Severn Postgraduate Medical Education Guidance Notes for the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying and Harassment at Work


  • Severn Postgraduate Medical Education is responsible for managing postgraduate education and training for doctors and dentists. It is committed to the eradication of bullying at work and supports trainees’ right to work in an atmosphere which is free from any kind of harassment by the trainers, peers or others involved in the training or working environment.
  • Severn Postgraduate Medical Education is also committed to Equal Opportunities and the Health, Safety and well-being of employees, as detailed in the Equality Act, 2010 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005.
  • Severn Postgraduate Medical Education carries out their responsibility through educational contracts with NHS Trusts, who employ doctors and dentists in training and also via consultants and other staff who train, supervise and work with them. In addressing complaints of bullying or harassment, Severn Postgraduate Medical Education is mindful of the complex relationships between employers, trainers, trainees and Severn Postgraduate Medical Education.
  • Severn Postgraduate Medical Education monitors instances of bullying and harassment within Trusts and Schools through the annual PMETB trainee survey, which all trainees are encouraged to complete. Trusts and Schools are expected to work towards the prevention and resolution of instances of bullying via reporting their plans for addressing these issues in their annual reports to Severn Postgraduate Medical Education.
  • The trainee should use the information in this document as a guide to the position of Severn Postgraduate Medical Education with regard to bullying and harassment.


Bullying and harassment can undermine an employee’s dignity and create an intimidating and hostile working environment. Severn Postgraduate Medical Education is cognisant that behaviours which subject a trainee to fear, stress or anxiety, may place great strain on their personal and family life. This may potentially negatively affect their health, job performance and absenteeism rates and should be addressed by adequate measures within Trusts to prevent and resolve these issues.


Bullying may take the form of one or more of the following:

  • Violence or the threat of violence
  • Being unreasonably critical
  • Belittling of efforts in front of others
  • Threats
  • Abuse
  • Continuous setting unrealistic targets or deadlines
  • Inappropriate or unreasonable withholding of information
  • Spreading of malicious rumours
  • Constant under-valuing of effort
  • Pressurisation of staff to work in conditions which they feel are unsafe
  • Taking action intended to undermine another member of staff
  • Marginalisation of staff so that they are unable to carry out their jobs or make progress in their training
  • Victimisation as a result of previous bullying investigations.
  • Isolated incidences of such behaviour should not normally be interpreted as bullying, unless they are extreme or repeated.

Constructive criticism, adverse performance appraisal or unsatisfactory assessment should not be considered as bullying, provided these assessments are based on evidence and carried out in a way that respects the dignity of the trainee. Tailoring of educational opportunities and clinical responsibilities to the progress of the individual is normal and appropriate, and should only be considered as bullying if it is without justification. Severn Postgraduate Medical Education is also mindful that those accused of bullying and harassment require support during an investigation process.


Harassment in a training context is defined as:

  • Unwanted behaviour, which staff find intimidating, upsetting, embarrassing, humiliating or offensive.
  • Persistent behaviour or behaviour which occurs on a single occasion.
  • Intentional or unintentional behaviour on the part of the offender which impacts the recipient.
  • Harassment can take many forms, ranging from acts of violence to excessive rudeness, or more subtle forms, such as deliberately ignoring someone at work.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in a training context is defined as:

  • Harassment associated with sex, gender and/or sexual orientation
  • Inappropriate physical contact, ranging from unnecessary touching to assault
  • Verbal or physical sexual advances
  • Lewd remarks, gestures or glances
  • Unwelcome comments about the way a person looks
  • Questions about an individual’s sex life.

Racial Harassment

Racial harassment in a training context is defined as:

  • Harassment associated with race, ethnic origin, nationality or skin colour.
  • Racist language or abuse, including remarks, jokes, ridicule or racist literature.

Complaints Process

  • When a trainee makes a complaint of bullying or harassment to an employee of Severn Postgraduate Medical Education, it will be treated seriously. The trainee will be directed to the employing Trust’s Bullying and Harassment Policy and to the Trust’s Human Resources team (where appropriate).
  • The trainee’s contractual relationship is with the Trust as the employing organisation and each Trust will have a documented policy for dealing with cases of Bullying and Harassment.
  • Severn Postgraduate Medical Education will seek to be supportive of the trainee but also mindful that it is appropriate for the Trust, as the employer, to address the concerns raised.