Human Resources

Policy and procedures for dealing with Equity and Diversity enquiries and grievances

Further information

  • Grievance procedures
  • Equity and Diversity

Faculties and Central Administration should work in accordance with this policy and its procedures in dealing with enquires and complaints from staff and students about discrimination and harassment.

The policy and guidelines do not apply to sexual harassment complaints, which should be made under the University's Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures.

The University of Western Australia is committed to maintaining an environment within the University that is free from discrimination and harassment. Refer to UWA’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action policy.

Discrimination and harassment are unacceptable behaviour. They conflict with the University's Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action policy and deny the rights of staff and students to fair treatment. Discrimination and harassment are serious issues which undermine morale and can adversely affect the ability of staff and students to achieve their full potential within the University.

Policy and procedures for resolving complaints of discrimination and harassment have been adopted by the University to:

  • promote a work and study environment which is inclusive and characterised by respect and which is free from discrimination and harassment
  • provide an internal procedure for dealing with issues and complaints of discrimination and harassment which may arise
  • meet the requirements of State and Federal legislation, and the University's current Equity and Diversity management plan
  • ensure that discrimination and harassment are dealt with in as confidential, sensitive and expedient a manner as possible
  • ensure that the prevention and resolution of complaints of discrimination and harassment become an integral part of line management and supervisory responsibilities.
  1. Definitions
  2. Examples
  3. Aims
  4. Internal and external procedures for dealing with complaints
  5. Four stages in the internal procedures
  6. Victimisation
  7. Vexatious complaints
  8. Monitoring and evaluation
  9. Flow chart of grievance resolution process


'Equal opportunity' in employment means ensuring people are treated on a fair and equitable basis in the workplace, on the basis of their skills and abilities, whatever their differences in other respects.

'Discrimination' is where a person is treated less favourably because of their sex, age, marital status, pregnancy, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, political or religious conviction, impairment, family responsibility or family status. Discrimination may be direct, indirect or systemic.

'Harassment' for the purposes of these procedures is defined as any unwelcome, offensive, belittling or abusive comment or action regarding a persons' sex, age, marital status, pregnancy, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, political or religious conviction, impairment, family responsibility or family status. It is behaviour towards another person which is unwanted and which adversely affects the work or study environment. Sexual and Racial harassment are defined in more detail in the appropriate UWA policies and guidelines.

'Victimisation' includes any unfavourable treatment of a person who has been involved with a discrimination or harassment enquiry or complaint. Unfavourable treatment could include adverse changes in the working environment, denial of training, denial of promotion, and exclusion by peers.

'Respondent' means the person or School against whom a complaint of harassment or discrimination has been made.

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While it is not possible to document all instances in which discrimination and harassment in the work and study area may occur, listed below are examples of situations to be avoided.

  • Any discriminatory practices relating to recruitment; selection; promotion; tenure; termination of employment; conditions of service and training and development.
  • The display or transmission of inappropriate or offensive pictures, cartoons, posters, jokes, graffiti or written materials, such as emails or SMS messages). Inappropriate material is often of a sexist or racist nature.
  • Phone calls, letters or messages on electronic mail or computer networks which are threatening, intimidating, abusive or offensive
  • Refusing to provide appropriate alternative study arrangements for a student with a disability.

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The aims of these procedures for dealing with equity and diversity complaints are to:

  • Ensure that accurate information regarding equity and diversity issues is readily available.
  • Provide information and support to any person who has been or alleges that they have been discriminated against or harassed
  • Ensure the rights of respondents are protected
  • Take reasonable steps to ensure there is no recurrence of the behaviour or practice which gave rise to a justifiable complaint
  • Ensure there are no reprisals against the complainant or witnesses for making or participating in a justifiable complaint
  • Ensure the situation giving rise to a complaint is addressed as far as possible to the complainant's satisfaction in a just and fair manner
  • Gain information on the extent of a problem to enable the University to take preventative steps against discrimination and harassment
  • Ensure that complaints are dealt with expediently, in the interests of all concerned. Undue delay may provide grounds for further complaint.

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Internal and external procedures for dealing with complaints

Any person who feels that they have been discriminated against or harassed may:

  • Choose to discuss the problem with the respondent in an attempt to resolve the matter in a constructive manner.
  • Choose to resolve the complaint through the University's procedures.
  • Choose to make a complaint to the WA Commissioner for Equal Opportunity under the provisions of the relevant State or Federal anti-discrimination legislation.
  • Choose to pursue a complaint through another appropriate representative body such as a relevant union or student guild.

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Four stages in the internal procedures

Stage 1

Informal grievance resolution: Equity and Diversity adviser scheme

Initial enquiries about equity matters of concern, including possible cases of discrimination or harassment, should be made to one of the Equity and Diversity Advisers. An Adviser who feels unable or unwilling to deal with a particular enquiry should refer the complainant to the Manager, Equity and Diversity.

The role of the Adviser is to:

  • be a first point of contact for staff and students who wish to make inquiries, who have a discrimination or harassment complaint, or who want simply to sound out a concern
  • listen with respect and empathy, at all times ensuring confidentiality
  • assist the person to clarify the situation and their feelings; recognising that talking about the situation may suffice and the person may then feel able to deal with the situation
  • identify the nature of the complaint and advise about both internal and external ways of dealing with complaints
  • provide advice on University policy and procedures (copies to be made available) and the possible stages involved
  • inform the complainant about their rights, as well as the rights of the respondent; discuss note taking and recording of the complaint and provide advice on this to the complainant
  • caution the complainant to be careful regarding who to inform of the matter given the possible risk of defamation and aggravation of the problem
  • if appropriate and necessary, accompany the complainant to preliminary meetings associated with the matter;
  • refer the complainant to the relevant manager or supervisor if the person wishes
  • advise the complainant that the complaint may be withdrawn at any stage without prejudice

All approaches to an Adviser will be treated in confidence and Advisers will not discuss a case with a third person without the knowledge and consent of the complainant or inquirer, other than in accordance with these procedures. It is important to note that documentation may be accessed under the Freedom of Information Act.

Stage 2

Complaint resolution by relevant University supervisor or manager

The aim of this option is for a resolution of the complaint to be achieved in a just, prompt and confidential manner. Staff in supervisory roles have a responsibility to deal with discrimination and harassment as part of their role in maintaining a productive environment in which to work or study, and through promoting proper standards of conduct.

They have a responsibility to:

  • ensure that all are aware of appropriate and acceptable standards of behaviour
  • make known the University's policies, and names and locations of the Equity and Diversity Advisers
  • take early corrective action to deal with behaviour which may constitute discrimination or harassment
  • monitor the workplace and study environment so they become aware of any discrimination or harassment that may be likely to arise

If the complainant does not wish to resolve the situation directly with the respondent, the matter can be taken to the respondent's supervisor. For the purpose of this process the supervisor shall be the person nearest to the respondent in terms of line responsibility. 

For example:

Respondent Supervisor
Student Head of School which conducts the course in which the respondent is enrolled
General staff member Head of School
Academic Staff Member Head of School/Dean

Where the Respondent is the Head of School the matter can be taken to the Supervisor of the Head of School. This referral to the supervisor should occur only after initial discussion of available options with the Equity and Diversity Adviser or the Equity and Diversity Office.

Care should be taken by the supervisor not to pre-judge either party or to dismiss a matter as trivial. The supervisor may utilise a range of strategies in resolving the complaint whilst ensuring that principles of procedural fairness are observed, such as:

  • provide sufficient opportunity for the complainant to present their case
  • inform the respondent of the substance of the allegations and provide adequate opportunity to respond
  • give reasonable notice to all parties of any interviews or meetings regarding the complaint
  • discuss the complaint through separate interviews with the complainant and respondent, or through a joint
  • meeting with both parties if they agree
  • provide mediation to resolve the complaint, if appropriate

At any Stage of this process, the supervisor may seek advice and assistance from the Equity and Diversity Office with respect to the procedures and proposed strategies. The complainant, respondent or supervisor may request an Equity and Diversity Adviser to attend any meetings to provide advice and ensure fair process is followed. The Adviser's role does not extend to acting as an advocate for either the complainant or respondent. The supervisor or Adviser may request the assistance of the Manager, Equity and Diversity. If there is a legitimate complaint, and the matter is resolved, the supervisor will follow up with the complainant to ensure that there have been no further incidents.

If the respondent to the complaint is the immediate supervisor or manager, Stage 2 would be omitted. In this case, or if the complaint has not been resolved, the complainant or respondent may refer the complaint to a senior University manager, as set out below.

Stage 3

Complaint resolution by senior university managers

Where mediation and resolution of the complaint has been unsuccessful in Stages one and two, the complainant will be referred to the Dean, the Registrar or Director, Human Resources. Referral may be made by the complainant or respondent or their representatives (such as a Supervisor) only after following Stage 1 and/or Stage 2. The Dean, the Registrar or Director, Human Resources will investigate complaints in accordance with the procedures outlined in Stage two.

If the complaint is found to be substantiated, the Dean, the Registrar or Director, Human Resources will undertake appropriate action or refer the matter to the Vice-Chancellor. If a satisfactory resolution is not achieved the matter is referred to the Vice-Chancellor.

Stage 4

Formal complaint to the Vice-Chancellor

When the previous Stages have failed, a formal complaint or formal referral is made to the Vice-Chancellor, who will constitute a Review Panel comprising the Chair of the Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee, a nominee of the Vice-Chancellor and the Manager, Equity and Diversity. The Review Panel will include at least one man and one woman.

The Panel will report its findings and recommendations to the Vice-Chancellor who will determine appropriate action. The Vice-Chancellor's determination will be final.

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Any complaint of victimisation will be treated in the same manner as a complaint of discrimination or harassment

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Vexatious complaints

If the complaint is found to be vexatious, disciplinary procedures (Statute 17/Policy and Procedures Manual) may be taken against the complainant.

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Monitoring and evaluation

These procedures will be monitored and then reviewed after two years by the Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee.

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Flow chart of grievance resolution process

Complaint may be withdrawn at any stage Stage 1
Initial contact advice and assistance from an Equity and Diversity Adviser
Matter may be resolved by complainant taking action
Complaint may be taken externally at any stage Discussion/Mediation-matter resolved
no further action
  No resolution  
Stage 2
Complaint investigated and mediated by supervisor or manager
Matter resolved no further action
No resolution  
Stage 3
Complaint investigated and mediated by Dean, Director HR, Registrar
Matter resolved no further action
No resolution  
Stage 4
Formal complaint, inquiry panel established by Vice-Chancellor
Recommendation to Vice-Chancellor for complaint resolution

Note: It is anticipated that the majority of complaints will resolved in Stages 1 or 2.

Stage 2 is not appropriate where complaint is against supervisor/manager.

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