Preventing bullying and harassment

There is no place for bullying and harassment, of anyone, in our research and innovation communities.

We want to create environments in which everyone is encouraged to contribute on the basis of their talent and skills, and where the wellbeing of staff and students is nurtured as a priority.

How we are tackling bullying and harassment

As the UK’s largest public funder of research and innovation, we have a significant role in preventing bullying and harassment.

We are aware of the impact that bullying and harassment can have on:

A vital shift change is needed. Staff and students must have greater confidence that bullying and harassment will be tackled effectively by their organisations. We as UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) need to play our part, working with others to address the pressures in our system that can result in these unacceptable behaviours.

We will work closely with our partners, with research organisations and universities, and with business, to tackle these problems at a system level and create positive culture change that benefits everyone.

What we’ve done so far

In 2019, we commissioned an evidence review (PDF, 3MB) into bullying and harassment in the research and innovation sector.

The review looks at the challenges we have within our sector and the most effective approaches to addressing these issues. It also includes recommendations:

  • for funders on the causes of bullying and harassment
  • for organisations to tackle bullying and harassment internally and improve on current practice.

We used these findings to inform our bullying and harassment position statement (PDF, 981KB), which sets out the actions we will take to address the causes of bullying and harassment. Specifically:

  • our expectations of the individuals and organisations that we fund
  • the support we will provide to help meet these expectations
  • the actions we will take if organisations do not meet our expectations.

In November 2020, we updated our grant and training terms and conditions to clarify the role of funded organisations in preventing bullying and harassment.

Reporting process for bullying and harassment

UKRI grant terms and conditions require allegations of bullying and harassment to be reported to UKRI. The process for reporting will be established as part of the full implementation of the Preventing Harm policy into the terms and conditions.

In advance of that, UKRI is developing an interim process for reporting formal investigations of bullying and harassment to guide research organisations in meeting this requirement.

This interim process will help to pilot and gain feedback from the sector on our longer term approach.

We have worked with UKRI councils, the UKRI Research Organisations Consultation Group and UKRI governance groups to design an appropriate reporting process for bullying and harassment for UKRI FEC grants, studentships and fellowships.

We are now in the process of actively engaging and consulting with research organisations and the wider sector to seek feedback on this approach to ensure it is robust and meets the needs of stakeholders.

We will provide a further update on our plans in early autumn 2021.

Interest in working with us to develop our approach or queries relating to it should be sent to equality@ukri.org.

Our priorities for the future

We continue to collaboratively develop measures that promote an inclusive, respectful and safe research and innovation culture, so staff and students feel supported and able to report incidents within their organisations.

Our priority areas include:

  • improving awareness of bullying and harassment, its impacts and how it can be prevented across the sector
  • addressing the barriers that prevent reporting
  • improving data collection to better understand and monitor the problem
  • working with other funders and regulators to join up policies, both to create a system-wide culture change and to minimise the administrative burden
  • developing resources and tools to support evidence-based prevention and response strategies, including training such as supporting bystanders to take action.

We have also launched the Forum for Tackling Bullying and Harassment in Research and Innovation with partners from funding, policy and regulatory organisations. Through the forum we will:

  • raise awareness of bullying and harassment, and create culture change
  • share learning and practice across organisations
  • promote collaboration across policies and resources, and reduce bureaucracy.

What this means for your organisation

If you work or study at an organisation with UKRI funding, your organisation will need to evidence that it is effectively tackling bullying and harassment as part of the conditions of receiving funding.

We expect your organisation to:

  • take a whole organisation approach to tackling the problem
  • prevent the risk of bullying and harassment to anyone involved in UKRI-funded research and innovation
  • promote a fair, transparent and positive culture, where people can report their concerns and know they will be acted upon
  • have policies and procedures that follow good practice
  • offer dedicated support and training for leadership and management.

This is a summary of our expectations only. For the full details see our grant and training grant terms and conditions, which clarify the role of funded organisations in preventing bullying and harassment.

If an allegation is made, we expect your organisation to:

  • respond in an impartial, fair and timely manner
  • investigate any allegations that a member of staff or student has exploited, abused or harmed another person
  • protect the rights of all individuals involved
  • take a survivor-centred approach, listening and taking concerns seriously and providing appropriate support.

We reserve the right to follow up any incidences where we have evidence an organisation may not have robust policies or processes in places as set out in our terms and conditions.

For more information, see our good research resource hub for policies, standards and guidance on bullying and harassment.

If you work in a business that has business innovation funding from Innovate UK, you will need to follow their specific terms and conditions (GOV.UK).

Key resources

Get help and advice on our bullying and harassment policies

For support in implementing these policies at your organisation or more information about our work, contact us.

Email: equality@ukri.org

Last updated: 17 August 2021

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