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Code of Conduct

National Union of Students

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Introduction

1. This Code sets out the procedures to be followed in the case of disciplinary action against an individual member of NUS (“the member”)

2. Disciplinary issues arise when problems of conduct are raised and NUS seeks to address them through the agreed procedures. 

3. For the purpose of this procedure, members are defined as in the Core Constitution;

3.1. The Students of a Constituent Member aged 16 or over;

3.2. All NUS Committee Members and members of the National Executive Council;

3.3. All sabbatical elected officers of Constituent Members

3.4. The convenors of NUS Area Organisations. 

4. This procedure also applies to non-members acting in volunteer roles in NUS.

5. This does not include any NUS staff who are subject to disciplinary procedures agreed between ACTS (staff union) and NUS. 

6. The code concerns the disciplinary rules and procedures that operate within NUS. NUS believes that rules and procedures are necessary for promoting orderly relations as well as fairness and consistency in the treatment of individuals. 

7. It is important that Members know what standards of conduct and performance is expected of them. As a result full details of this policy/procedure will be given to NUS members in appropriate settings. 
 

Scope

8. Disciplinary action may be taken in respect of any breach of discipline:

8.1. On NUS premises;

8.2. While the member is using NUS facilities or at an NUS event; or

8.3. While a member is representing or acting on behalf of NUS at any event of whatever kind and wherever held.

8.4. In relation to actions or incidents between two or more representatives of NUS in any or none of the settings above, or in relation to actions or incidents between NUS representatives and staff or stakeholder where the member is participating in an NUS activity, even online.

 

Meaning

9. In this code a breach of discipline means (but is not limited to)

9.1. Threatening or harassing any other person, whether physically or verbally;

9.2. Assaulting any other person;

9.3. Damaging any property, whether deliberately or negligently;

9.4. Acting in contravention of the NUS Equal Opportunities Policies;

9.5. Acting without due regard for the safety of others;

9.6. Acting with dishonesty or with intent to defraud;

9.7. Infringement of equal opportunities, safe space, safeguarding, no platform or staff protocol policy; 

9.8. Recognising the democratic nature of NUS and the power of the supervising trustee at clause 18, bringing the organisation into disrepute.
 

Panel and Supervising Trustee

10. The Trustee Board shall annually appoint a lay trustee to supervise this procedure. They shall also appoint a deputy who will be empowered to exercise any and all of the duties outlined herein. The Supervising Trustee shall annually report to the Trustee Board on the operation of this code.

11. It shall also appoint a pool of people from which to form a panel at disciplinary hearings, which will always consist of:

11.1. A student officer from a students’ union

11.2. A staff member from a students’ union

12. Measures will be out into place to ensure a diverse membership of this committee.

 

Complaints

13. In normal circumstances complaints and grievances will be made to the Supervising trustee c/o the Volunteer Coordinator at NUS. Members and elected officers should refer to the Volunteer Coordinator who will advise on this code.

14. Where an issue arises at a non-democratic NUS event, a special procedure shall apply;

14.1. In advance of each event, NUS will nominate a Complaints Manager who will be responsible for managing complaints received at or about the event.  This will usually be the lead tutor. 

14.2. For all non-residential events with under 25 delegates, one individual will be responsible for managing complaints (the Complaints Manager).

14.3. For all non-residential events with over 25 delegates, the Complaints Manager will be advised by at least one other designated individual (Designated Advisor).

14.4. For all residential events, the Complaints Manager will be advised by a Designated Advisor, who will be an NUS full time officer (the lead NEC member) where NUS officer(s) are in attendance.

14.5. For residential events, delegates will be notified at the start of the event, either in writing or verbally, of the identity of the Complaints Manager and any Designated Advisor.

14.6. At the event, delegates wishing to make a complaint at the event should do so to the Complaints Manager.  Should a complaint be made to a member of staff or officer other than the Complaints Manager, that staff member/elected officer will explain the process and introduce the complainant to the Complaints Manager. 

14.7. The Complaints Manager will take a short statement from the complainant detailing the nature of the complaint and all relevant circumstances, which the complainant will be asked to sign and date.  Unless they can be resolved informally at the event to the satisfaction of all parties, all complaints received in writing will be investigated once the event has finished.

14.8. The Complaints Manager, along with the Designated Advisor, will decide whether any action can or should be taken immediately at the event. At residential events where the Designated Advisor is an NUS full time officer, in the unlikely event that, after discussion, the Complaints Manager and Designated Advisor do not agree on the course of action to be taken, the view of the Designated Advisor (lead NEC member) will prevail. 

14.9. If the Complaints Manager decides that immediate action cannot or should not be taken at the event, the complainant and the person(s) to whom the complaint relates (the respondent(s)) will be notified of this outcome and of the procedure for investigation following the event (see “Investigation of complaints” below). 

14.10. If the Complaints Manager decides that there is a potential risk, for example to delegates, the safe or effective running of the event, or the reputation of NUS, the Complaints Manager will immediately take such action as s/he deems appropriate to reduce that risk at the event.  This could include (without limitation):

  1. informal measures, such as verbal warnings about behaviour and requests for apologies from delegates;
  2. formal warnings about behaviour;
  3. in serious cases, removal of individuals from all or part of the event. 

14.11. Such action, including removal of a delegate, will be without prejudice to the outcome of any subsequent investigation.  Removal will be immediate but will take into account circumstances such as the location of the event and personal travel safety for the individual involved in leaving. Should NUS have to provide transport or other costs associated with the removal of a delegate from a non-democratic event, then a bill will subsequently be sent to the delegate’s union.  Damage to property will also be billed to the delegate’s union.

14.12. Should a delegate be removed from the event, their home union will be notified immediately of the fact of the removal and the nature of the complaint made against the delegate.  However, it will be made clear that this is without prejudice to any subsequent investigation into a complaint.  The home union will also be notified if a formal warning (or other sanction) is given. 

14.13. Whilst the Complaints Manager will consider requests from complainants that their identities should not be revealed to respondents, respondents will normally be informed of the identity of complainants unless there is a compelling reason to maintain anonymity.  Statements of complaint, statements in response, and any other written statements, will normally be provided to the opposite party.

14.14. Where an incident involves a staff member, or if a staff member wishes to make a complaint, the staff protocol procedure must be used.

14.15. Unless they can be dealt with at the event to the satisfaction of all parties, all written complaints about behaviour at a non-democratic event will be investigated using the standard procedure.  Where the complaint is received during the event, it will be investigated once the event has finished. Complaints made after an event should be received by the Complaints Manager within five working days of the end of the event and will be passed to the Democratic Services Coordinator.  If the complainant wishes to add to a statement given to the Complaints Manager at an event, they should do so within the same period.  The complainant should provide copies of any other documents on which s/he wishes to rely.

14.16. In the event that a complaint is made or concern raised about any designated advisor or complaints manager, other officers or staff shall assume equivalent roles as appropriate.
 

Democratic Meetings

15. Where an issue arises at a Democratic Event, the relevant steering committee or Democratic Procedures Committee as appropriate will operate a procedure that, as far as possible, matches the above provisions whilst safeguarding delegates’ right to participate and any constitutional requirements/rights. In particular an impartial person, such as a member of NUS staff, will carry out the investigation.

16. Not all of the Steering Committee shall be part of this process, enabling the others to be part of the Appeals process.

17. Where an issue concerns a member of the Steering committee, as either a complainant or a witness in the complaint, that member shall not take decisions on the complaint.

18. Where an issue concerns a member of the Steering committee as the subject of a code of conduct complaint that member of steering will remove themselves from the democratic aspects of the conference while the investigation takes place.

19. Where a disciplinary matter arises internally, or a matter is referred to the Panel internally, a complaint will be drafted by the relevant senior manager or Full Time Officer that is making the referral or becomes aware of the issue.

 

Criminal Acts

20. Where an allegation is made under this code that, were it to be proved, would constitute a criminal act, the Complaints Manager will give strong consideration as to the early involvement of the Police.

21. Where the complaint involves an individual or group of people as a victim (as opposed to NUS generically or its property) they will be encouraged to raise the matter with the Police, a process which may cause the Code of Conduct process itself to be paused or deadlines amended subject to successful resolution with the Police.

 

Complaints/Raising Issues/Investigations

22. When;

  • a disciplinary matter arises, or
  • a complaint is made, or
  • a matter is referred to the Panel

the Supervising trustee shall first determine whether this policy is appropriate for the issue(s) being raised. In making the judgement the Supervising trustee will be careful to ensure that matters of misconduct are handled through this procedure, but that matters of political performance are rightly referred to the appropriate accountability procedures.

23. If this procedure is used, the Supervising trustee will appoint an impartial third party to investigate the matter. The investigation is to establish the facts and where appropriate obtain statements from any available witnesses. Having carried out an investigation, the investigator will make a report to the Supervising trustee.  The Supervising trustee will then decide whether to drop the matter, arrange informal coaching, advice or counselling, or to arrange for the matter to be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure. 

24. At the start of the investigation, the complainant and respondent will receive a letter of formal notification detailing the complaint being investigated and the name and contact details of the person dealing with the investigation.  If appropriate the respondent’s home students’ union will be informed that the investigation is taking place, and of the nature of the complaint.

25. Respondents are encouraged to submit a written statement in response to the complaint.  The deadline for doing so is seven working days after the date of formal notification of the investigation.  The statement should attach copies of any other documents on which the respondent wishes to rely.

26. Should the respondent not respond to communications or refuse to engage with the investigation process, s/he will be deemed to have nothing to add to the investigation.  

27. The investigator will consider statements and any other documents received from the complainant and respondent as soon as practicable.  NUS aims to confirm the outcome of its investigation to the complainant, the respondent, and other interested parties including the respondent’s home union within 14 working days of the date of the formal notification of the investigation, subject to having been able to contact all relevant parties within this time.  If it is not practicable to comply with these deadlines, for example due to relevant parties being on holiday, they may be extended by discretion, normally up to a maximum of 7 further working days, set.  

28. It should be recognised that being the subject of a complaint can be a difficult time for an individual, and so NUS will undertake the investigation with appropriate discretion, care and consideration.  If appropriate communications with a respondent’s home students’ union will be addressed to the senior staff member or a representative of the trustee board.  NUS will endeavour to ensure all steps in the process remain fair and in line with equal opportunities policy and procedures.

29. No NUS officer or representative should comment publicly on any incident that is being dealt with under this procedure.  Failure to observe this requirement will result in disciplinary action being taken under this code.
 

Informal Procedures

30. Minor cases of misconduct and poor performance are best dealt with informally. It may be necessary to issue an informal warning, but the Supervising trustee will ensure that these areas are discussed with the objective of helping the member to make appropriate improvements. At this stage the member will be made fully aware of what steps need to be taken to address the conduct issue.  They will also be told when this will be reviewed and over what period.

31. Members will be informed of what action will be taken if they fail to improve either their performance or conduct (see below). Informal warnings and/or counselling are not part of the formal disciplinary procedure and members should be made aware of this.  
 

Stages of Disciplinary Action

32. The Supervising trustee will decide whether a matter should be dealt with informally or formally under the disciplinary procedure. Disciplinary panels and appeal panels will be made up of different people for fairness.

33. There are different types of action that can be taken that vary in their severity. The disciplinary hearing will decide the severity of the misconduct and the appropriate action.

34. These are:

  • Formal Verbal warning
  • Written warning
  • Termination or suspension of all membership entitlements or some act of partial suspension, which in the case of employed elected officers could result in contract termination
     

Disciplinary Hearings

35. Before a decision is reached or any disciplinary action taken there will be a disciplinary hearing at which the member will have an opportunity to state their case and answer the allegations that have been made. The appointed investigator will present their findings at the disciplinary hearing.

36. The Panel will hear the case. The member will be notified of a disciplinary hearing in advance and will be provided copies of statements given by any witnesses or other written evidence to be used. Hearings will be arranged as far as possible at a mutually convenient time and place and the member will have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or representative of their choice. 

37. During a disciplinary hearing, the case against the member will be presented in detail by the appointed investigator.  If the member challenges the substance of the witness statements then witnesses may be called to the hearing where the member or their representative will have the opportunity to ask them questions. 

38. Where disciplinary action is necessary the member will be informed of the decision. This will be in writing and will state:

  • Detail of the misconduct that has resulted in the disciplinary action
  • The level of disciplinary action
  • Any recommendations/action required to prevent future disciplinary action
  • The consequence of failure
  • Details of the appeal mechanism
  • If appropriate the length of time the warning will last before it is disregarded.
     

Formal Verbal Warning

39. This will occur in cases of minor infringements and can be given by a member of the Panel. A note of the warning will be kept on file for six months but then disregarded for disciplinary purposes.  The warning will be given in the presence of the panel and the member will be entitled to have a colleague or representative present when the warning is given.
 

Formal Written Warning

40. This will occur when the infringement is more serious or is a failure to improve behaviour during the currency of the previous warning and can be given by the Panel. A copy of the written warning will be kept on file for twelve months but then disregarded for disciplinary purposes. 
 

Suspension of benefits or other sanction

41. If a member’s conduct still fails to improve the final stage may be:

  • Partial Disciplinary suspension of membership entitlements
  • Temporary Disciplinary suspension of some or all membership entitlements. Where a person, in a paid role, is suspended pending a hearing or whilst an investigation is carried out they will continue to be paid by the organisation.
  • Disciplinary termination of all membership entitlements

42. The decision to suspend or terminate entitlements (as listed above) is taken by the Panel. The member will be informed as soon as is reasonably practicable, of the following:

  • The decision and the reasons for the termination or suspension of entitlements,
  • The date on which the agreement between NUS and the member will terminate,
  • Information on the right of appeal including how to make the appeal and to whom. 

43. The decision to suspend or terminate entitlements shall be confirmed in writing. 

44. At any of the above stages the panel may resolve to:

  • recommend that the member should undergo training, where appropriate arranged through his/her home student union.
  • exclusion from some or all future NUS events.
     

Summary Termination of Entitlements

45. In rare circumstances a member’s entitlements may be summarily terminated if it is established that after investigation and hearing that there has been an act of gross misconduct, major breach of duty or conduct that brings the organisation into disrepute. In some cases data received by a students’ union may be used to generate a complain that would cause a temporary suspension under the code.

46. Acts that may constitute gross misconduct are:

  • Theft, fraud and deliberate falsification of records.
  • Physical violence or threats
  • Deliberate damage to organisational or personal property
  • Serious incapability whilst representing NUS brought about through alcohol or illegal drugs
  • Misuse of organisations property or name
  • Bringing the organisation into serious disrepute
  • Serious infringement of health and safety rules
  • Serious bullying or harassment
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Serious infringement of equal opportunities, safe space, no platform, safeguarding or staff protocol policy

47. Because the ability to hold elected office in NUS is dependent upon membership status and one of the rights and privileges of membership, termination of all entitlements would represent a termination of that holding of office. In the case of employed elected officers, this would therefore represent a termination of contract.
 

Suspension

48. In certain circumstances for example cases involving gross misconduct, where relationships have broken down or where it is considered there are risks to property or the NUS’ responsibilities to other parties, consideration should be given to a period of suspension of membership rights with or without entitlements whilst an unhindered investigation is conducted. 

49. Such a suspension should only be imposed after careful consideration and should be reviewed regularly to ensure that it is not unnecessarily protracted. Excluding a member from participation in NUS activities is not in itself a form of disciplinary action whilst the investigation is progressing. The member will be entitled to seek advice, for example legal advice, the cost of which will be met by the member.

50. Because the ability to hold elected office in NUS is dependent upon membership status and one of the rights and privileges of membership, suspension of entitlements would represent a suspension of that holding of office.
 

Appeals

51. A member will notify the Panel of their intention to appeal against disciplinary action within six working days of receipt of the confirmation letter. The appeal should be made in writing stating the grounds upon which the appeal is to be made and be received by the Panel within a further 10 working days.

52. An appeal hearing will normally be held within ten working days of receipt of the letter of appeal. An appeal will be heard by a panel (see below), who have previously had no involvement in the case. The panel shall be made of the following:

  • A Student Trustee
  • A Lay Trustee
  • A student officer from a students’ union

53. A member will have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or a representative of their choice. The member will be notified of the results of the appeal in writing within five working days of the hearing.

54. Members should note that an appeal is designed to remedy any defects in the disciplinary process rather than repeat the investigation of the disciplinary process. Therefore grounds for appeal are:

  • Unfairness of judgement
  • The severity of the penalty
  • New evidence coming to light
  • Procedural irregularities
  • Extenuating circumstances
  • Bias of disciplining officer
  • Unfairness of the interview

55. Possible outcomes of an appeal

  • The appeal is upheld and the disciplinary sanction reduced or removed
  • The appeal is upheld and there is a request for a re-investigation or rehearing
  • The appeal is denied and the original decision is upheld
     

Recording Discipline

56. Accurate records will be kept detailing:

  • any breach of disciplinary rules or unsatisfactory performance,
  • the Member defence or mitigation,
  • the action taken and the reasons for it,
  • whether an appeal was lodged, its outcome and any subsequent developments.

57. These records are to be kept confidential and retained in line with the above disciplinary procedure and the Data Protection Act 1998. Copies of any meeting records will normally be given to the individual concerned (in certain circumstances information shall be withheld for example to protect a witness)