Bullying and harassment is any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended.

  • Bullying can be conducted which is obvious or subtle
  • Involve one person or a group of people
  • It may be one isolated incident or persistent
  • It is not always obvious and apparent.

Examples of bullying/harassment include:

  • Exclusion or victimisation
  • Deliberately undermining a competent worker by constant criticism
  • Unfair treatment
  • Spreading malicious rumours or insulting someone

Under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is unwanted conduct which is related to one of the following and is therefore unlawful.

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex and sexual orientation

Employees who feel they are being bullied or suffering harassment will often suffer in silence until they go off sick or simply resign. This is a problem for employers as there will be an impact on productivity, efficiency and ultimately, they may lose talented staff due to a hostile working environment. In addition, other staff observing such behaviour but are afraid to speak up (or don’t know who to report such behaviour to) will suffer low morale and again this again affects productivity.

At worst, employers can face tribunal claims of bullying and harassment if they failed to have in place proper procedures for tackling such behaviour or if they failed to address issues of bullying and harassment fairly through their internal procedures.

So, what should employers be doing? In summary, suggestions include the following

  1. Have an organisational statement setting out the standard of behaviour expected of staff. This could be posted up on walls around the office and/or contained in the staff handbook.
  2. Involve staff in developing and implementing a formal Bullying and Harassment Policy. This does not have to be complicated and can be a simple document.
  3. Managers and senior employees should receive relevant training on this subject and set good examples of behaviour for their staff.
  4. Employers should also ensure fair and consistent procedures are maintained for promptly investigating complaints.

For further information, see the ACAS guide: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/c/j/Bullying-and-harassment-in-the-workplace-a-guide-for-managers-and-employers.pdf

We offer interactive training to businesses on recognising and managing bullying and harassment in the workplace. We can also prepare relevant policies and guidance for staff and procedures for managers and HR to follow. Please get in touch for an informal chat or go to http://www.adnlaw.co.uk/training-solutions/ for further information.

Dipti Shah, Employment Law Solicitor
Principal and Owner of ADN LAW

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