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NUS Code of Conduct

Please use this form to raise a complaint using the NUS Code of Conduct

Membership Code of Conduct Policy Statement

We are striving to create and promote healthy political spaces and healthy, respectful working relationships which are vital to the success of the organisation and our governance. To support this we have written rules and procedures so that members, volunteers and Representatives understand the standards expected in order to live our values as well as ensuring fairness and consistency in the treatment of individuals. The Membership Code of Conduct policy & process should provide a framework within which NUS can maintain satisfactory standards of conduct.

Purpose

The Creation and Championing of Healthy Political Politics

NUS aims to champion Healthy Politics. Elected officers and committee members are privileged to hold public platforms to represent students and lobby and campaign on the issues that matter to those students the most. The way they go about delivering their work is just as important as what they deliver as they become role models of student politics and activism for other student leaders and students.

Unhealthy political tactics or behaviours have no place in our movement and consideration of any conduct will always include questions such as ‘what example does this set to other student leaders and students about how to get things done?’, ‘what impact does this behaviour have on trust in student politics?’ and ‘how does this make people feel about getting involved in student politics?’

This code aims to ensure good standards of conduct of those who participate as members, volunteers and NUS representatives in NUS spaces. 

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

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

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 

This policy applies to:

  • Individual members of NUS (“the member”) as defined in the NUS UK Articles and Rules:
  • The Students of a Constituent Member (SU) aged 16 or over
  • The Committee Members and members of the National Executive Council
  • The Sabbatical Officers of Constituent Members (SU) and the Sabbatical Convenors of NUS Area Organisations
  • Non-members acting in volunteer roles for NUS.

    • This policy does not apply to any NUS staff who are subject to the NUS Staff Disciplinary policy and procedures or NUS full time or part-time paid elected officers who are subject to the NUS Officer Disciplinary policy. This is because they are employees of NUS and the rules of employment law apply.
    • Complaints by members in relation to NUS Staff or officers should be made in writing to the individual’s manager or Head of Department. If in doubt, the complaint can be submitted to the People Team at peopleteamadmin@nus.org.uk. Informal feedback can be provided via the same channels. 
    • Our external whistleblowing reporting line provided via Expolink (contact details below) may be used as an alternative reporting route i.e. where individuals do not wish to use the internal process outlined above.
    • A report may be submitted via Expolink as follows:
  • Call the hotline: 0800 374 199 
  • Visit the online portal: wrs.expolink.co.uk/nus
  • E-Mail: nus@expolink.co.uk

N.B.  Expolink is an independent organisation. Its employees are impartial and are trained to handle sensitive disclosures and encourage individuals to share their concerns in confidence.

Where a staff member wishes to make a complaint, they should refer to the staff protocol policy.

When does this policy apply?

This policy applies to conduct of individuals referred to in section 2:

  • When acting or perceived to be acting on behalf of NUS in any capacity
  • When attending a formally organised NUS event (democratic or non-democratic)
  • In social media spaces both public and private linked to NUS events, campaigns or work
  • When interacting with any NUS staff member, Full Time Officer or volunteer (both appointed and elected)
  • Relating to any conduct of an elected or appointed volunteer of NUS that could be a potential breach of their volunteer agreement, our policies that apply to volunteers and/or the Staff Protocol.

Issues around conduct will always be referred to the constituent member (SU) that the individual is a member of. This includes incidents that may occur whilst event delegates are travelling or staying overnight in order to attend an NUS Event.

NUS will not usually investigate a complaint that relates to an incident that is more than 12 months old, except in exceptional circumstances.

Standards of Conduct

Misconduct that would constitute a breach of this policy includes (but is not limited to):

  • Activity which contravenes NUS’ Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy
  • A breach of relevant Policies and Procedure such as the Staff Protocol policy
  • Creating an intimidating or hostile environment for others including unhealthy political tactics or breaches of the social media policy
  • Acting without due regard for the health, safety and wellbeing of others
  • Conduct that contravenes the standards of professional behaviour required
  • Neglect of duty
  • Breach of Staff Protocol Policy
  • Breach of confidentiality

Acts that may constitute gross misconduct (but not limited to) 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 organisation’s 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 safe space, no platform, safeguarding or staff protocol policy
  • Any action that constitutes a criminal offence
  • A serious breach of social media policy rules
  • Serious breaches of confidentiality

For appointed and elected NUS volunteers this also includes:

  • Any breach of a NUS volunteer agreement or NUS policies applicable to volunteers

Making a complaint

Complaints should be made using the online complaints form outlining which of the conduct standards have been breached and clearly outlining the resolution being sought.

In normal circumstances complaints will be addressed to the Supervising Trustee and will be received by the Governance Team who will initially forward the complaint onto the People Team who will provide advice regarding the complaints process.  Complaints will be dealt with on an informal basis wherever possible.

If the matter cannot be dealt with on an informal basis, the complaint will be investigated by NUS via the Supervising Trustee. In exceptional circumstances, NUS will appoint an external investigator. 

Complaints at Non-Democratic Events

If you are a delegate at an NUS event and wish to make a complaint about another delegate you can talk to an NUS Staff member who will direct your complaint to the most senior staff member available.

In advance of each event, NUS will nominate a Complaints Manager (who may be the leader at the event) and will be responsible for managing complaints received at or about the event. The Complaints Manager will seek support from the People Team as required.

 

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.

The Complaints Manager will decide whether any action can or should be taken immediately at the event. Wherever possible, complaints will be resolved informally at the event. If this is not possible, complaints will be investigated once the event has finished.

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.

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 they deem appropriate to reduce that risk at the event. This could include (without limitation):

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

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. Any damage to property will also be billed to the delegate’s union.

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. The SU will be expected to work with NUS to investigate the complaint and provide an outcome.   

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.

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 Governance Team. 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 they wish to rely.

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 Events  

Where an issue arises at a Democratic Event, the procedure will, insofar as possible, match the above provisions.  A politically impartial person, such as a member of NUS staff, will act as the complaints manager, working alongside the Chair of the Democratic Procedures Committee

In serious cases, as outlined above, individuals will be removed from all or part of the event. This may therefore mean that the individual will not be entitled to vote on any motions or deliver a speech if relevant. If the individual is standing in election or standing to be a volunteer or an Officer/Representative, the Democratic Procedures Committee will be informed. 

No NUS officer or representative should comment publicly on any incident that is being dealt with under this procedure. Further information regarding expectations and accountability of NUS Representatives and Members can be found in the Staff Protocol Policy. Failure to observe this requirement will result in disciplinary action.

Informal Process

In some circumstances complaints can be resolved informally. Relatively minor cases of one off misconduct are best dealt with informally initially by a member of the NUS Leadership Team. The conversation will include the expected standards of behaviour and how the individual has fallen short of these standards. It should be made clear than any further examples of misconduct would lead to the formal disciplinary process.

If, during an informal discussion, it becomes obvious that the matter may be more serious, then the matter will be investigated under the formal disciplinary process.

If it is felt that informal action has been exhausted without an improvement or if the offence requires more serious action, then formal disciplinary process should be initiated.

Formal Disciplinary Process

The formal disciplinary process should be used where there has been an alleged breach of the general standards of conduct that could constitute misconduct or gross misconduct (see section 4.1).

The following areas also need to be considered:

Allegations involving young people

Where an individual is under investigation for allegations of abuse against children and/or young people, the Complaints Manager/Supervising Trustee should liaise with the Head of HR and the NUS Safeguarding Lead and reference should also be made to the Safeguarding Policy.

Criminal Offences

Where an allegation is made under this code that may could constitute a criminal act, the Complaints Manager/Supervising Trustee will ensure that the matter is reported to the Police and other relevant statutory agencies. This process may cause the Code of Conduct process to be paused or deadlines amended subject to successful resolution with the Police.

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. NUS cannot investigate allegations of a potentially criminal nature without them being reported to police. Again, this situation may cause the Code of Conduct process itself to be paused or deadlines amended subject to successful resolution with the Police.

Suspension

At any stage of the disciplinary process, the individual may be suspended from ‘membership’ (or volunteer responsibilities where this applies to non-members in volunteer roles), whilst further investigations take place. The decision to suspend ‘membership’ will not be taken lightly or without careful consideration of all the circumstances and the nature of the complaint/allegation made. Excluding a member from participation in NUS activities is not in itself a form of disciplinary action whilst the investigation is progressing.

Most disciplinary situations will not require suspension. It should only be considered exceptionally if there is a serious allegation of misconduct and:

  • there are reasonable grounds to believe that the member or volunteer being investigated might seek to tamper with or destroy evidence, influence witnesses and/or sway an investigation into the disciplinary allegation;
  • if working relationships have severely broken down to the point that there is a genuine risk to other officers, NUS staff, members, stakeholders, suppliers or NUS operation if the individual continues to participate as a member or volunteer;
  • the member or volunteer is the subject of criminal proceedings which may affect whether they can do their job.

Only a lay member of the NUS UK Board has the authority to suspend. However, due to availability (for example at an event) there may be circumstances when a member of the NUS Leadership Team can suspend and this will be reported to the lay Trustees.

Suspension means that an individual must not carry out any work as a volunteer (elected or appointed), participate in any NUS elections or democratic voting process, attend NUS events (democratic or non-democratic) or committee meetings or act on behalf of NUS in any way.

The period of suspension should be as short as practical to achieve the desired outcome, i.e. to complete a thorough investigation. The investigating manager should review the terms of the suspension regularly and at each review should consider again whether an alternative to suspension is possible. 

All periods of suspension must be confirmed in writing to the individual and will include an outline of the allegations made against them. It also should be made clear to the individual that suspension does not imply guilt and is not considered to be a disciplinary sanction.

Formal Investigations

When a disciplinary matter arises, a full and thorough investigation will be undertaken to establish the facts of the case. An investigating manager will be appointed which will be a member of the NUS Leadership Team with support of a member of the Governance or People Team.

The individual will be advised of the incident which occurred or the nature of the complaint against them and be given the opportunity to submit a written statement in response to the allegations or speak to the investigator to fully state their case during the investigation before any recommendation is made. The investigator will set a deadline for submission of responses which will usually be 7 calendar days after the date of notification of the investigation. The individual will also have the opportunity to identify witnesses that they believe should be interviewed during the investigation.

At this stage the investigating manager would also again consider if suspension is required based upon the information provided during the investigation.

Should the individual not respond to communications or refuse to engage with the investigation process, they will be deemed to have nothing to add to the investigation.

All witnesses should be made aware that they may be required to participate in any formal process that may ensue.

The investigating manager will decide if the issue can be dealt with at an informal level, or if there is a requirement for it to be dealt with at a formal disciplinary meeting.  This would be confirmed in writing to the individual following completion of the investigation.  

If, following the investigation, the investigating manager believes a formal meeting is needed, they should produce an investigation report. This will set out the information obtained from the investigatory meetings with the individual and witnesses, written submissions and all other relevant information from the investigation.

The report should detail the standard(s) or policy that have been breached and the impact of the breach/nature of misconduct.

 

NUS recognises that allegations leading to disciplinary investigations/action may induce stress and anxiety in all those involved. This may include the individual under investigation, the person raising a complaint and witnesses. NUS will do it all it can to provide support and involve the SU where relevant.

Where a Sabbatical Officer of a Constituent Member (SU) is the subject of a complaint or incident involving alleged misconduct, NUS will inform the home students’ union of the incident. The home union will normally investigate the issue, (requesting information from NUS staff witnesses as required) and provide an outcome according to their own disciplinary procedures. NUS will be informed of the overall outcome (accepting that the home union will not be able to divulge confidential details of the case). NUS will then decide on next steps regarding the individual’s membership/attendance at future events as relevant (see section 10 – disciplinary outcomes).   

Individuals acting in volunteer roles i.e. members and non-members are engaged with NUS according to their Volunteer Agreement and are bound by relevant NUS people policies as explained to volunteers during their induction. For this group of people the formal disciplinary process described below will be amended and the following key differences will apply:

  • The Governance Team Manager and a member of the People Team will formally meet with the volunteer, having given at least 48 hours’ notice of the meeting in writing.
  • The volunteer may be represented by an accredited Trade Union representative or fellow volunteer.
  • The Governance Team Manager will set out clearly the allegations regarding the misconduct, (including a full explanation of the findings from the investigation) and will give the volunteer the opportunity to state their case.
  • Possible outcomes could include termination of the volunteer role and agreement.
  • If the outcome is termination of the volunteer role, the volunteer will be offered the opportunity to appeal. The volunteer should notify the Head of HR of their appeal in writing within 14 calendar days of receipt of the outcome letter.
  • An Appeal Meeting will normally be heard by a manager with no previous involvement.    

Disciplinary Formal Meetings

If a formal meeting is required, the individual is provided with a formal invite letter, giving at least 7 calendar days’ notice of the meeting, detailing the specific allegations and providing a copy of the investigation report. 

Formal meetings 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 an accredited TU representative or a fellow member. 

The appointed investigator may be asked to present their findings at the disciplinary meeting.

The member should also make available to the formal meeting panel copies of any statements and written material which they intend to refer to at the formal meeting along with details of any witnesses they wish to be present to give evidence.

The member will have an opportunity to state their case at the formal meeting and answer the allegations that have been made before a decision is reached or any disciplinary action taken.

The disciplinary panel will be made up of 3 members comprised of members from the HR Sub Committee or SU CEO’s with support from a member of the Governance Team or People Team to provide guidance on the process and document the meeting. One member of the panel would be nominated as the Disciplinary Meeting Manager to chair the panel. The panel members should be independent, having had no prior involvement in the process or investigations.

Where disciplinary action is necessary the member will be informed of the decision at the meeting. This will be followed up in writing.

Disciplinary Outcomes

 

The main outcomes available as outlined below:

  • No action

  • Continuation of informal action

  • First Written Warning

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.

  • Final Written Warning

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.

  • Partial or temporary suspension of benefits or other sanction.

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.

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

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

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

  • Summary Termination of Entitlements

 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, i.e. a major breach of duty or conduct or action that brings the organisation into disrepute (refer to section 4). In some cases information received by a students’ union may be used to generate a complaint that would cause a temporary suspension under the code.

Because the ability to be a volunteer / hold 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.

All records relating to a disciplinary matter will be stored in line with Data Protection requirements.

 Appeals

The individual must notify the NUS UK Board of their intention to appeal against disciplinary action within five working days of receipt of the disciplinary outcome  letter. The appeal should be made in writing stating the grounds upon which the appeal is to be made. 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 of 3 external lay trustees who have previously had no involvement in the case.  

A member/volunteer will have the right to be accompanied by an accredited TU rep or another volunteer of their choice. The member will be notified of the results of the appeal in writing within five working days of the hearing.

Members should note that an appeal is designed to address specific concerns about the application of the procedure or decision rather than repeat the formal disciplinary meeting.

Possible outcomes of an appeal

The appeal is upheld and the disciplinary sanction reduced or removed.

The appeal is denied and the original decision is upheld.