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Campaign for Female Academics to be Respected and  Treated as Equal at Work 


Human Rights and Academic Harassment: Policy vs. Action

Dora is launching a national campaign for the protection of women in English universities from malicious lies, human rights abuse and undignified treatment

Affiliated with the Academic Parity Movement:

Documents to be uploaded soon include:

  • Institutional and Legal Reforms

  • Dora's Brexit Story: Surviving Bullying, Victimisation and Health-harming Mistreatment by Professor Stuart Croft

Equal and Respected at Work: Manifesto

1) English Universities must be safe workplaces for women and should display due care and due diligence when the rights of women are at risk. They must have robust and effective rights- and law-compliant policies, procedures and organisational cultures which safeguard human dignity and non-discrimination.


2) In the 21st century, it is unacceptable to disrespect female academics and to believe that they should not involve themselves in the acts of creation and scientific exploration except on their more trivial fringes.


3)There is something particularly abhorrent about seeking to incapacitate women by tampering with their minds, violating their bodies, exerting coercive control over them and intentionally violating their honour for destructive purposes.


4) Human rights are not revocable privileges. Women at English Universities should not suffer in silence when someone is abusing their position of power in order to maintain dominance and oppression, to seek sexual favours, to bully them, to discredit their professionalism and to destroy their careers. They have a duty to expose abuse, be it physical or psychological.


5) It takes fortitude to endure prejudice and abuse. It takes strength to continue living and working despite them. And it takes immense courage to stand firm for human dignity and human decency and to demand change. 

Human dignity is like the air we breathe; it cannot be compromised. Compromising it is an act of violence. We experience such violence as muscular and physical pain as well as in the form of emotional and mental anxiety and stress. The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted in 1948, states that ‘recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’. And Article 1 UDHR recognises that the right to human dignity flows from our humanity: ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’. Unlike other concepts and organising principles of our socio-political life, human dignity knows no nationality, race or ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age or ability.

My favourite article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is Article 12:

‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.’

It is unfortunate that the European Convention on Human Rights (1950) did not repeat the exact formulation of Article 12 UDHR in Article 8 ECHR, the right to respect of personal and family life. But the European Union has managed to redress this deficit.

Not only did the EU elevate human dignity into a general principle of EU law which must always be respected and observed, but its legally binding Charter of Fundamental Rights has placed human dignity at the apex of the catalogue of rights. Read the Charter here.

Article 1 EUCFR states: ‘Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected.’

This means that the right to human dignity is an absolute right, that is, it cannot be restricted by anyone and anything, even by legislation. Otherwise put, any interference with human dignity leads to a violation of the right.

Conversely, Article 8 ECHR, which is used to protect personality rights, is not an absolute right; it can be restricted, provided that the restriction has a basis in law, it represents a measure necessary for a democratic society and does not constitute a disproportionate interference with it.

The Member States of the EU have adopted specific legislative provisions to ensure the protection of dignity in the workplace and the condemnation of bullying and harassment.  Article 31 of the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights provides that: ‘Any worker has the right to benefit from working conditions which respect his or her health, security and dignity.’

At work, we thus have the right to be treated with dignity, respect and courtesy and to be valued for our skills, abilities and contributions.  We have the right to be free from injury, be it physical and/or psychological and, for this reason, the workplace must be free from bullying, harassment or victimisation. We have the right to experience no form of discrimination and to be supported to progress and develop since our personal interest in realising our potential coincides with the organisation’s interest in being well-functioning, inclusive and dynamic.

In Europe, Sweden was the first country to implement legislation specifically outlawing bullying at work in 1993. It outlawed ‘recurrent reprehensible or distinctly negative actions which are directed against individual employees in an offensive manner and can result in those employees being placed outside the workplace community’.

France has been holding employers accountable for their involvement in repeated negative acts towards employees which lead to a deterioration of the working conditions and harm, or are likely to harm, their dignity, physical and mental health and/or professional career. France views bullying as ‘moral harassment’.

In Spain workplace bullying became a criminal offence in June 2010 and is punished by imprisonment between six months and two years. The Spanish Penal Code makes it an offence ‘to take advantage of one’s superior position and to perform against another person repeated hostile or humiliating acts which without constituting degrading treatment involve serious harassment of the victim’.

Whereas in all European countries, including the United Kingdom, workplace bullying based on protected characteristics, that is, on the prohibited discriminatory grounds, falls within the ambit of discriminatory harassment (the Equality Act 2010 in the UK), unlike other European countries, the UK has not outlawed bullying despite its immense harming effects.

This must change. Post-Covid-19, the UK needs to complete the process of the adoption of the Dignity at Work Act. 


Support the Dignity at Work Act

In 1996, the MSF Union and Lord Monkswell took the initiative of drawing and presenting to the House of Lords the Dignity at Work Bill. John Major's Conservative government did not support it. Four years later, the Dignity at Work Bill 2001 was introduced in the House of Lords under the guidance of Baroness Ann Gibson. Read the whole Bill here.

Dignity at Work Bill [HL]


Right to dignity at work

1. Right to dignity at work.

2. Victimisation.

3. Discrimination against contract workers.

Action on breach of right

4. Complaint to employment tribunal.

5. Employer's defence.

6. Remedies.


7. Consequential amendments.

8. Interpretation.

9. Short title, commencement and extent.

Schedule 1 - Dignity at Work Policy.
Schedule 2 - Consequential Amendments.




Provide for a right of dignity at work for employees; and for connected purposes.

Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

Right to dignity at work

1. Right to dignity at work

1. (1) Every employee shall have a right to dignity at work and if the terms of the contract under which a person is employed do not include that right they shall be deemed to include it.

(2) Subject to section 5 of this Act, an employer commits a breach of the right to dignity at work of an employee if that employee suffers during his employment with the employer harassment or bullying or any act, omission or conduct which causes him to be alarmed or distressed including but not limited to any of the following-

(a) behaviour on more than one occasion which is offensive, abusive, malicious, insulting or intimidating;
(b) unjustified criticism on more than one occasion;
(c) punishment imposed without reasonable justification, or
(d) changes in the duties or responsibilities of the employee to the employee's detriment without reasonable justification.

2. Victimisation

An employer commits a breach of the right to dignity at work of an employee if….



Read: Tim Field, Bully in Sight: How to predict, resist, challenge and combat workplace bullying (Success Unlimited, 1996). It is the best book I read while I was seeking to understand what was happening to me.


Perform a Test: The attached brochure of Bradford National Union of Teachers contains two very helpful tables for the diagnosis of personal and workplace bullying behaviours. It is the best short document on bullying I have seen thus far.


Victimisation as a consequence of performing protected acts under the Equality Act 2010 and of whistleblowing: Do you recognise any of the following?

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Fight Bullying with Data Protection Law


Data protection law gives the targeted employee qua a data subject to right to challenge any unlawful processing of her/his personal data and thus any false claim made against her/him on the grounds that it is neither fair nor accurate nor adequate and relevant nor based on her/his consent (- these are breaches of the data protection principles which are legally binding and enforceable). The employee has the rights to object to any further processing of unfair and inaccurate information and to request its rectification or erasure. If the employer, as the data controller, fails to respect the rights of the data subject, then a complaint to the Information Commissioner, that is, the national data regulator, and/or a judicial remedy, including a claim for compensation (- distress alone could be a ground for compensation in accordance with UK case law), can be made.


Fight Bullying with the Malicious Communications Act 1998


Given that bullying complaints and victimisation incidents against employees often are based on materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations by managers and, therefore, are embodied in  malicious communications, in the UK, section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1998 (as amended) (- as well as section 127 of the Communications Act 2003) could be helpful. Section 1 MCA 1998 makes it a criminal offence to send a letter or an electronic communication or an article of any description which conveys a message which is indecent or grossly offensive or a threat or information which is false and known or believed to be false by the sender with the intention to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient. Bullying, false and vexatious workplace complaints are intended to cause anxiety and distress and, therefore, I would argue that they fall within the remit of this criminal offence.   


A formal complaint can thus be made to the law enforcement authorities by the targeted employee.

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