Human Resources

OC employee policies

Important OC policies for Okanagan College employees.

Code of ethical practices

Relationships between Employees and Students Q&A. See Code of Ethical practices policy.

HR policies and procedures

HR  practices not in the employment policies or collective agreements.

Relationships between Employees and Students Q&A

This document is intended to provide further information with respect to relationships between employees and students. See the Code of Ethical Practices Policy regarding the College policy and procedures related to these interactions.

A Conflict of Interest is a situation where the personal interests of an employee compromise or have the appearance of compromising the employee’s judgment.

A conflict of interest can be potential, actual or perceived. Even though an employee might not think their judgment is compromised because of a student relationship, others might think that it is.

It is a conflict of interest under the College’s Code of Ethical Practices Policy for an employee to be in, or pursue a business, financial, personal relationship including, but not limited to, a romantic or sexual relationship (may be a single occurrence or ongoing) with a student.

This includes relationships between employees and students where the employee supervises, teaches, advises, evaluates or otherwise has an actual, potential, or perceived position of authority or influence over the student.

The potential for a conflict of interest may still exist even if the relationship starts after the instructional, evaluative, advising or supervisory role concludes.

A conflict of interest can also be present in other types of employee relationships.

A student may also be an employee, and would be in a conflict of interest if they were in a relationship with another student that they teach, supervise, advise, evaluate or are otherwise in an actual or perceived position of authority or influence over.

It is the duty of the employee to disclose an actual or potential conflict of interest, not the duty of the student.

The College requires an employee to promptly disclose actual or potential conflict of interest to their supervisor, even where the employee does not directly teach, supervise or advise the student.

Disclosure is protection for both the employee and the student.

A plan will be developed to ensure conflicts of interest are avoided or managed, which typically requires the employee to remove themselves from any supervisory, advisory, instructional, evaluative, decision-making or role of influence with respect to the student. If an employee does not disclose the conflict of interest or the potential conflict of interest, the employee may face disciplinary actions.

Personal, particularly romantic or sexual relationships between employees and students are strongly discouraged and should be avoided.

Employees must recognize the power and potential influence they have over students: for example, they may mark exams and assignments, supervise research projects, determine employment status, assign placements, provide guidance and often give references for future academic or employment endeavours.

Due to the inherent power imbalance, even when a relationship with a student appears balanced and /or consensual, it may not be truly voluntary. Given the potential concern over the impact it may have on their academic progress, students may feel unable to communicate that they do not want such a relationship, or that they want an existing relationship to end.

A romantic personal relationship with a student may constitute or give rise to a subsequent claim that the employee’s conduct and the relationship constituted sexual harassment.

Employees vary in their level of formality in student interactions. While being friendly with students is not inherently problematic (and in fact can convey to students that an employee is approachable), employees should be aware that students may perceive behaviour differently than intended. Interactions that are perceived as informal and personal may make students feel uncomfortable and may lead them to question the employee’s intent.

Employee behaviours that may be misinterpreted by students:

  • a social invitation to an individual student (e.g. for dinner, coffee or drinks);
  • commenting on a student’s dress or appearance;
  • an invitation to an individual student to the employee’s home;
  • requesting an individual student to do a task of personal nature;
  • offering a gift;
  • a proposal to share accommodation (e.g. for a conference or research trip);
  • personal questions or disclosures;
  • connecting privately on social media (e.g. Facebook); or
  • physical contact of any kind.

If a student displays any of the behaviours described above towards an employee, the employee may be concerned that the student is attempting to initiate a romantic or sexual relationship. When this occurs, the employee should advise the student firmly and directly that the behaviour is not acceptable. The employee should also disclose to their supervisor the student’s behaviour and employee’s response.

  • Establish and maintain professional boundaries in relationships with your students. Don’t attempt to be one of them.
  • Periodically reflect on your relationships with students to ensure that students’ academic wellbeing is supported in a professional and equitable manner.
  • If a student asks for help with a personal issue, be supportive, but avoid taking on a counselling role. Refer students to resources that may be of assistance to them.
  • Avoid initiating or permitting discussions with students about their social or sexual life, or offering unsolicited advice on personal matters (e.g. family, relationships, etc.).
  • Be aware that students come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures and may interpret actions differently than you do.
  • Do not physically touch a student.
  • Communicate your own boundaries for interactions with students. If a student crosses a boundary, let them know that their actions or behaviour are inappropriate in the context of your relationship with them.

Need support?

This document aims to provide general guidance solely with respect to consensual romantic or sexual relationships between employees and students.

Any student with a complaint of discrimination, harassment or sexual harassment involving an employee, which may or may not arise from a consensual romantic or sexual relationship, may obtain more information at:

An employee who experiences harassment or inappropriate behaviour from a student may seek support from their association or union, from the Human Resources department, from their supervisor, or from the resources listed above.

HR policies and procedures

Okanagan College's HR Procedures outline practices that are not dealt with in the employment policies or collective agreements.
If you cannot find a procedure related to your concern or if you need clarification, please contact your Human Resources Advisor:

Accommodations

Okanagan College is committed to providing an equitable and accessible work environment which promotes, involves and reflects our diverse communities. The College will take reasonable steps to accommodate employees and prospective employees who are disabled, or whose participation in the workforce is otherwise affected by employment-related barriers created by an area protected by the BC Human Rights Code, unless it would cause undue hardship to the College to do so.

This section contains information and forms related to medical and non-medical accommodations (medical and non-medical).

Resources and references

Process overview

  1. Employees/Prospective Employees notify their supervisor/hiring manager of a potential need for an accommodation;
  2. Supervisor/Manager consults with Human Resources to confirm potential need for an accommodation;
  3. Employee submits formal written request for accommodation to Human Resources;
  4. Once requests for accommodation are received by Human Resources the following Processes take place;
    • Medical Accommodation Requests will be processed by the Portfolio’s/Department’s assigned Pension & Benefits Coordinator:
      • Pension and Benefits will send an email to the employee with overview of process and required forms (e.g. Abilities Management Access (AMA) Declaration Form and AMA Attending Physician’s Form) that must be completed.  Employees are provided at least one week* to have forms completed by their Doctor and for other information to be compiled and sent directly to Manulife.
      • Once Manulife has all the required forms and information, they will seek to connect with the employee within the next 3 business days *
      • Manulife will normally require at least 10 days* to review each case and render a decision.  Decisions are communicated directly to the employee and copied to the Employer for follow-up and implementation as applicable.
    • Non-Medical Accommodation Requests are reviewed and processed by the Portfolio’s/Department’s assigned Human Resources Advisor:
      • HR notifies home manager of request and sends email to employee requesting info / documentation in support of the request.  Information requested is expected to be provided within 5-10 days *
      • HR may request further clarification / documentation as required.  HR reviews information, in consultation with the manager, and renders a decision within 5-10 working days.
      • HR communicates decision to employee and home manager and assists parties with implementation/transition as required.
  5. Where a duty to accommodate exists, or support can be provided, Human Resources will work with the employee, supervisor, union and other relevant stakeholders to explore reasonable and appropriate options.

Notes:

The types of Information required to review and support accommodation requests can include:

Medical accommodations will be considered where employment-related barriers are created by a physical or mental disability. An Applicant who wishes to be considered for medical accommodation must provide the College with suitable medical information which establishes the existence of a disability and supports the requirement for accommodation. The medical information required by the College will depend on the individual circumstances. It may include, without limitation:

  • Information regarding the nature of the disability
  • Your prognosis
  • The functional impact of the disability
  • The severity of any limitations
  • Whether the limitations are expected to be temporary or on-going
  • The dates of any medical examinations
  • Your compliance with the prescribed course of treatment
  • Identification of any prescribed medications that may affect your ability to work safely, for example
  • The specific job accommodations which are required because of the disability.

Non-medical accommodations will be considered where employment-related barriers are created by a non-disability area protected by the BC Human Rights Code (e.g. Family status, religion, sex, etc.). An employee who wishes to be considered for a non-medical accommodation will be required to provide documentation and information to the College to support the accommodation request. The information required by the College will depend on the individual circumstances.  For example, requests based on Family Status may require: 

  • Information regarding the applicable family members and the basis for requiring accommodation, including general nature of family’ members illnesses or conditions if request is based on need to provide care for a family member;
  • Information regarding whether the situation upon which the request is based is temporary or permanent in nature
  • Information regarding other options that could be pursued to provide the required support and why they are not viable.