Recent studies have suggested that almost a third of workers in the UK have suffered harassment or bullying at work. This is a staggering amount, but from the experiences of our clients, at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors we suspect this could still be an underestimate.
Bullying at Work?
Whilst there is no statutory definition of bullying, ACAS defines bullying at work as ‘offensive, intimidating, malicious, or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, degrade or injure the person being bullied’.
Bullying at work can take many forms. Recent examples our clients have described to us include: –
• Micro management and excessive supervision.
• Constant criticism, often in front of colleagues.
• Promotions and training opportunities being refused.
• Exclusion from social activities connected to work; including lunches, drinks, birthday celebrations etc.
• Unmanageable workloads with conflicting management instructions and unreasonable deadlines.
• Threats or comments about job security.
Harassment at Work?
Harassment is a slightly different concept and does have a legal definition within the Equality Act 2010. This legislation protects people who have a relevant protected characteristic (being age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation) from being harassed. The legislation defines harassment as unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of violating an employee’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that employee.
Recent clients have provided examples of harassment which include: –
• Unwanted sexual advances including the invasion of personal space, frequent touching, manipulating circumstances where the employee is put in close proximity with their harasser (the ‘coincidental’ being in the photocopier room at the same time).
• The suggestion to colleagues and third parties that a sexual relationship exists with the employee.
• Frequent homophobic comments and jokes.
• References to an employee’s disability and personal medical information in front of colleagues.
What Should You Do?
If at all possible, you should try and resolve the situation informally. Discussing your concerns with a Line Manager or HR representative might be all that is needed to put an end to the harassment and bullying at work.
Unfortunately, employers are often aware of the employees who are the cause of harassment and bullying at work. Others may have made similar complaints and you should ask your employer if there have been issues in the past with the person responsible.
If the situation cannot be resolved informally, then you will need to consider lodging a formal grievance. You should use your employer’s grievance policy which should set out in detail how the matter will move forward. For most polices of this nature, the employer will hold a meeting with you and undertake some investigation into your complaints. Depending on the nature of your concerns, they may even decide to initiate disciplinary action against those responsible.
If your grievances are not upheld, then you should appeal. In serious circumstances, you might even consider resigning your contract of employment and bringing an Employment Tribunal claim.
Employment Tribunal Claims
If the bullying at work (and your employer’s response to your formal grievance) has resulted in you having lost all trust and confidence, then it might be possible for you to resign and claim constructive dismissal. This would be on the basis that your employer has fundamentally breached your contract of employment and made your ongoing position untenable. However, please be aware that you will need at least two years’ service with your employer in order to bring this type of claim.
If you have experienced harassment which is related to a protected characteristic you have (see above), you could bring a claim under the Equality Act 2010. In addition, if you decided to resign, you may also have an additional claim for constructive dismissal.
You need to be very aware of time limits. You will need to take formal action by way of initiating the ACAS Early Conciliation Procedure within three months less one day from the act or event you are claiming about. The time you will have to submit you Employment Tribunal Claim will be dependent upon the dates of your ACAS Early Conciliation.
Can Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Help You?
If you believe you are being bullied or harassed at work, please ring for a free, no obligation, telephone consultation with one of our specialist employment solicitors on 01522 440512. Alternatively, to find out more about Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, please visit or website at www.lincslaw.co.uk.
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, Lincoln