Human Resources

Conduct in the workplace

Further information

  • UWA Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct

The University is committed to ensuring that all students and all members of staff are able to pursue their work and studies in a safe and civil environment, free forms of discrimination, harassment, threatening or violent conduct or offences against property.

  1. A supportive work environment
  2. Managing the complaint at the local level
  3. Mediation
  4. Support for the process

A supportive work environment

People work best in a setting marked by mutual respect, personal dignity and support which utilises one's skills and abilities, and encourages further learning. Students and all members of staff, therefore, may reasonably expect to pursue their work and studies in a safe and civil environment, free from threatening or violent conduct or offences against property. Equity and diversity policies exist for sexual harassment, racial harassment and bullying and harassment.

This statement provides a guide for all members of the University community to follow when they believe the professional integrity of their work or study environment has been compromised by one or more persons engaging in intimidating and/or inappropriate behaviour, often known as workplace bullying. It identifies processes for staff, students and heads of school to follow in attempting to resolve such difficulties.

This guide does not apply to unsatisfactory performance or misconduct on the part of staff. There are provisions under various Agreements to cater for these circumstances. Additionally, procedures commenced under this guide cannot be converted to disciplinary action for unsatisfactory performance or misconduct. However, neither shall anything in this policy prevent the employer from taking disciplinary action for unsatisfactory performance or misconduct should the need arise.

Where there is student misconduct, reference should be made to existing processes under Statute 17 of the Regulations covering discipline and misconduct.

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Managing the complaint at the local level

The staff member or student wishing to raise the concern meets with the Head of School or supervisor (or Dean if the complaint is about the Head) to discuss it. The Head or supervisor informs the complainant that he/she will meet with the other party to discuss the substance of the concern. Listening to both sides of a complaint is an essential element of natural justice.

The Head of School or supervisor then speaks with the person alleged to be causing the difficulty. If he/she acknowledges his/her behaviour and the distress it has caused, and undertakes that this behaviour shall not occur again, such promises should be recorded in a brief note to be held confidentially in the appropriate school file, with copies to both parties. The Head is then responsible for monitoring the situation to ensure there is no recurrence of the behaviour. If the behaviour does recur then formal disciplinary procedures are advised.

If, during the course of discussion, it appears that the person alleged to be causing the difficulty is not at fault, or if he or she indicates that the complainant is equally at fault, a skilled Head of School or supervisor might well be able to assist in resolving the issue at this stage through mediation. Organisational and Staff Development Services offer workshops in mediation and conflict resolution to help develop the required skills.

Managers and supervisors who need advice on dealing with difficult people issues are also encouraged to use the Manager Assist facility provided through the Employee Assistance Program.

It is important that the Head of School's or supervisor’s action results in a clearly understood outcome which is accepted by all those involved.

Failing resolution at the local level, there are two possible outcomes:

  • resolution by mediation conducted by a University mediator or
  • resolution through an industrial process (in the case of staff) or existing discipline procedures under Regulation 17 (in the case of students). Such processes should be invoked where it is clear that one party has been intimidating the other, as this may constitute unsatisfactory job-related performance or possibly misconduct.

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If, during the course of his/her discussions with the staff member or student raising the complaint and the other party, the Head or supervisor forms the view that it cannot be resolved by the two parties independently or through mediation at the local level, then mediation through an external and independent person may be helpful. Mediation is most useful when there may be a personality clash or misunderstanding. The role of a mediator is not that of an arbitrator; his/her purpose is to assist the parties to arrive at an agreement that is satisfactory to both. For this reason mediation needs the full co-operation and agreement of both parties.

The Head of School or supervisor is invited to contact either the Associate Director, Employee Relations and Management Services or the Associate Director, Equity and Diversity for a list of mediators. Because it is important that the mediator is acceptable to both parties, the Head or supervisor should provide a copy of the list of mediators to each party and ask them to identify any seen to be unacceptable. The Head or supervisor can then make contact with a mediator acceptable to both parties. The mediator will meet with both parties to assist them to reconcile their differences and prepare a list of agreed commitments about future behaviour.

A full statement of agreed actions will be prepared by the mediator and copies given to both parties. The agreement will be confidential to both parties and the mediator.

The Head of School or supervisor will be sent a brief statement indicating whether or not the mediation was successful. The statement will be filed confidentially in accordance with school policy. Such records are helpful in providing some continuity when there is a regular turnover of the headship in a school.

The Head of School or supervisor should arrange follow-up discussion with both parties to confirm their satisfaction with the result. The Head of School or supervisor is then responsible for monitoring the situation to ensure there is no recurrence of the behaviour.

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Resolution through existing industrial or discipline processes

If, during the course of his/her discussions with the two parties, the Head forms the view that the nature of the concern is such that the problem cannot be resolved through mediation or is inappropriate for mediation (for example, physical intimidation), then The University of Western Australia Academic Staff Agreement 2010 Schedule C and Schedule D provides an account of the relevant procedures to follow in relation to academic staff . In the case of general staff, procedures are outlined in Procedures for managing unsatisfactory performance and misconduct: all staff other than academics.

For further advice contact the Manager Employee Relations and Management Services.

In the case of students recourse should be made to Statute 17 of the Regulations. For further advice contact the Registrar.

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Support for the process

There are a variety of programs offered through Organisational and Staff Development (OSDS) to assist heads of school and supervisors in carrying out their management roles including conflict resolution. Individuals are also encouraged to contact OSDS if they wish to improve their skills in working effectively with others including assertiveness strategies. For further information contact Organisational and Staff Development Services.

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