When we speak about bullying, most of us think back to childhood when the bigger boys and girls in school picked on others.  Although a problem that is more common in younger life, bullying remains common in the workplace

What is bullying in the workplace?

Because of the range of bullying scenarios, there is no specific legal definition of bullying in the workplace. ACAS defines bullying as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the person being bullied”.

There are different things that could be seen as bullying. For example, bullying could be repetitive incidents or a one-time occurrence. It may also happen via phone or email and isn’t restricted to face to face incidents.

Examples of bullying

  • Threatened with loss of job
  • Blocked promotions
  • Used as a scape goat for problems
  • Exclusion from meetings and work events
  • Being overworked compared to others

What is the employer’s responsibility?

Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassing behaviour in the workplace. By not ensuring that bullying is not tolerated a team may become dysfunctional, inefficient and the employer will usually see a high turnover of staff.

Employers also have responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for the welfare of employees.

Steps to take

If you feel as though you are being bullied at work, you should first see if it can be resolved informally. Your situation could be discussed with your line manager or the HR department.

Be sure to make note of every time you feel as though you have experienced any form of bullying and keep a record of any emails or phone message that support your accusations.

If it isn’t possible to resolve the matter informally, you should raise a grievance. From here the employer can decide to uphold or reject all or parts of the claim.

Legal action

If management show little effort to resolve the problem once you have alerted them to it, an individual may be justified in resigning. If this is how the process ends, employees may be able to claim constructive dismissal. This would be made on the basis that there has been a breach of trust and confidence between the employer and employee, or breach the implied term of good faith.

The time limits for bringing a claim are complicated, depending on whether the relevant acts or events amount to bullying or harassment due to a protected characteristic such as age, sex, race or disability.

Employment law specialists

If you feel as though you are being bullied in the workplace and your employer is doing little to prevent it, contact our specialist employment team for advice on steps you can take. For further advice use the telephone numbers below: