How we can help
Being in conflict at work or study can be difficult to handle, and can have detrimental impacts on health and wellbeing. We encourage people to use self-help measures, trying first to have open conversations with the person (or people) involved, and also reaching out to others within your department or team for support – for example, your line manager or supervisor, HR, student support staff, senior leaders, or mentors. If that is not possible or appropriate, or the conflict remains unresolved, please reach out to our team for an initial conversation to explore how we can help.
- If you are seeking help for yourself, please complete this Self-Referral form.
- If you are referring a situation to us that you’re aware of, please complete this Referrer form.
- Only Service Leads have access to the form submissions and the firstname.lastname@example.org, not all resolvers. If you have questions or any difficulty with the form or prefer not to use it, please contact email@example.com. If necessary, you can also contact the Service Leads individually for support.
We understand the importance of confidentiality with these sensitive matters, and have further information about our data protection process and privacy notice.
Overview of the process
- Reach out. Complete the Self-Referral form or Referrer form, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Initial contact to explore options. A service lead (see who the leads are here) will aim to respond to your inquiry within two working days to set up a conversation (online through Teams, phone call, or other preferred way). The conversation will be up to 30 minutes and is intended to be an initial assessment of the situation for resolution, and an opportunity to explore options and signpost to further resources and support.
- Individual meetings with resolvers. If the matter is suitable for resolution, two co-resolvers will be assigned (external to the involved departments), and they will meet individually with each of the involved people to better understand what has been happening.
- Joint resolution session. Provided all involved people agree to a joint session, the co-resolvers will facilitate a structured conversation together with the aim to help those involved come to a mutually agreed resolution. The co-resolvers will ensure a fair and balanced session, maintain confidentiality, and support the participants to listen, communicate, and find a way forward.
At every point in the process, it is voluntary, confidential, and informal (meaning not part of any formal complaint, grievance, disciplinary, or legal process). It is an opportunity to have a structured conversation with the assistance of a trained third party to address difficulties that have arisen.
It is an opportunity to resolve issues and concerns in an informal and safe environment with an impartial facilitator. This process enables people in conflict to:
- Talk constructively
- Work together to clarify issues that can be addressed to improve the relationship
- Both say and hear important things which may not have been communicated before
- Understand different perspectives
- Problem-solve a way forward together.
Having facilitated resolution conversations offers a confidential and independent process before escalation to complaints or more formal procedures (and in some cases can occur alongside formal processes). Resolvers do not advise, judge or make decisions, but facilitate a productive and supportive conversation to work towards conflict resolution.
The resolution process has two stages – an individual private meeting between the co-resolvers and each person involved in the conflict, followed by a joint session between all parties. Two resolvers (external to the involved departments) will typically be assigned to each case. The individual session is an opportunity for the co-resolvers to listen to individual concerns and explain how a joint resolution session could help. The joint session is a collaborative conversation, structured and supported by the co-resolvers to ensure that all parties are able to say what they need to say, listen to others, and find a way forward. It is a confidential process.
This ‘resolution’ process can also be referred to as ‘mediation’. We have decided to use ‘resolution’ rather than ‘mediation’, as the latter term can connote ideas of legal proceedings or more limiting, transactional views of conflict resolution. Resolvers have been trained as workplace mediators, with a focus on repairing relationships.
- Self-referrals – if you are a staff or student member within MPLS and are experiencing conflict in the workplace or difficult working relationships, you are welcome to connect with the MPLS Resolution Service to see how we can support you.
- Referrals from departments/others – if you are witnessing a conflict in the workplace, whether you are directly involved or not, you can get in touch with the MPLS Resolution Service to assess the situation. We can provide support in situations involving staff or students in the MPLS division.
- This is a voluntary process – all parties will need to agree to a resolution conversation prior to the individual sessions mentioned above, and all will then need to agree to a joint session if that is a suitable next step. Individuals can decide to end their engagement at any point.
- Self-help – it may be that the situation is resolvable between the involved parties without facilitated resolution conversations or more formal support. Try to have an open conversation with the person (or people) involved, and you could also try reaching out to others within your department or team for support – for example, your line manager or supervisor, HR, student support staff, senior leaders, or mentors.
- Report + Support for staff – from January 2024, the Report + Support tool will be available for University staff. Managed by the University’s Harassment Advisory Service, the tool will offer a new option for staff to tell the University about an incident or concern of bullying or harassment that they (or someone they know) has experienced or witnessed. It will also offer information about support and advisory services, and complement the existing ways for staff to access a Harassment Advisor in their department or faculty, or through the Harassment Line. More information to follow.
- Facilitated HR conversations – you can contact your departmental or local HR team to request a facilitated conversation.
- Formal complaint – making a formal complaint is an available option, and in some cases, this is the most appropriate step. Depending on the circumstances, you may wish to try informal measures before or alongside making a formal complaint. For more information, visit the complaints procedure against staff and complaints procedure against students webpages.
A facilitated resolution conversation (or mediation) is different to the following alternatives as it provides an informal and confidential opportunity for all involved parties to work towards an improved future together, with the support of an external trained facilitator.
- Mental Health First Aiders – MPLS have a number of MHFA England trained Mental Health First Aiders on hand to offer confidential, informal support to anyone within MPLS experiencing poor mental health or stress, whether work-related or not. They can be your first point of contact and can talk through your options and signpost you to the appropriate services if further support is required. Find out more about Mental Health First Aiders and get in touch.
- Harassment Advisor Network – If you or someone you know within the University is experiencing bullying or harassment, get in touch with the Harassment Advisory Service or your local Advisors for support and advice on the procedure. Find out more about the Harassment Advisor Network and get in touch.
- Student Welfare Support Services – All students at the University have access to a free student counselling service provided by Welfare and Student Support. They also provide advice to staff who are concerned about students.
- Occupational Health – Occupational Health provides a service that promotes and supports physical and mental wellbeing in the workplace. It offers a range of services including advice to managers, the employee assistance programme and health support.
- Health Assured: Employee Assistance Programme - Health Assured is an Employee Assistance Programme designed to help you deal with any personal and professional problems that may affect your home or work life, health, and general wellbeing. It is a comprehensive support network that offers expert advice and guidance 24/7, including counselling, legal information, bereavement support, therapeutic approaches and more.
- Mentorship schemes – Mentoring is a voluntary process in which one person gives their time to help a mentee. The aim is to provide confidential, non-judgemental and constructive support to enable the mentee to develop themselves in whatever way is most appropriate. A mentor may be a sounding board, someone to help you work through your ideas, and someone to throw light on your path. Find out more about mentorship schemes offered by POD.
- Coaching – Coaches create an environment in which a coachee considers an issue that challenges them or an opportunity that has arisen and where they wish to make progress. The coachee is enabled to articulate goals and to generate and consider options before identifying what they will do next in order to achieve those goals. Find out more about coaching offered by POD.
- Yes – information communicated at each stage of the process will be confidential unless an exception applies (see below). For example, information shared during intake and individual sessions will not be disclosed to other parties without prior consent, and information shared during joint resolution sessions will not be shared beyond those involved, unless agreed by all parties.
- Only service leads have access to information submitted through the self-referral and referral forms, and sent through the email@example.com email inbox.
- When cases are communicated to the resolver cohort to seek volunteers, only a summarised/anonymised description of the nature of the dispute will be sent to the resolver cohort; names and departments of participants will only be shared with the resolvers assigned to the case rather than the whole cohort.
- Exceptions to confidentiality include risk of harm to self or others, or court order.
The process will ultimately depend on the availability of all involved parties. The resolvers assigned to your case will need to have an initial conversation with the referrer, followed by an individual meeting with each person involved and then, if appropriate, a joint meeting with all involved parties.
- Initial conversation – a service lead will aim to respond to your inquiry within two working days to set up a conversation (online through Teams, phone call, or other preferred way). The conversation will be up to 30 minutes and is intended to be an initial assessment of the situation for resolution, and an opportunity to explore options and signpost to further resources and support.
- Individual meetings – if the matter is suitable for resolution, two co-resolvers will be assigned (external to the involved departments), and they will meet individually with each of the involved people to better understand what has been happening. We recommend this happens as soon as possible after the initial conversation, and can be done online or in-person.
- Joint meeting – provided all involved people agree to a joint session, the co-resolvers will facilitate a structured conversation together with the aim to help those involved come to a mutually agreed resolution. The co-resolvers will ensure a fair and balanced session, maintain confidentiality, and support the participants to listen, communicate, and find a way forward. Again, this should happen within a few weeks of the previous conversations. It can be held online or in-person.
- The service leads will review the initial inquiry and will be in touch with the referrer and involved parties to assess the situation for resolution, explore options and signpost to further resources and support.
- The resolver cohort will then be given limited details of the case (summarised/anonymised description of the dispute), with no individual names included. Resolvers can then volunteer themselves based on their availability.
- Resolvers will be selected from outside of the associated department(s).
- If multiple resolvers come forward, two resolvers with varying backgrounds (e.g. job roles, expertise, departments) will be selected. Names of the involved parties will be shared with the assigned resolvers, and any further conflicts of interest or issues raised will be addressed.
This form is intended to enable all persons using the MPLS Resolution Service to understand how their personal data is being processed.
The University of Oxford is the ‘data controller’ for the personal data collected and used for this Service. This means that the University decides how to use it and is responsible for looking after it in accordance with the UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018.
What data we collect for the MPLS Resolution Service
For the purposes of the MPLS Resolution Service we request and process the following core information: a) full name; b) MPLS department; c) University email address; d) career stage, job type or year of study; and e) a brief description of the nature of the dispute/conflict and persons involved.
At referral stage we also ask for any access needs or additional support requirements solely for the purposes of supporting you throughout your engagement with the Service. This information does not form any part of our processing or reporting on the Service.
During your engagement with the Service, you may voluntarily choose to share sensitive or special category information, which could include but is not limited to information about your race or ethnicity, religious belief, sexual orientation, union membership, and health and sickness records. This may be shared either at referral stage or as part of your conversations with the Service.
Any data you share with us will solely be used for the purposes of the MPLS Resolution Service. It is a confidential, informal Service designed to resolve conflicts and disputes at an early stage. Any information you share with the Service cannot be used as evidence in any formal procedure outside of the Service.
To help us evaluate and improve the Service, we will also seek your feedback following the completion of your matter. Any feedback you choose to provide will be accessed only by the Service Leads and anonymised/aggregated for any reporting purposes.
How we obtain your data
We obtain the majority of information directly from you at the referral stage, via email, Microsoft Form or via a video/phone call. We may also obtain information from a third party, who will either be referring you to the Service or as the other person involved in your particular case. If we have obtained your information through a referrer, we will check its accuracy with you prior to proceeding. Upon completion of your case with the Service, we will seek feedback through a Microsoft Form or email.
How we use your data
Any information provided by you or a third party at referral stage will be used to confirm whether the case is suitable for mediation/resolution. The core data referred to above is necessary for correspondence throughout your engagement with the Service.
The Service Leads will retain personal data for six years in order to accurately record use of the Service, to understand where recurring issues arise within departments, and to ensure we have accurate records in case future conflicts arise again between parties.
The Service will provide regular reporting to MPLS divisional leadership and, where relevant, other areas of the University. This reporting is solely for internal use to monitor the use and effectiveness of the Service and to identify trends within the MPLS Division that may need addressing. Any data shared as part of this reporting will be redacted. You will not be identifiable in any report, presentation, or information session about the MPLS Resolution Service, as they will only make use of aggregated data.
Who has access to your data
The staff members who comprise the Service Leads of the MPLS Resolution Service will have access to all data provided throughout your engagement with the Service. Details of the Service Leads can be found here.
Any Resolver assigned to your case will also have access to your core information provided through referral forms or the intake process (name, department, email address, career stage, job type or year of study, brief description of the nature of the dispute/conflict and parties involved) and any additional data you voluntarily share in your conversations with them.
As part of the Service we will provide at least termly and annual reporting to MPLS leadership and may update other areas of the University on the Service. Any data shared as part of this reporting will be redacted. You will not be identifiable in any report, presentation, or information session about the MPLS Resolution Service, as they will only make use of aggregated data.
Outside of the aforementioned reporting requirements where all data will be anonymised and aggregated, we will not share your data with any other third parties, nor will your data be transferred overseas (referring to sections H, I and J in the staff/student policies).
How we store and retain your data
Your data will be collected via: a) a referral form or evaluation form using Microsoft Forms; b) over email; or c) through Teams or telephone calls or conversations with the Service Leads or selected Resolvers. All information you provide will be stored securely in a locked folder on a private channel in a Microsoft Teams site (an approved University platform) that only the Service Leads have access to.
Any information that you share with selected Resolvers during your case will be summarised as part of a case closing report to the Service Leads, and then securely disposed of by those Resolvers in line with the University’s retention and disposal terms. While the Resolvers are working on your case, they are required to keep any notes or relevant documents in a secure and locked location behind SSO or on the OneDrive.
All data collected during your engagement with the service will be destroyed six years after your case is closed with the Service.
If you wish to raise any queries or concerns about our use of your personal data, please contact the Service Leads on firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also use this email address to provide corrections if your data changes in the six-year period we retain it for.
Further information on your rights in relation to your personal data is available on the University website.