How to review your dignity at work policy

A dignity at work policy can help your school deal with incidents of workplace harassment, bullying and victimisation in a confident, consistent way. Get advice on how to review your policy and what to look out for.

Last reviewed on 8 April 2024
School types: AllSchool phases: AllRef: 38510
Contents
  1. Your responsibilities
  2. Key points to look out for 
  3. Key questions to challenge the policy
  4. Download our model policy
  5. Sources

Key facts

  • This policy is non-statutory
  • You can delegate the approval of this policy to an individual or committee
  • The board determines the review cycle
  • The headteacher and senior leadership team (SLT) will write and be responsible for the implementation of this policy

Your responsibilities

Employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Whether your board is the employer depends on your school type – see what your board's legal responsibility is. 

Your school is also required to publish information to demonstrate how it's complying with the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) in eliminating discrimination and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010.

You don't have to have a dignity at work policy, but having one can support your school to meet these requirements.

Key points to look out for 

This policy isn't statutory, so its contents will vary depending on your school's approach and context. We've suggested what might be included in this policy, based on:

This article is not meant as a guide for writing a policy, since that’s your senior leaders’ job, and you don't need to cross-check your school's policy with the above guidance or legislation. Instead, use this article to give you a sense of what to look for when reviewing your policy.

Definitions of key terms and examples of unacceptable behaviour

These sections will help keep everyone on the same page. 

Our model policy defines harassment, bullying and victimisation.

It also includes a list of what's considered unacceptable behaviour, such as insulting someone verbally or misusing power. There are also different ways in which the behaviour can happen, such as face-to-face, via email, social media or communication platforms such as WhatsApp.

Reasonable management

This section covers the difference between reasonable management, which the policy says is firm and fair, and behaviours associated with harassment, bullying or victimisation.

Roles and responsibilities

This covers who's responsible for what. For example, as a governing board, your policy could explain that you're responsible for:

  • Ensuring complaints and allegations are handled according to procedures
  • Holding the headteacher to account for the implementation of the policy, and making sure it's reviewed and kept updated
  • Dealing with complaints raised by or about the headteacher

What to do if you're being harassed, bullied or victimised, and procedures for managing complaints

This section of the policy covers what to do if someone in the school workforce is being harassed, bullied or victimised by an employee, stakeholder or pupil. It then explains how to submit a complaint, the investigation procedure and appeals.

It's up to your school to decide whether a formal complaint will be dealt with under its dignity at work policy or grievance procedures. Your senior leaders will need to decide this on a case-by-case basis (this is also noted in section 7 of our model policy, see below).

Confidentiality

This outlines how and when your school will respect confidentiality, and how information will be processed in line with UK data protection law. 

Key questions to challenge the policy

1. How are staff made aware of this policy and any updates?

The main purpose of this policy is that the 'school workforce' knows:

  • What constitutes unacceptable behaviour
  • What their role is in preventing it
  • What steps they can take if they're subject to bullying, harassment or victimisation

Your headteacher should be able to tell you:

  • How they make the school workforce aware of the policy, as well as any updates or changes
  • How they've made sure the policy is as clear as possible to follow

Note: while our policy applies to the entire school workforce and defines who this includes, your policy might be different, so always check.

2. How will we know this policy is working and that it's being properly implemented?

Your headteacher should be able to reassure you of this. For example, they might explain how cases of bullying or harassment have been successfully handled and what they’ve learnt from this. 

Download our model policy

Model policy: dignity at work

This model document is not meant as a guide for writing or updating your policy, since that's your senior leaders' job. Instead, use it to give you a sense of what a good policy looks like.

Our model policy is from our sister service, The Key Leaders, and:

  • Has been approved by Forbes Solicitors
  • Is designed for your senior leaders to adapt to suit your school or trust's context
  • Was developed in consultation with NAHT and our associate expert Clive Dobbin

Please note: your school should consult with the unions represented at your school before implementing any new policy regarding the employment of staff.

Sources

Clive Dobbin is a partner at Paris Smith LLP solicitors in Southampton, where he is head of the employment department. He has extensive experience of advising schools and colleges, as well as considerable experience as a governor. He has also acted as the clerk to the governors of another school.

The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.