Zero Tolerance

Guidance for staff who are supporting students

If you are a member of Queen Mary staff supporting a student in an urgent situation, including supporting a student who has been affected by sexual violence, please refer to the guidance below.

Supporting a student in distress

Our step by step guide for staff who are supporting a student in an urgent situation offers practical tips on how to respond in immediately urgent situations.  It also includes advice on how to follow up with Queen Mary’s mental health team once the immediate crisis is over, so that you can pass the situation on to staff best placed to help.  The guide also provides guidance on other difficult situations that are less immediately urgent, as well as information about sexual violence and safeguarding issues.

If there are concerns about a student’s mental health or wellbeing, send information about the incident to the Disability and Dyslexia Service as soon as possible so that the mental health team can reach out to the student to offer follow-up support: or 020 7882 2756.

Give time and space to talk

If a student chooses to tell you that they have been affected by sexual violence, give them time and space to talk. Just listen to them without asking for details – it isn’t your role to find out more about what has happened. Don’t offer advice, or try to stop them from expressing their distress, even though this might be distressing for you to witness. Just focus on listening actively, and reassuring them that they can tell you, or not tell you, whatever they want to.

Show them information on the specialist support agencies and help them think about how they might access support. They can contact these agencies whether the incident has happened recently, or some time ago. It is their choice whether to involve the Police, so don’t take a position on this.

Agree with the student when you will next meet, so that you can discuss next steps and so that they know they can talk to you again. You might need to support them with guidance about extenuating circumstances processes and any other support they might need within your academic school, and this is normally done best at a follow up meeting.

Risk to others

If there is a risk to others (eg a serious incident has taken place on campus or involves a member of the Queen Mary community), you should speak to the Director of Student and Academic Services, Security and the Head of the Appeals, Complaints and Conduct Office at Queen Mary. Speak with your line manager/colleagues to decide who will take responsibility for doing this. You, or a relevant colleague, will need to talk to the student about whether or not they want their identity revealed to other staff. It is generally good practice to limit the sharing of personal information to a ‘need to know’ basis. Queen Mary has an Incident Management Plan for responding to serious incidents.

Advice and support for staff during or following an incident or disclosure

Senior staff in the Advice and Counselling Service and Disability and Dyslexia Service can provide advice and support to staff who are supporting students. This might include:

  • Talking through a meeting with a student after it has happened to debrief and discuss next steps
  • Getting advice in advance about how to approach a conversation with a student where there are issues of sexual violence or concerns about mental health and wellbeing.

Contact the Advice and Counselling Service (ext. 8717 or email or the Disability and Dyslexia Service (ext. 2756 or email

Senior staff from the Advice and Counselling Service and the Disability and Dyslexia Service are also available to facilitate 90-minute discussion and support groups for staff. The aim is to:

  • Provide a supportive and informed space for staff to share their experiences of supporting students
  • Share, and further develop, student support practice
  • Debrief situations that are causing concern and discuss dilemmas.

Contact Kevin Halon, Counselling Manager in the Advice and Counselling Service at to arrange.

For advice and support about QMUL processes and procedures in cases of sexual violence involving students, especially those taking place on campus or involving members of the Queen Mary community, please contact the Director of Student and Academic Services, the Head of Security and the Head of the Appeals, Complaints and Conduct Office at Queen Mary.

Support for staff

Queen Mary has appointed an independent employee assistance programme – Workplace Options – to provide a comprehensive range of support services to staff including a 24-hour helpline and face-to-face counselling. These services are free, confidential and available to you, your family and those close to you.

Workplace Options
Freephone: 0800 243 458