New information following the change in COVID-19 alert levels.

What is Harassment?

Harassment is a form of discrimination and is unlawful under the the Human Rights Act 1993. Harassment of any kind is defined broadly as:

  • Any behaviour directed towards an individual or group that a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances would expect to insult, intimidate, victimise or disadvantage the recipient, and which is:
    • unwelcome, hurtful or offensive to the recipient; and
    • is repeated, or is of such significance as to adversely affect the recipient’s employment or well-being.

Types of harassment

Harassment includes but is not confined to the following categories:


Conduct which is likely to result in less favourable treatment, or create a less favourable environment, for any person/group than for another under similar circumstances, by reason of any of the prohibited grounds set out in the Human Rights Act 1993:

  • Sex, including pregnancy and childbirth
  • Marital status
  • Religious belief
  • Ethical belief
  • Colour
  • Race
  • Ethnic or national origins, which includes nationality and citizenship
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Political opinion
  • Employment status
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation

Discrimination may arise from official statements, actions, omissions, decisions or policies as well as from informal or personal statements or conduct. It may also be indirect, that is it may have the effect of treating someone differently on a prohibited ground, even if the discrimination is not explicit.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment may occur irrespective of the recipient’s gender. It is unwanted attention of a sexually orientated nature. It may include an implied or express promise of reward for complying with a sexually orientated request and/or an implied or expressed threat of reprisal for not complying with a sexually orientated request.

Examples of sexual harassment include but are not limited to:

  • Offensive verbal comments of a sexual nature
  • Sexual or smutty jokes
  • Repeated comments or teasing about someone’s alleged sexual activities or private life
  • Persistent, unwelcome social invitations, telephone calls or emails from other students
  • Following someone home from university
  • Offensive hand or body gestures
  • Leering or ogling
  • Unwelcome physical contact e.g. patting, pinching, touching or putting an arm around another person
  • Provocative visual material in either hardcopy or electronic media

Find out how to report sexually harmful behaviours.

Personal Harassment

Personal harassment means any behaviour by a student, which explicitly or implicitly intimidates, humiliates, undermines or dominates another person; or involves the use of abusive and/or threatening language, verbal or physical threats; or any form of physical assault.


Bullying is a form of personal harassment, as described above, which is characterised by repeated and persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour. Overt bullying can include:

  • Threats and intimidation
  • Manipulation and coercion to do things against one’s will
  • Verbally abusive or degrading language or gestures
  • Shouting, yelling; using a raised voice and unpleasant tone
  • Unexplained displays of rage
  • Constant humiliation
  • Belittling remarks either to the recipient or behind their back

What harassment is not

The following are examples of behaviours that are not considered to be harassment or bullying:

  • Friendly banter, light-hearted exchanges, mutually acceptable jokes and compliments.
  • Friendships, sexual or otherwise, where both people consent to the relationship.
  • Assertive expressing of opinions that are different from others.
  • Words or actions that are directed at the advancement of knowledge, add to critical debate, or which serve as pedagogical framework and which are not targeted at individuals.
  • Free and frank discussion about issues or concerns, without personal insults.
  • Legitimate criticisms made to a another student about their behaviour or academic performance (not expressed in a hostile, harassing manner).

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