Anti-Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

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Anti-Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

With Anti-Bullying Week taking place from the 11th – 15th November, raising awareness of bullying for children and young people, this article looks at how bullying is also prevalent in the workplace and how this can be prevented.
According to ACAS, ‘Bullying and harassment means any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended’.

How to support employees

All employees who make a complaint should have access to someone inside their organisation trained in this role or access to an outside service. This enables them to talk, in confidence, about any intimidating behaviour they have experienced or observed so they can discuss the options available to them and decide what action to take. The decision to progress with a complaint should always rest with the individual.

Managers should encourage employees to come forward if they have been a victim of harassment and should also encourage employees who have witnessed bullying and harassment to intervene and try and prevent abuse.

What are an employer’s legal obligations?

There are four main types of claim that a bullied employee may bring against their employer:
• A claim for harassment or discrimination under the Equality Act, where the bullying relates to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and beliefs, disability or gender reassignment.
• A claim for personal injury where stress has caused the victim to suffer a psychiatric injury.
• A claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, where there have been at least two occasions of intentional bullying that the wrongdoer knew or ought to have known amounted to harassment.
• A claim for constructive unfair dismissal if the bullied employee resigns.
• In some situations, the victim may also bring a claim directly against the bully, although the employer is often vicariously liable for the bully’s actions.

It is important that employers have a robust policy and deal with each case as it arises. Bullying and harassment can carry significant legal threats to employers, so it is important to investigate any claim as soon as it arises.

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