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Bullying and harassment in the workplace

View profile for Joanne Ribchester
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Minimising stress in the workplace

Worryingly, the TUC has reported that over a third of employees have suffered bullying in the workplace.

There is a fine line between the distinction of workplace bullying and harassment. Bullying is not legally defined as being unlawful, with gov.uk describing bullying as making someone feel intimidated or offended. Bullying can take place face to face, and virtually via email, phone, social media and letter.

Bullying can occur from someone that is on the same peer level, from a manager or more senior person, or upward bullying from staff to someone more senior. Bullying can be a one-off incident, or a sequence of incidents, and it is not required to be noticed by other people.

Although bullying is not a stand alone claim in the employment tribunal, employees have the right to have trust and confidence in their employer and to expect not to be in receipt of bullying in the workplace.

If the unwanted behaviour is due to, or related to a protected characteristic, as set out in the Equality Act 2010 to include: age, sex, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, maternity and pregnancy, race, religion or belief, or sexual orientation, then this may be defined as harassment which is unlawful and therefore discriminatory.

ACAS advises that if you do feel as if you are suffering bullying in the workplace and/or harassment you should initially look to resolve the issue informally by either speaking to the person conducting the bullying behaviour, or if this is not possible speak to your manager or HR department.

If this does not resolve the issue, you may wish to raise a formal grievance and look at your employer’s grievance policy to determine who to raise the grievance with. If you are unhappy with the formal outcome to the grievance you will have the right to appeal the outcome.

Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment in the workplace, and they can be held liable for instances of harassment from their employees. If the grievance procedure fails to resolve the issue, and the unwanted conduct relates to a protected characteristic this could lead to a claim being raised within the employment tribunal for harassment.

If you feel that you are the victim of workplace bullying, and/or harassment, one of our specially trained employment law advisors would be happy to discuss this with you, please call us on 0161 696 6170.