This policy applies to all members of the College community and relates to sexual misconduct perpetrated by:

  • a student against a student or a member of staff;
  • a member of staff against a student or a member of staff;
  • a student or staff member against a third party.

Imperial College London is committed to ensuring a working and learning environment free from sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual violence so all members of the College community can enjoy the right to study, live, work and be respected for the contribution they make.

The College will listen to and take seriously all disclosures of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

Responsibilities

Leaders and Line Managers

Faculty Deans, Heads of Departments/Divisions, and all other leaders and managers have a duty to familiarise themselves with this policy, and to make every effort to ensure that Sexual Misconduct does not occur, particularly in the areas of work for which they are responsible.

Members of Staff and the Student Community

Staff are required to respect the age, beliefs, convictions and sexual orientation of others and not behave in ways which cause offence, or which in any way could be considered to be Sexual Misconduct.  Each member of staff and all students have a responsibility to ensure colleagues, clients, students, and visitors are treated with dignity and respect. 

Accessible documents

Policy

 1         Policy statement

Imperial College London is committed to ensuring a working and learning environment free from sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual violence so all members of the College community can enjoy the right to study, live, work and be respected for the contribution they make.

Sexual misconduct and violence can be experienced by any individual, regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, relationship status, age, disability, faith, ethnicity, nationality and economic status. Women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and individuals with disabilities are disproportionally affected by experiences of sexual violence. Experiences of sexual misconduct and violence may also intersect with other forms of harassment and discrimination.

The College will listen to and take seriously all disclosures of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

The College will implement anonymous disclosing mechanisms in order to understand the nature and extent of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual assault experienced by members of its community (see definitions in section three). This is so we can direct resources appropriately and evaluate our progress towards eliminating all forms of sexual misconduct across the College.

The College will ensure relevant staff are trained to appropriately identify and to respond to disclosures of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

All individuals are personally liable for their actions, which in some instances could lead to criminal or civil action in the Courts under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Equality Act 2010 or other relevant legislation, such as the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

The College will take swift necessary action in response to allegations made against students or staff in line with the procedures below. Where necessary, the College will conduct confidential investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct.

Disciplinary action will be taken if allegations of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct are upheld following a formal complaint.

2         Scope of policy

This policy applies to all members of the College community and relates to sexual misconduct perpetrated by:

  • a student against a student or a member of staff;
  • a member of staff against a student or a member of staff;
  • a student or staff member against a third party.

It applies to sexual misconduct that may take place outside of the College premises or hours, e.g. social events, trips abroad or on social media.

Sexual misconduct is not necessarily confined to the behaviour of senior staff towards more junior staff or staff towards students. It can take place between persons at the same level or involve staff or students behaving inappropriately towards more senior members of the College.

This policy does not cover incidents of non-sexual harassment as the College has a separate policy (Harassment, Bullying and Victimisation Policy).

3         Definitions

For the purposes of this Policy, the following definitions apply:

Sexual misconduct is an umbrella term and can include harassment and bullying.

Harassment is unwelcome behaviour which violates an individual’s dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Harassment may be physical, written, verbal, non-verbal, online or via social media. It can be intentional or unintentional.

Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, which may include an abuse or misuse of power, through means that threaten, undermine, humiliate, denigrate, take advantage of, or injure the recipient. Causing offence may be a deliberate act or it may not be. It is the impact on the individual which is the key consideration.

Unlike bullying, harassment is legally defined in the UK and included as a form of discrimination in the Equality Act (2010).

Sexual misconduct is any act of violence or harassment which is sexual in nature or any kind of unwanted, non-consensual sexual touching or harassment within or outside a relationship. This may include rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation or groping. It also covers behaviours such as grooming, coercion, the promise of a reward for sexual access and sexual demands or threats. It often arises where there is an imbalance of power in a relationship and it violates the principle that the parties involved have given willing consent to the behaviours.

Harassment, bullying and sexual misconduct might be a series of different behaviours, repeated forms of the same unwanted behaviour or a one-off incident.

The following non-exhaustive list gives examples of behaviour that may also constitute harassment or bullying:

  • offensive or inappropriate comments, body language, jokes, innuendos or gestures
  • openly hostile, insulting, abusive or embarrassing comments or criticism
  • persistently demeaning, ridiculing, excluding or isolating someone
  • threats to disclose, or disclosing, private or personal information, including photographs
  • comments, notes, publications or posts on social media that are derisory, disparaging, abusive, offensive or intimidating
  • knowingly addressing or referring to someone using a pronoun (for example, he or she) with which an individual does not identify

Examples of sexual misconduct include:

  • sexually explicit remarks, innuendos or banter
  • sexual insults, jokes, teasing or songs
  • wolf whistling, cat calling or making other offensive sexual noises
  • offensive comments about someone’s dress, appearance or private life, including their sexuality or gender identity
  • unwanted or inappropriate physical contact including touching, pinching, groping or smacking
  • unwanted requests to engage in or discuss sexual activity
  • lifting or removing clothing without consent
  • display or distribution of sexually explicit material
  • stalking

Stalking is persistent and unwanted conduct of one or more kinds of behaviours described above. It can be physical or psychological and take place directly against a person, or by approaching a third party about a person. The more common examples of stalking are following a person home, following a person around, between or to/from campus, sending or leaving them unwanted and repeated messages, bullying them on social media or making intrusive or unwanted visits.

Interpersonal relationships between individuals can also be abusive without a sexual element to the behaviour. They may involve bullying or coercive behaviours which are used to maintain power or control. While this might include sexual abuse and/or bullying, it can also include emotional, financial or physical abuse, threats, isolation or intimidation.

By definition, some of the behaviours set out would necessitate physical contact or for the parties to be physically proximate. Many, however, may also manifest themselves in virtual, online, social media or other remote forms of communication. The medium does not mitigate the impact or excuse the behaviour.

Reporting Party is the individual who has experienced the sexual harassment, misconduct or violence.

Responding Party is the individual who allegedly perpetrated the sexual harassment, misconduct or violence.

Sexual Violence Liaison Officers (SVLOs) are members of staff who have received advanced sexual misconduct training and who can provide a primary point of contact, information and support for students disclosing sexual assault.

Harassment Support Contacts (HSCs) are staff members who have received sexual harassment training and general training on other forms of bullying and harassment. They can provide a primary point of contact, information and support for staff disclosing sexual misconduct.

Student Harassment Support Contacts (SHSCs) are staff members who have received sexual harassment training and can provide a primary point of contact, information and support for students disclosing sexual misconduct

Staff: any person who is engaged by the College as an employee or worker.

Students: all undergraduate and postgraduate students, full-time and part-time students, students studying on or off campus or online, whether they are currently enrolled in subjects or deferred from their studies. It does not include Imperial College London graduates or individuals who are not currently admitted as students.

Third party: someone who is not a part of the College community, i.e. not a staff member or a student.

A disclosure is where someone tells you or someone else about their experience but may not choose to make a report.

A report is a written complaint made to the College by the Reporting Party, to be followed up with potential action against the Responding Party.

4         Responsibilities

4.1       Leaders and line managers

Faculty Deans, Heads of Departments/Divisions, and all other leaders and managers have a duty to familiarise themselves with this policy, and to make every effort to ensure that sexual misconduct does not occur, particularly in the areas of work for which they are responsible.

Leaders and managers should act as role models and adhere to Imperial Expectations.

Sexual misconduct can be hard for leaders and managers to recognise, particularly as it may not be obvious to them or other colleagues what is happening. The individual being subjected to inappropriate behaviours may be too frightened to report it. The inappropriate behaviours may be done in a subtle way or the individual may even think it is part of the 'culture' of the workplace and just normalise what they are being subjected to. If the individual is unwilling or too frightened to act there may be other ways to address the issue and this should be discussed with HR.

4.2       Members of staff and the student community

Staff are required to respect the age, beliefs, convictions and sexual orientation of others and not behave in ways which cause offence, or which in any way could be considered to be sexual misconduct. Each member of staff and all students have a responsibility to ensure colleagues, clients, students, and visitors are treated with dignity and respect.

5         Related policies

5.1       Harassment, Bullying and Victimisation Policy

5.2       Staff Disciplinary Policy and Procedure

5.3       Student Complaints and Disciplinary Procedures

5.4       SVLO Privacy Statement

Procedure

 1         Introduction

This procedure sets out how the College will address incidents of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual violence where the Responding Party is a member of staff.

It covers any disclosures or information relating to both current and non-recent incidents, noting that the College may not be able to fully investigate historical incidents.

This procedure accompanies the Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence Policy. An additional procedure is published for issues where the Responding Party is a student. If you are unsure which procedure applies to your scenario, contact the Employee Relations Team.

2         Scope

This procedure applies to all staff in the College community and relates to sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual violence by a member of staff against a student, a member of staff, or a third party.

This procedure applies in and out of the College environment, including outside the College premises or hours, e.g. social events, trips abroad or on social media.

This procedure does not relate to incidents of non-sexual harassment or misconduct, as the College has a separate Harassment, Bullying and Victimisation Policy. If there is a dispute about which procedure should apply – Staff or Student – the Head of Employee Relations in HR may decide whether to refer the individual to the student procedure.

3         Manager guidelines

Definitions used within this procedure are available in the Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence Policy.

The College will promptly act on all reports of sexual harassment, violence and misconduct alleged against a member of staff.

3.1       What to do in an emergency
3.1.1     On campus

If you are on campus, the emergency services need to be contacted via the Security team, who will guide them to the right location:

3.1.2     Off campus

Call 999 to access emergency services.

3.2       What to do in a non-emergency

Where there is no longer an immediate threat to an individual’s safety, or after any necessary emergency response has taken place, an individual may choose to get medical support, visit a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), or visit a sexual health clinic following the incident.

An individual may also wish to make a report to the police – where they do this, they must notify the College if they also file a report under this procedure, so that an investigation by the police can take precedence.

4         Disclosure procedure

A disclosure involves an individual choosing to tell someone about their experience of sexual misconduct.A disclosure is not a report.

If possible, disclosures should be made to a Harassment Support Contact, an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Centre team member, or a member of the Imperial College Security team. These parties have undertaken specific training to provide support and guidance in relation to sexual harassment, misconduct and/or violence. Security may advise specific next steps if a Disclosing Party discloses directly to them, as there may be specific protocols that must be adhered to by law or College policy to report an incident.

Outside of these groups, staff are able to make disclosures to any member of College staff whom they trust, which may include their line manager, a colleague, a union representative, a member of the Human Resources division, or a member of the Occupational Health team.

Any staff who receive a disclosure should follow the below three steps:

  • Provide immediate support to the Disclosing Party
  • Signpost the practical steps detailed in this procedure to the Disclosing Party, for example by sharing this procedure with them.
  • Respect the decisions of the Disclosing Party, for example, if they choose not to take any action.

If you feel that you need support providing any of the above steps, contact the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Centre for additional guidance.

If a Disclosing Party chooses to disclose an incident anonymously, they may do so via Report and Support, the online reporting tool.

A disclosure does not automatically result in a report to the College being made under the Disciplinary Policy and Procedure. The College respects the right of the Disclosing Party to choose how to take forward a disclosure. However, in exceptional cases it may have a duty to investigate, should it be considered an appropriate measure.

The College recognises that Disclosing Parties may require time and reflection before making a decision on how to progress. The Disclosing Party will be given the option and support to do one or more of the following:

4.1       Safeguarding

The College reserves the right, and may be under an obligation, to share information in circumstances where it may be necessary to protect any individual or the wider College community from harm or to prevent a crime from taking place. Anyone who has made a face-to-face disclosure will be kept informed if it is felt this action needs to be taken.

The Disclosing Party should be aware that a record will be kept of their disclosure, whether they choose to make a report or not.

4.2       Third-party or witness disclosures

Where the person disclosing is a third party who has not experienced the sexual misconduct, such as a person who has witnessed misconduct taking place or been informed of misconduct, the College will respect the right of the individual who experienced the incident to choose how to take forward a disclosure. A third-party disclosure will only become a report if the individual who experienced the incident wants action to be taken as part of the disclosure.

There may be certain circumstances where the College is required to take appropriate action to prevent potential harm to individuals or the College, based on a risk assessment, which may include acting on information despite or without knowledge of the wishes of the individual(s) who experienced the incident. The Head of Employee Relations will act as the decision-maker as to whether to escalate a disclosure to a report, or a report to an investigation. The College will record if there is a decision from the Disclosing Party to withdraw their disclosure or a witness’s disclosure.

5         Reporting procedure

Reporting is the sharing of information, by a Reporting Party, regarding an incident of sexual misconduct for the purposes of potentially initiating an investigation. The investigation process is set out in the Disciplinary Policy and Procedure. While a disclosure can be anonymous, reporting cannot be anonymous.

Members of staff can use the following routes to report an incident:

Every effort will be made to support the Reporting Party and ensure that their report is addressed sensitively and respectfully. The Employee Relations team will respond to reports within 48 hours (during working hours). For additional support, the Reporting Party can contact the Equality Diversity and Inclusion Centre.

The College’s recognised trade unions, the HR Strategic Support team, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Centre team and Harassment Support Contacts can assist the Reporting Party with preparing a report. A report should include as much information as possible about the incident, the situation in which it took place in, any witnesses to the incident, and the misconduct that took place. Where possible, evidence should be included, such as screenshots or emails, if relevant. The Reporting Party must also include details of the police investigation of the incident, if they have reported the incident to the police.

Upon receiving the report, Employee Relations will undertake an immediate risk assessment on the Reporting Party’s work environment in discussion with the department. Any necessary precautionary measures will be taken, and any reasonable adjustments to the workplace may be made (e.g. proposing that one or more parties is moved to another room or building).

Information within reports will be used for internal reporting, to ensure that patterns are noticed (e.g. to check for multiple incidents relating to students and staff in the same department, and ensure that any necessary measures are taken as a result). As far as practicable, we will seek to protect confidentiality. The members of staff who will have access to this information and will be responsible for extracting this information for reporting are the Director of HR, Head of Employee Relations, and the Employee Relations team. Information relating to staff misconduct will be held by Employee Relations. Reporting Party and Responding Party names will not be included in this reporting.   

Throughout the reporting and investigation procedure, the college’s priority will be the interests of all parties involved with regard to safety, fairness, dignity, privacy and due process. Staff reporting or being accused of sexual violence or misconduct will be able to access support and will receive advice from the Employee Relations team on how to do this.

6         Investigation

Following receipt of a report to Employee Relations, the investigation of sexual harassment, misconduct or violence will be conducted according to the Staff Disciplinary Procedure. This procedure is the same for any type of misconduct, including non-sexual harassment or misconduct. All members of the College are required to cooperate fully with an investigative process; failure to do so may result in disciplinary action.

All procedural steps of an investigation, including parties involved in the investigation process, are outlined in the Staff Disciplinary Policy.

The alleged perpetrator will be offered a member of staff from HR Strategic Support to provide advice and guidance on policy and procedure.

Should a report mention that the incident is being investigated by the police, a College investigation may not be initiated at that point or may be postponed. Any planned risk assessment will still take place, if it has not already. If this is the case, or if it is later reported that the police are investigating, the Reporting Party must seek advice from the member of the Employee Relations team assigned to their report.

Legal professionals are not allowed to accompany any person in any investigations, unless they are employees of the College.

All parties will be kept informed of the progress of the investigation by the Employee Relations team.

7         Outcome

If a staff member is dismissed following the outcome of an investigation decision under the Staff Disciplinary Policy, they will be able to access College support channels while they are still employed and may consult public services after their employment ends.

A member of staff from HR Strategic Support will continue to provide support to either party after the investigation has concluded.

The investigation report will highlight the protocol for confidentiality and communication outside of the workplace. If confidentiality is breached, a complaint may be raised against the staff member who breached it under the Staff Disciplinary Policy. Any considerations for moving/separating staff will depend on the outcome of the investigation report.

8         Monitoring the policy and procedures

This policy and the accompanying procedures have been approved by the College’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Group. The Strategy Group will keep the implementation of this policy under periodic review. 

Senior managers within HR will monitor the effectiveness of the policy, the reporting tools and the role of HSCs for staff. The range and number of cases (including informal) will also be monitored so that action can be taken to address any issues of concern.

The College Trade Unions have been consulted on this document and it complies with the Equality Act 2010, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, and the Prevention of Harassment Act 1997.

A central record will be held of all disclosures (anonymous or named) and reports. The roles with global access to staff cases will be the Head of Employee Relations and the Director of HR. Disclosures made via the Report and Support tool will also be accessible by the System Administrator.