As part of the University’s commitment to attract, recruit and retain the highest calibre staff, this guidance sets out how to manage issues relating to the employment of relatives and partners. It intends to ensure that all staff are treated fairly and that best practice is followed in recruitment and employment, and that conflicts of interest, or perceived conflicts of interest, are avoided.
The University’s Conflict of Interest policy sets out useful definitions of “immediate family” and “close personal relationship”:
‘immediate family’ is defined as follows: spouse or civil partner, son, daughter. However, the ‘close personal relationship’ giving rise to an interest could extend to the following (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): unmarried partner, parent, brother, sister, grandparent, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, the (unrelated) child of an unmarried partner, as well as half and step members of family.’
This guidance builds on the above (non-exhaustive) list and, for ease of reference, describes these relationships as ‘relatives and partners’.
The Conflict of Interest policy sets out possible strategies to manage conflicts of interest – the following may be particularly relevant to recruitment and employment:
- ‘not taking part in discussions of certain matters;
- not taking part in decisions in relation to certain matters;
- referring to others certain matters for decision;
- resolving not to act as a particular person’s supervisor;
- standing aside from any involvement in a particular project; and/or
- declaring an interest to a sponsor or third party.’
1) Working with relatives or partners
Where an individual is appointed to a post which it is expected would be managed by a relative or partner, arrangements should be made to ensure that there is not a line management relationship between them. If a line management relationship seems to be unavoidable, then the HR Business Partner should be consulted about alternatives – one option could be to put in place an independent senior manager to have oversight of any decisions where the line manager may be conflicted (or perceived to be conflicted).
Where there are existing line management relationships between relatives or partners, alternative line management should be put in place, seeking HR Business Partner advice where necessary.
It is also important to ensure that relatives or partners are not making decisions on HR matters directly affecting each other, for example, disciplinary or grievance cases, training and development opportunities, contract extensions, special paid leave, expense claims or decisions involving pay and reward. In such cases, or any other instances where an individual finds that they may need to take an HR decision which would affect, or could be perceived to affect, a relative or partner or where working closely with relatives or partners is perceived to cause issues for others, these should be considered in the light of the University’s Conflict of Interest policy. At a minimum, the Departmental Administrator/HAF or Head of Department should review the case before any decision is actioned. HR Business Partners can also advise.
2) Relationships which develop within the workplace
Where a personal relationship develops between two existing members of staff who work closely together within the same department or unit or who have a line management relationship, this must be declared in writing to the head of department or equivalent at the earliest opportunity, in accordance with sections 6.1 and 6.2 of the Conflict of Interest policy. Arrangements should be put in place to amend line management arrangements as set out in section i) above.
3) If personal relationships in the workplace end
If personal relationships between existing members of staff end, the University’s harassment policy may be relevant. The University does not tolerate any form of harassment or victimisation and considers harassment to be a serious offence. All members of the University community have the responsibility to behave professionally towards others and have a personal responsibility for complying with the University’s Harassment Policy.
Any complaints of harassment should be dealt with according to the University’s Harassment Procedure: Harassment Policy | Equality and Diversity Unit (ox.ac.uk)
Complaints relating to a breach of the University’s Equality Policy which do not amount to harassment should be handled under the grievance procedure.