Anti-Bullying Week 2020: United Against Bullying
Bullying does not only occur in schools or online. It can happen anywhere, including in the workplace.
According to the National Bullying Helpline, one in four employees have experienced bullying at work. Bullying can have a significant impact on an employee’s mental and physical health, as well as their confidence and performance at work.
Unless it is motivated by discriminatory reasons, there is no freestanding legal claim for bullying that employees can bring to the Employment Tribunal and by extension, there is also no legal definition of bullying. However, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) describes bullying as: ‘Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure…’
Some common examples of bullying in the workplace include, unnecessary or unfounded criticism, spreading rumours about colleagues, deliberate exclusion, misuse of power or position and unfair treatment.
What can employees do if they are being bullied?
Often, bullying may be hard to recognise and can be very subtle. Even if an employee is unsure of whether the behaviour amounts to bullying, it is important to speak someone about it, whether it be a manager, HR, union representative or a solicitor.
Whilst there is no single law against workplace bullying, employers have a duty of care to all employees and this includes dealing with bullying at work. There are different rights or recourse in employee’s dealing with bullying to include:
- Raising the matter informally;
- Lodging an internal grievance;
- Negotiating a settlement to end the employment; and
- Submitting a claim to the Employment Tribunal if necessary.
Employees should ensure they keep a diary or accurate record of the bullying detailing dates and times of what happened, any witnesses, how the bullying made them feel and any evidence for example, emails or social media posts.
What can employers do to prevent workplace bullying?
Bullying is not only unacceptable on moral grounds but can also cause various problems for employers. For example, poor morale and employee relations, loss of respect for management, poor performance, absence and resignations.
Employers should encourage awareness of bullying and the affects it can have in the workplace. Educating the workforce will not only show that employers are committed to creating a safe environment, but improve the understanding of how some behaviours can be misinterpreted and cause offense.
There are a number of polices which employers can put in place to guard against bullying in the workplace, to include zero-tolerance policies on bullying, anti-harassment policies and equality and diversity policies. It can also be useful for leadership teams to undertake training in implementing these policies and ensuring that they can identify bullying behaviour or the signs an employee is being bullied and if necessary, deal with any issues in an effective and supportive manner.
It is no secret that leadership teams can heavily influence workplaces cultures and therefore it is vital that these individuals are well equipped with the tools required to promote a healthy, supportive and safe working environment for all employees.
Machins are currently offering free 30 minute consultations by phone advising on all areas of employment law including bullying in the workplace. For further details or to book an appointment please visit our website https://www.machins.co.uk/ or call 01582 514 000.