Sharing data in harassment cases

At Culture Shift, we envisage a world of work and study that is safe, happy and supportive for everyone, everywhere. We exist to remove barriers to reporting, and create an environment where people will speak out if they experience or witness unacceptable behaviour of any kind. Unacceptable behaviour is preventable, but it requires political will, effective resources and sustained action. We work with our partners to take proactive and preventative intervention for individual cases, and to tackle broader trends. 

Sadly, for too many students and staff working in Higher Education today, this is not the case. As highlighted by countless courageous survivors and campaigners, and recently by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the October 2019 report Tackling Racial Harassment: Universities Challenged, when people find the strength and courage to make a formal complaint, they are often left completely wanting from the process, unable to get closure because Institutions feel their hands are tied and they cannot share outcomes from harassment cases as they would be in breach of GDPR.  

Whilst institutions must meet their obligations under the DPA and the GDPR, data protection is not a barrier to disclosing outcomes in harassment cases, it simply provides a framework for disclosure. We echo the EHRC recommendations that universities should share information on both outcomes and sanctions, where it is appropriate to do so, in accordance with data protection legislation.              

We have produced this guidance to help increase understanding around data sharing to support effective complaints handling and redress. Sharing this information will help students and staff feel satisfied that the complaints process was worthwhile, and that pursuing their complaint will help create safer places of work and study. This is critical to providing a sense of closure for reporting parties, and is a key element in taking a trauma-informed approach.

We know through our work with the sector that the biggest reason people report anonymously is that they believe nothing will be done if they make a named report and pursue a formal complaint. It is one of the biggest barriers to reporting. Adopting this guidance and sharing outcomes is the first step in breaking that barrier down and increasing the chances of survivors speaking out to your institutions.

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