Stand Up To Bullying
Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace – A Guide For Employers By Our Employment Law Expert, Anna Bunning
June 21st was National Stand Up To Bullying Day. For some of us, bullying is something associated with the school playground and has little impact on our working lives. Unfortunately, many employees suffer bullying and harassment at work, causing extreme distress and work related stress.
So what is bullying and harassment at work?
Bullying can be described as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour often involving an abuse of power with an intention to undermine, harm or humiliate a fellow employee.
Harassment is defined in the Equality Act 2010 and is unlawful when aimed at a specific characteristic such as age, sex, religion or health.
Bullying does not have to be face to face and is often through emails, social media or even body language. in extreme circumstances, bullying when left unchecked, could lead to an employee leaving their employment to claim constructive dismissal (a form of unfair dismissal) and may amount to a breach of Health and Safety legislation in certain circumstances. Harassment claims can also be taken to the Employment Tribunal under the Equality Act.
There are some simple, sensible steps that any employer, large or small, can take to limit the chances of bullying and harassment occurring in the workplace:
- Draw up a workplace policy to be included in the Staff Handbook. The policy should give a clear, no tolerance approach to bullying and harassment and should give examples of the types of behaviour which will be unacceptable. Set standards of behaviour to be expected from all staff and ensure that they are aware of the policy and have access to a copy.
- Link the workplace policy to the firms’ disciplinary and grievance procedure and identify who all complaints should be made to in the first instance. Be clear that all complaints will be treated confidentially.
- Lead by example. If managers and owners are seen to be bullying or intimidating in nature, other staff may believe this to be acceptable behaviour.
All complaints, no matter how small, should be dealt with fairly and sympathetically. In some circumstances, a meeting between the parties with a more senior manager to act as mediator may be all that is required. if this approach is unsuitable, the employee should be invited to prepare a written grievance which should be dealt with fully under the firms’ grievance procedure. All complaints should be dealt with promptly and objectively for the benefit of both parties.
If, on investigation, it is found that bullying or harassment has taken place, disciplinary action should be taken against the party at fault and careful thought should be given to the right level of sanction imposed.
Finally, whatever the outcome, consider the workplace from the point of view of both employees. can they both continue to work side by side or should adjustments be made to ensure that the working relationship can continue? It may be appropriate to offer mediation or even counselling.
Left unchallenged. bullying or harassment can not only be intolerable to the targeted employee but can be undermining to the very nature and efficiency of any business.
Anna Bunning is an Employment Law Specialist and can be contacted on 01746 769700 or via email to email@example.com.