Internet Explorer is no longer supported by Microsoft. To browse the NIHR site please use a modern, secure browser like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.

NIHR Policy on Bullying and Harassment


Published: 12 February 2020

Version: V1.0

Print this document

There is no place for bullying and harassment in the workplace or related working environment. NIHR expects that, across the wide range of organisations and people it funds, supports and collaborates with, there are clear policies in place to address bullying and harassment in order to promote a culture of inclusivity and tolerance which enables people to thrive.

What is bullying and harassment?

NIHR uses the same definition of bullying and harassment as UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) which defines it as “an unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended”. It can include a continuum of repeated behaviours that:

  • convey hostility
  • force unwanted attention, objectification, exclusion, or second-class status
  • have a negative effect on the targeted person
  • people may find difficult to defend themselves against (for example, because of a hierarchical relationship with the perpetrator).

UKRI and NIHR are adopting this definition as a starting point and will work with others to refine it further so that it can be used to measure the problem and drive and monitor change.

To whom does this policy apply?

NIHR expectations around bullying and harassment apply to all organisations and individuals defined within the NIHR people framework. This includes:

  • those in receipt of NIHR funding and/or support, including through NIHR research and training programmes
  • organisations in receipt of infrastructure funding e.g. Biomedical Research Centres, those hosting Local Clinical Research Networks
  • people who sit on our panels and committees
  • those contributing to and/or participating in NIHR- supported studies
  • Staff based within NIHR coordinating centres.

Expectations of organisations and individuals

As a minimum standard, we expect all organisations in receipt of NIHR funding to have clear policies in place which detail their approach to bullying and harassment (including bullying and harassment via social media) and which ensure they are meeting the expectations set out within the Equality Act. These policies should be publicly available (e.g. published on their websites) and actively drawn to the attention of everyone within the organisation. Detailed procedures should be provided, including a named contact for anyone wishing to report a suspected incident, investigation protocols, and timeframes in which individuals can expect to have their concerns dealt with.

It is expected that organisations take full account of guidance from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). Organisations should be able to demonstrate how their framework meets or exceeds the ACAS guidance.

In addition, organisations in receipt of NIHR funding are expected to ensure research connected to NIHR support is conducted in accordance with the Concordat to Support Research Integrity, of which NIHR is a signatory. This includes a whistleblowing policy.

Supporting organisations to achieve best practice

NIHR is working closely with other funders to promote best practice. For example, UKRI has already published an evidence review of bullying and harassment in research and innovation environments that organisations in receipt of NIHR funding are encouraged to read and act upon when developing their own policies and procedures. NIHR is committed to updating its position as further evidence and guidance is developed.

When expectations are not met

NIHR is not an employer so will not take responsibility for investigating claims of bullying and harassment. NIHR may, however, take action where it becomes apparent that organisations are consistently failing to comply with the Equality Act. It should be noted that the requirement for policies and procedures to be in place which ensure that organisations meet obligations under the Act is already a condition of NIHR funding for research and career development. NIHR plans to strengthen these conditions of contract in 2020.

Developing our approach

NIHR will work with UKRI which plans to publish updated terms and conditions of engagement in relation to bullying and harassment. It is anticipated that, for NIHR, new initiatives will take account of all areas of the “NIHR People Framework”. As part of this, we welcome feedback on the approach outlined here, which will be kept under continuous review.