Human Resources

University Policy on Professional and Personal Relationships in the Workplace

Policy No.
UP07/14
Function
Human Resources
Authoring Organisational Unit
Equity and Diversity Office
Date Approved
09/06/2014
Next Review Date
09/05/2017
Approving Body
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor And Registrar

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The University of Western Australia

University Policy on: Professional and Personal Relationships in the Workplace

Purpose of the policy and summary of issues it addresses:

This policy addresses the appropriate management of personal relationships in the workplace with the objective of maintaining public trust and confidence in the integrity and professionalism of the decisions made and the services provided by the University.

UWA acknowledges that some staff and students of the University will be related to one another or develop an intimate personal and/or sexual relationship. The University does not wish to intrude on the reasonable privacy expectations of any member of the University community. However, the potential for conflict, or perceived conflict, between personal/family relationships and work responsibilities may arise.

The University seeks to provide a campus culture marked by mutual respect, personal dignity and support for the skills and abilities of everyone. This policy applies to the conduct expected in the professional performance of duties of all staff of the University and their relationships with staff and students.

Definitions:

"Close personal relationship" means

- a relationship that goes beyond the bounds of a platonic/personal friendship or a working relationship, and includes being a relative, a family relationship, or personally involved, i.e. dating, romantic relationships, sexual and similar close personal relationships that may be consensually undertaken by both individuals; or

- a relationship which gives rise to a real or potential or perceived conflict of interest and includes relatives and financial relationships; or

- a relationship where one person is financially dependent on another; or

- relationships where there have been previous instances of serious conflict between the parties.

Usual and customary socializing at the University not involving the conduct defined above, for example:

- mentor-mentee; supervisor-employee; co-workers; and supervisor-student,

- working relationships which exist due to ordinary collegiate academic collaboration,

- professional collegiality where colleagues are not relatives, financially dependent, or intimate partners,

are not considered close personal relationships for the purposes of this policy.

"Committee" means all committees and sub-committees, including committees established to undertake reviews, advisory groups, reference groups or any other committee, board, or panel including Senate, Academic Board and Faculty Boards, University standing committees and working parties, selection and promotion committees, resourcing committees, consultative committees, official departmental committees and ad hoc bodies which have responsibility for a substantial policy or project.

"Employee/Staff" means a person employed by the University including ongoing, fixed term or casual employment. For the purposes of this policy this includes Honorary and Adjunct appointments and contractors providing fees for service.

"Family relationship" means a relationship with a relative, a person in the same household or a cultural family relationship.

"Head" means the Head of an organisation unit, for example Head of School, Dean, Director , Associate Director or staff member responsible for the performance or management of an employee.

"Misconduct" for the purposes of this policy can also mean serious misconduct.

"Relative" means the spouse, de facto spouse, same-sex partner, son, daughter or remote issue, or brother or sister, or remote linear ancestor, parent, and relationships by marriage or law, or cultural family relationship.

"Student" means any person who is enrolled in a course through the University.

"Supervisor" means the person who is responsible for day-to-day management or supervision of the employee or student.

"University" means The University of Western Australia.

Policy statement:

The university strives to be a family-friendly workplace and is committed to maintaining a culture of inclusion, trust and respect. The University does not discriminate against relatives of, or people in a close personal relationship with, a member of staff, and permits the employment of qualified family members provided such employment does not create a real or perceived conflict of interest and the requirements of this policy are met.

A member of staff should not be able to advance or hinder the interests of another member or potential member of the University (staff or student) on the basis of their personal relationship; and/or to act to the detriment of the University's interest, or the interests of other staff or students because of their personal relationship.

Activities that are incompatible with this policy include,

the involvement of a staff member in the admission, supervision, assessment or examination of a student with whom they have, or have had, a close personal or financial relationship, or, with whom they have or have had a sexual relationship,

the supervision of a student or another member of staff by a staff member with whom they have or have had a sexual relationship.

1 Policy principles:

  • Self-disclosure. The University intends to rely on people disclosing that a potential or perceived conflict of interest exists because of the existence of a personal relationship.
  • Conflict of Interest. The requirement to disclose the existence of a relationship is based solely on the potential for, or perception of, a conflict of interest, that is, the possibility that a decision may be biased or prejudiced, either in favour of or against, a person with whom there is a personal relationship.
  • Equity of treatment. The policy seeks to assure that no undue advantage or disadvantage occurs because of the existence of a personal relationship.

2 Purpose

The employment of individuals in a close personal relationship may cause conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts of interest. The purpose of this policy is to maintain confidence in the integrity and professionalism of the staff and services of the University. The policy clarifies appropriate disclosure and management of close personal relationships to avoid misunderstandings, complaints of favouritism or unfair treatment, claims of sexual harassment, or dissension that may result from the appearance of conflict of interest caused by close personal relationships amongst employees.

3 Expectations

3.1 The University expects:

  • Self-disclosure. Employees will declare any conflicts of interest in accordance with the Conflicts of Interest Policy;
  • All employees will behave in accordance with the Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct;
  • Where close personal relationships exist, employees must act in a professional manner whilst conducting the University's work;
  • Conflicts or disagreements arising out of family, emotional and financial relationships will not to be addressed in the workplace or during the course of employment.

3.2 Employees in breach of the Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct and the respective policies may be deemed misconduct and result in possible disciplinary action.

3.3 Managers are responsible for ensuring this policy and its procedures are followed and understood as appropriate to each staff member's role and function.

4 Management of Disclosures

4.1 As far as possible management of a disclosure of a personal relationship is the responsibility of the supervisor or manager notified of the conflict, and will include consideration of the nature of the relationship and the appropriateness of the employee to resume any activities that involve the conflict.

4.2 Directing or approving the management of a disclosed close personal relationship which is in breach of this policy, or having knowledge of a close personal relationship in breach of this policy of but not acting promptly to correct the situation in accordance with this policy, may be deemed misconduct resulting in misconduct under the agreement.

4.3 If it is determined that a conflict of interest (actual or perceived) exists, the Dean or Executive Director (and the Vice Chancellor in the case of Senior Staff) may transfer either party to a different work area to alleviate the situation.

5 Staff - Student relationships

5.1 When staff members interact with students, staff members are frequently in a position of trust and influence. The staff student relationship must not jeopardise the academic integrity or effective functioning of the University by the appearance of either favouritism or unfairness in the exercise of professional judgment. In relationships with students, the staff member is expected to be aware of their professional responsibilities and to avoid apparent or actual conflict of interest, favouritism or bias.

5.2 Where a staff member has a student relative, or is currently or has been in a close personal relationship with a student, that staff member must not take any part in any academic or administrative decision-making processes in respect of that student, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • selection for entry to the University
  • selection for any undergraduate or postgraduate program offered by the University
  • assessment procedures or evaluation of a students work
  • classification for honours
  • selection for any scholarship or prize
  • honours or postgraduate supervision.

5.3 Where a close personal relationship between a staff member and a student has created, or has the potential to create a conflict in the supervision and/or assessment of the student, the staff member must formally terminate any supervisory and/or evaluative role and make alternative arrangements for the supervision and/or evaluation of the student's work.

5.4 It is the duty of the staff member to disclose to their Head or Committee Chair or, where there is a conflict with that person, the Head's next-in-line manager or committee, any close personal relationship involving a student or student relative, as soon as the staff member becomes aware of the possibility that they might, if not for this policy, be involved in one of the processes listed at above, or a similar decision making process.

5.5 The student may also disclose a close personal relationship to the Head or, where relevant, the Head's next-in-line manager or Committee Chair.

5.6 When a relative or close personal relationship conflict arises, arrangements for avoiding the staff member's involvement in the processes listed in 4.1 above must be approved by the Head.

5.7 If for any reason the Head, Chair or Supervisor does not find it possible to avoid altogether the involvement of people in the close personal relationship, the Head's next-in-line manager must formally approve the arrangement proposed by the Head before it is implemented. Any arrangement made, e.g. cross-marking or co-supervision of the student's work, must be formally approved by the Head of School prior to implementation.

5.8 If a staff member or committee member is found to be in a personal relationship and the potential conflict of interest has not been disclosed, any decision taken in relation to the student and any potentially affected students will be reviewed by the relevant Chair, or Head and may render the process null and void, or may be amended by the Chair or Head.

5.9 Failure by a staff member to disclose a close personal relationship, coupled with participation in the processes listed in 2.1 above, or any impropriety found with regard to a staff member will be reviewed by the Head or Supervisor and may lead to disciplinary action on the grounds of misconduct, or serious misconduct under the and can lead to disciplinary action on the grounds of misconduct or serious misconduct.

6 Employment of Relatives and Close Friends

6.1 The University does not discriminate in employment against relatives of, or people in a close personal relationship with, an existing member of staff, provided the requirements of this policy, and the Conflicts of Interests policy are met. The employment of relatives and close friends is only acceptable when the appointment is made in line with the following University policies:

  • UP07/158 - Selection for Appointment
  • UP07/152 - Selection Procedures and Guidelines for Appointments to Professor - Level E
  • UP12/32 - Conflicts of Interest Policy
  • This policy.

6.2 The supervision of a student or another member of staff by a staff member with whom they have or have had a sexual relationship is incompatible with this policy.

6.3 Prior approval must be sought from the Dean, Executive Director or Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor where a staff member is required to directly supervise a relative or close friend.

6.4 A member of staff should not take any part in the selection process for an appointment where they have a close personal relationship with a candidate.

7 Staff-staff relationships

7.1 It is the duty of a staff member to disclose to the Head any close personal relationship, as soon as that staff member becomes aware of the possibility that they might, if not for this policy, be involved in one of the processes listed at 6.3 below in respect of the other staff member. If the staff member is a Head, they must disclose the relationship to their next-in-line manager, and make arrangements, approved by that manager.

7.2 Where a member of the University community has a close personal relationship with a staff member (including potential staff and ongoing, fixed term or casual staff) they shall not be involved in decision making or formal employment or academic assessment procedures leading to the appointment, promotion, disciplinary proceedings or any other determination relating to employment conditions, benefits or entitlements for the staff member.

7.3 Examples of inappropriate activities, processes and decisions for staff in close personal relationships include:

  • selection, recruitment and appointment
  • continuing appointment, transfer
  • tenure
  • promotion
  • reclassification
  • termination of employment
  • staff development opportunities
  • conditions of service
  • planning and development review, referee reports and performance appraisal review
  • research grant assessment
  • provision of opportunities and funding for research
  • conferences, training/development and accommodation
  • selection of students for awards, prizes and scholarships etc.
  • assessment or supervision of students
  • selection of students for admission, honours and post-graduate supervision
  • provision of advice to a deliberative body (for example, a school review)
  • awarding of contracts or tenders
  • direct supervision
  • accessing the personal files of the other staff member.

7.4 When a Head is precluded under 5.3 above from participating in an appointment committee, the Head must not have access to the appointment applications except to the extent necessary to present views to the committee, and only if the committee itself requests those views.

Procedure

Selection panels should not contain anyone who is in a personal relationship with an applicant for a position. If necessary the person shall declare the existence of a potential conflict of interest to the Chair, so that an appropriate selection panel can be convened.

For positions which are not advertised (e.g. casual positions), for which a supervisor would normally select by informal processes, a staff member must obtain approval from the Head of School or Divisional Head before appointing a person with whom the supervisor has a personal relationship. The Divisional Head is then accountable for ensuring that no personnel decision outlined in this policy is undertaken by staff in personal relationships.

7.5 If the Head or Supervisor believes it is not altogether possible for a staff member to avoid the supervision of another staff member with whom there exists a close personal relationship, they must report the matter to the appropriate next-in-line Head who will determine and oversee an alternative arrangement for the supervision of the staff member. Prior approval must be sought from the Dean or Vice Chancellor where a staff member is required to directly supervise a relative.

7.6 Failure by a staff member to disclose a close personal relationship, coupled with participation in the processes listed in this policy, or any impropriety found with regard to a staff member will be reviewed by the Head or Supervisor and may lead to disciplinary action on the grounds of misconduct, or serious misconduct under the conditions of the staff agreement and can lead to disciplinary action on the grounds of misconduct or serious misconduct.

Related forms:

TRIM File No:

F55317

Contact position:

Associate Director, Equity and Diversity

Related Policies or legislation:

University Policy on Employment of Relatives and Close Friends

Selection for Appointment Policy

University Finance Manual

Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct

Conflicts of Interest Policy

Senior Appointments

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