EUR aims for a safe working and study climate, with an optimal sense of social safety and in which desirable forms of interaction are normal. Within EUR, a network of actors in the field of Health and Safe Working has been set up, including a confidential counselor, study advisers and a student PhD psychologist. In June 2019, this network was expanded with an ombudsman.
Both students and employees can contact the ombudsman for questions and problem situations related to studying or working at EUR. The ombudsman can offer support for questions, dilemmas or conflicts on the shop floor or in a study programme. The ombudsman can offer support in the form of an in-depth conversation, for example, or advice, referral, mediation or the institution of an independent investigation. All contacts with the ombudsman are handled in confidence. The ombudsman is impartial and independent and is not subject to any authority.
EUR is one of the four Dutch universities that are participating in the Ombudsman pilot project of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). This pilot project is part of a series of agreements between trade unions and employers, aimed at a safe working and study climate at the university. On 1 June 2019, Edith Weijnen was appointed as ombudsman for a term of two years.
Even during the period of home working and study in connection with the coronavirus measures, you can contact the ombudsman for a digital appointment.
Edith Weijnen is a lawyer with broad experience in conflict mediation. She is inspired by the difference between people’s perceptions and by forms of collaboration within organisations. People must be heard, Weijnen believes. Conflicts often arise through people’s lack of understanding of each other, through a failure to truly hear what the other person is saying. But if there are also actual abuses, this must be investigated thoroughly. After all, employees and students spend a very large number of hours on their work and study.
Weijnen studied law in Leiden and Utrecht and environmental science in Utrecht. She also followed various additional courses in the fields of mediation, administrative supervision and behaviour/communications. She has years of experience as a lawyer and has managed an environmental and legal consultancy.
In addition, Edith Weijnen is chair of the Undesirable Interactions Committee at a financial institution, chair of the Childcare Disputes Committee and chairs the board of a hospice (on a voluntary basis). She is also still active in the field of environmental-legal advice. Finally, she was recently appointed as the ombudsperson at the Saxion University of Applied Sciences.
The ombudsman works independently, impartially and confidentially. The ombudsman may decide to conduct an investigation and to advise on structural problems and malpractices within the university.
Employees and students can contact the ombudsman if there is a need for advice, mediation or possible investigation on the work floor or in the study programme; for example, where there are problems in cooperation, conflicts on the work floor or if undesirable behaviour has become structural and long-lasting.
- Advising groups and/or individual employees and students on the question, dilemma or conflict raised.
- Adequate referral to or back to the right actors within the Health and Safe Working network (including confidential counsellors and study advisers), primarily within EUR, but also outside it where necessary.
- The ombudsman can act as the facilitating leader of a discussion.
- The ombudsman handles complaints if the formal procedures (including complaints committees, objection procedures and meetings) have not had the desired effect. The ombudsman can also handle complaints that have not yet been considered in any procedures.
- Mediating between parties and reopening talks between them within appropriate organisational structures, via mediation or otherwise.
- Conducting investigations and making recommendations on the basis of these.
- Defining the culture in terms of conduct, making this open to discussion and improvement and presenting advisory reports to the Executive Board.
- Preparing annual reports and submitting these to the Executive Board and EUROPA.
The start of the ombudsman position in June 2019 is a two-year pilot project. At the end of 2020, the VSNU conducted an evaluation, which considered this position and how it can best be embedded in the CLA agreements. During the pilot project, it was established in the collective labour agreement (CLA) that an ombudsman must be appointed at every university by 1 July 2021.
An interim evaluation will take place within EUR in 2020, followed by a final evaluation in 2021. Here we will evaluate the design of the ombudsman position, as well as the clarity of the allocation of tasks and cooperation with other relevant actors within the social safety domain.