Bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended. Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour include:-
- Persistent unwanted criticism
- Sexual remarks
- Unwanted physical contact
- Threats to job security
- Abuse of positions of power
- Humiliation in front of others
- Spreading rumours and excluding individuals from activities/meetings/emails.
Bullying can happen:
- Face to face
- By letter
- By email
- By phone
Bullying itself is not against the law, but harassment is. This is when the unwanted behaviour is related to one of the following:-
- Gender re-assignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
Employees should see if they can sort out the problem informally first, if they cannot, they should talk to their:-
- HR Department
- Trade Union Representative
If this does not resolve the problem, you can make a formal complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure. As a last resort, you can take legal action at an Employment Tribunal, but you should normally raise a grievance first..
Employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their staff and should ensure bullying and harassment is prevented in the workplace. Where bullying and harassment does occur, employers should ensure that those being subjected to bullying or harassment feel confident enough to raise complaints without fear of reprisal. Employers should have a robust policy in place that sets out its commitment to promoting dignity and respect in the workplace and how such unacceptable behaviour is dealt with.
Because employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment – they are liable for any harassment suffered by their employees. Most bullying happens out of sight of others, so you might not have any witnesses. This does not stop you reporting the bullying to your Manager to get the situation resolved. However, it is a good idea to keep a diary or record of the bullying.
If you have to leave your job because of severe bullying that your employer did nothing about, you might be able to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal for constructive dismissal.
If you are suffering from workplace bullying and/or harassment and you feel your employer has not dealt with the behaviour in an appropriate way resulting in the bullying and harassment continuing. The employment team at Sills & Betteridge LLP can advise you on your employment rights and the options available to you.