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Employer’s checklist

As a manager you have a responsibility and an obligation to act if you are made aware of something that could constitute abusive conduct. Here you will learn about the process for investigating the event and what is important to consider.

Contents on this page: 

  • Act as soon as you are made aware of abusive conduct
  • Checklist in the event of abusive conduct
  • Start an investigation
  • Manage expectations of the individuals concerned
  • Differences in the management of cases involving employees and students
  • Reprisals are prohibited

Act as soon as you become aware of abusive conduct

When you as a manager with an employer role are made aware of conduct that could constitute victimisation, harassment or sexual harassment (hereafter referred to as abusive conduct), you must determine what has transpired as quickly as possible. You are not alone in the process; rather, it is recommended that you seek support from your local HR officer as soon as possible. 

The HR officer is named as the primary support function on this page, but the work environment coordinator, coordinator for the SFAD team or a similar support function at your department or faculty can also provide support.

The investigation may take different forms depending on what has happened. Sometimes the situation can be easily remedied by you having a discussion with each of the individuals concerned to clear up any misunderstandings or similar. You are always to document that the discussions took place, what caused the situation and which measures you implemented, but you do not need to conduct a more extensive investigation. Nothing needs to be entered into the document registration system and a report does not need to be written, but it is important to keep your notes organised in case the conduct is repeated.

Sometimes the incident might have a more serious or complex nature, and in these cases, you need to start a structured investigation. 

Read more about structured investigations

Checklist in the event of abusive conduct

  1. Investigate the conduct: Ascertain what has happened as soon as you are made aware of conduct that could be abusive in some form. Speak to the individuals concerned, appoint an impartial and knowledgeable investigator if required and start an abusive conduct case in the document registration system. There is an illustration further down with a list of potential investigators, depending on the event.
  2. Document the process: Write down what has happened and save the information in the case. What has happened? When did it happen? Who was involved? Which measures did you take, when and with whom? Remember to write in an objective manner. Save the minutes from the discussions and any other documentation that arrives during the case. If you start a structured investigation, all of the documentation relevant to the investigation is to be registered in an investigation case.
  3. Implement measures: Make certain that any abusive conduct stops. Measures might include a reprimand, clarified procedures and roles or an in-depth analysis of the work environment. You cannot wait to deal with the situation until the investigation is finished. Speak to your local HR officer for advice and support regarding urgent measures. 
  4. Follow up the conduct: Make certain that the behaviour has stopped by speaking to everyone concerned. If the measures have not sufficed, you must implement further measures to stop the behaviour.
  5. Prevent similar events: As a manager you are responsible for ensuring that active preventative work against abusive conduct is in place at the workplace. You have several support functions at your disposal. Important examples include the SFAD coordinator at the department or faculty, the work environment coordinator and your local HR officer. You are responsible for ensuring local procedures are in place for handling abusive conduct. Among other things, the procedures are to clarify where an individual can turn if they feel targeted.

All types of abusive behaviour are prohibited at Lund University. This is clarified in both the Equal Opportunities Plan for Lund University, 2022-2027 and the Work Environment Policy. As a manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that all employees are familiar with the prohibition and understand what it means.

In extreme cases and when the conduct is of a very serious nature, you might need to contact the Security and Environment Division to manage the situation. In circumstances of this kind, thorough and structured documentation can be submitted directly to the Staff Disciplinary Board or the Government Disciplinary Board for Higher Officials.

Start an investigation

As a manager your obligation to investigate and take measures applies to all types of abusive conduct that arise at work or have a close association to work. This means that the obligation – depending on the situation – might apply to events that arise outside the University, for example during a business trip or at a get-together after work. It also applies to events during someone’s free time, for example on the way to work or on social media, that affect the work environment negatively or lead to the occurrence of abusive conduct.

You and your support function can together try to assess to what extent the event affects the work environment and whether anything needs to be investigated. Be aware, however, that you are not to conduct a criminal investigation. The police will conduct this type of investigation if required. Neither are you to judge or blame anyone; rather, you are to put a stop to the conduct and prevent it from recurring.

It can be difficult to investigate conduct that you become aware of a long time after the fact. The individuals concerned and any witnesses will generally not remember exactly what happened, and it can be difficult to gather information in other ways. You are, however, obligated to do what you can to gather any available information so that you can determine whether the conduct can be prevented in the future. It is not reasonable to investigate anything that happened several years ago. You need to focus on what has happened and is happening now, and on what you can do about it.

The final thing you need to do in the case is to enter a decision in which you summarise your assessment of whether the conduct constitutes victimisation, harassment or sexual harassment – or none of these. You must also clarify that you will take measures to ensure a good work environment for the individuals concerned regardless of your assessment. The decision closes the abusive conduct case. Below is an illustration of the entire investigation process.

If you need to implement individual measures for employees, for example by establishing an action plan or even escalating the event to the Staff Disciplinary Board, you need to open an individual case to manage the measures. Speak to your local HR officer for support.

Read more about results, measures and preventative work

Manage expectations of the individuals concerned

An investigation into abusive conduct involves obtaining a basis for the measures needed to put a stop to the abusive conduct and preventing its recurrence. Expectations on the part of the individual who feels targeted can sometimes be very emotional in that they want quick and drastic measures to be taken against the individual who they feel targeted them. You need to be clear in that the process generally involves the individual who is being accused – if the investigation supports doing so – being reprimanded and then being given the opportunity to demonstrate they can improve their conduct.

The individual being accused can become very troubled and stressed by the accusation and by the investigation into their conduct. In this case you also need to communicate which measures are most common. It is rare that conduct is serious enough for measures beyond a reprimand to be required.

Seek assistance from your local HR officer or other support function who is better versed in managing instances of misconduct and on which measures can be implemented to improve the work environment.

Differences in the management of cases involving employees and students

How a case of abusive conduct is managed might depend on whether the individual being accused of the conduct is an employee or a student. The reason for the difference is primarily due to the relationship between an employer and an employee generally being both closer and more long term than that between an education provider and a student.

As an employer, the University is equipped to implement many more measures, as well as more vigorous ones, to deal with a poor work environment than it is to deal with students who negatively impact the study environment. Below is an illustration of who takes care of what in the event of perceived abusive conduct.

Abusive conduct cases are managed by different people with different types of support depending on whether the individual who feels targeted is an employee or a student.

If an employee is perceived as targeting another employee or a student, you are to follow the instructions on this page. If a student is perceived as targeting a fellow student, a member of teaching staff or another employee, you are to follow the instructions for the education provider.

Read more about the Education provider’s checklist

If a manager is perceived as targeting someone

It might be the case that a manager is perceived as targeting an employee or a management colleague. In this case, it is always the line manager one step up who manages the case. For example, if a head of office is perceived as targeting an employee, it is the head of department, head of division or equivalent who is to start the investigation. 

The same applies if a manager feels targeted by an employee – it is the manager’s line manager who is to start the investigation. The image below illustrates who takes care of what when an abusive conduct case pertains to a manager.

Reprisals are prohibited

It is prohibited to subject an employee or student to reprisals because they have been part of an investigation, been targeted or been accused of abusive conduct. Reprisals entail someone being punished or treated negatively as a reaction to them calling attention to or reporting conduct that could constitute victimisation, harassment or sexual harassment.

Reprisals might be actions or statements that cause damage or discomfort on the part of the individual who made a report or called attention to an event. Reprisals might also pertain to actions that worsen the individual’s conditions or circumstances at the workplace.

It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that everyone at the workplace is aware that reprisals are prohibited. If an employee violates the prohibition, this could be classified as misconduct and entail a breach of the employment contract.