The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has published a new set of policies on bullying and harassment, including potentially applying sanctions to organisations that it funds.
BHF has extended its conditions for all organisations that receive grants from the charity with guidance on how they must comply with its bullying and harassment policies.
It expects all institutions that receive funding from it to:
- Have a policy in place that clearly sets out the standards of behaviour it expects from staff and its procedure for responding to complaints, including a first point of contact;
- Make sure there is an equivalent policy in place at any sub-awardee organisation, if relevant;
- Investigate allegations of bullying and harassment in an impartial, fair and timely manner, ensuring the rights of employees involved are protected and take appropriate action;
- Tell the BHF’s head of research funds when a decision is made to formally investigate an allegation of bullying or harassment and subsequently the outcome of the investigation;
- When an investigation is completed, tell BHF’s head of research whether the allegation was upheld, and if so, the findings of the investigation, and any sanctions.
BHF may apply its own additional sanctions to the employee of an organisation, if a bullying or harassment allegation has been upheld, such as withdrawing funding from the grant holder or requiring the staff member to attend workplace behaviour training.
It may also apply sanctions to a grant recipient if it fails to respond to a bullying or harassment complaint promptly and objectively or if it fails to keep BHF informed.
BHF may suspend funding to a grant recipient “in extreme cases”.
Policies not commonplace
Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the BHF, said the policies were not intended to “overburden” the organisations it funds.
He said: “We know the vast majority of scientists carry out their research with integrity and professional conduct. These new policies simply spell out our approach if behaviour falls below what we expect.
“Medical research charities have worked closely together to make sure we have a unified approach, ensuring that host institutions are not held to different standards by different funders.
“We’re encouraging all those involved in research to move towards these positive changes in a way that does not overburden host institutions, but is meaningful and supportive for researchers and research integrity.”
The Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) said BHF’s new policies were not commonplace and that only the largest medical research charities had them in place.
A spokesperson said: “Bullying and harassment has no place in medical and health research. It can directly affect the quality of the research and have a destructive effect on the research environment.
“As funders of nearly half of all publicly funded medical and health research in the UK, it is important that AMRC members take this issue seriously and contribute to a culture of dignity and respect in the individuals we fund.”