staff or external advisors in line with those policies on a need-to-know, restricted-access basis only.

Contact for further information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, contact the Operations Manager, Genomics Aotearoa at genomics.aotearoa@otago.ac.nz.

Document history

Drafted with consultation across Genomics Aotearoa participant groups, February - March 2019
Approved by the Genomics Aotearoa Board, May 2019

1. This policy is adapted from Wellcome, ‘Policy on bullying and harassment’, 2018, http://wellcome.ac.uk/funding/guidance/policy-bullying-and-harassment