New position at Radboud University: ombuds officer

13 Jul 2021

Radboud University will appoint an ombuds officer for employees who can independently investigate disputes at the university. A vacancy for this position will be posted online soon.

All Dutch universities will have an ombuds officer for employees, in accordance with the collective labour agreement concluded between VSNU negotiators and the education unions for the 2019-2020 academic year. There has been talk of such an appointment for years.

According to a post on Radboudnet, the ombuds officer is expected to contribute to a safe and healthy work environment and to the organisation’s learning capacity. He or she also has the authority to launch independent investigations into organisations, regulations or employees at their own initiative or in response to questions, concerns or complaints. The ombuds officer can talk to anyone and has access to all university documentation. All university staff members are free to contact the ombuds officer.

Mediator

The position includes 0.5 FTE as well as 0.4 FTE for a support officer. ‘If this turns out to be too little or too much, we can always adjust it,’ said Rector Magnificus Han Van Krieken on Monday during the last Faculty Joint Assembly of this academic year.

The new position should not be confused with the confidential advisors, who serve as the primary point of contact for issues such as undesirable behaviour, bullying, violence and sexual intimidation. The ombuds officer, on the other hand, is serves a mediating role between two parties. This individual is entirely impartial and does not act as a judge.

‘The ombuds officer is completely free and independent in this role.’

Member of the Works Council Mieke van der Zwaag wondered whether the ombuds officer could operate with sufficient independence if he or she is on the university payroll. ‘The ombuds officer is not instructed or advised in any way and is entirely free in his or her work,’ was Van Krieken’s response. The Rector Magnificus added that this position could not be combined with another position at the university.

Vacancy

Mathijs van de Sande joined the discussion on behalf of the Works Council. He would like to see the complaints resolution term, now two years, extended. ‘Two years is very short,’ says Van de Sande. ‘Especially considering the dependent relationships at a university. A longer term may make employees feel more comfortable reporting an issue.’

‘We added the term “in principle” to allow for this possibility,’ responded Van Krieken. ‘You have to understand that it’s harder to resolve issues that happened a long time ago.’

The ombuds officer vacancy will be published on the Radboud University website soon. ‘We’re first waiting for a formal response from the participational bodies,’ says university spokesperson Martijn Gerritsen. ‘That may come as early as next week. Once we receive it, we can start the recruitment process.’

The ombuds officers at all VSNU universities will be evaluated within two years. Van Krieken pledged to involve the participational bodies in this evaluation as well.

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