Later this month (Monday 16 to Friday 20 November 2020) is Anti-Bullying Week 2020 in the UK. Sadly, many of my clients tell me harrowing stories of bullying and harassment at work. This post sets out some practical tips for dealing with bullying in the workplace.
What is Bullying & Harassment?
ACAS describe bullying as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient… It may be obvious, or it may be insidious. Whatever form it takes, it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual”.
ACAS describe harassment as “… in general terms – unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or an isolated incident. The key is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient”.
Examples of Bullying & Harassment…
Although ACAS have provided a list of examples of bullying and harassment, it is important to remember that in so many cases, bullying can be subtle. This can mean it is difficult to spot and can cause the victim to feel they are either overreacting or slowing going mad. However, some common examples include: –
- spreading malicious rumours;
- insults either face to face, by action, or on social media;
- ridiculing or demeaning someone – picking on them or setting them up to fail;
- overbearing and unfair supervision or other misuse of power or position;
- making threats or comments about job security without foundation;
- deliberately undermining a competent worker by overloading and constant criticism;
- preventing individuals progressing by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities.
Over the last 15 years I have seen the devastating impact bullying in the workplace can have. This year’s Anti-Bullying Week theme is to “United Against Bullying”. I fully support this ethos and even if you don’t agree with a colleague, you can and must respect them.
What Can You Do?
Solving bullying and educating people can take time. However, if you believe you are being bullied and/or harassed at work, I have set out some initial guidance below.
- If asking the perpetrator to stop does not work, then in the first instance speak to your Line Manager to try and informally resolve the situation. If your Line Manager is involved, then elevate to the next available Manager. It may also be wise at this early opportunity to contact your trade union, your HR department, any internal wellbeing or counselling services, ACAS, the Citizens Advice Bureau or the Human Rights Commission for support in getting the situation resolved and the bullying or harassment stopped.
- If an informal approach does not work then review your employer’s formal policies and procedures to see if they have a Grievance Procedure, Dignity at Work Procedure or Bully & Harassment Procedure (or other). You should then follow the appropriate procedure which will usually require you to submit a written complaint about the treatment you are receiving, along with how you would like to see it resolving. Your employer should then investigate your complaint and provide a suitable outcome. Again, obtain support throughout this process from any of the sources listed under the preceding bullet point. Similarly, the solicitors at Lincs Law all have extensive experience of advising employees through internal processes such as these.
- If the formal approach does not work, you may wish to consider what claims you could pursue arising out of the treatment you have suffered at work. This could, in some circumstances include a claim for constructive unfair dismissal (if you were forced to resign), or a claim for discrimination if the bullying and harassment were related to protected characteristics such as age, sex, race, disability, etc……, or a claim for detriments if the bullying and harassment arose from you being a whistleblower.
Please remember that internal policies or procedures may take some time to conclude, but a claim for harassment, detriments, or victimisation must be submitted to the Employment Tribunal no later than 3 months less 1 day from the date of the actual act complained of and a claim for constructive unfair dismissal, must be submitted within 3 months, less 1 day from the date of termination of employment. Ensure you take appropriate legal advice, so your limitation date is not missed.
Assistance From Lincs Law Employment Solicitors?
Over the last 15 years we have assisted numerous clients suffering from bullying and harassment at work. If you believe you have or are being subjected to bullying and/or harassment, please do not hesitate to call us on 01522 440512 email ContactUs@lincslaw.com More detailed information about bullying and harassment can also be located on our website at https://lincslaw.co.uk/services/employees/workplace-problems/discrimination-bullying-and-harassment/
Director, Specialist Employment Solicitor
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