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Key points

  • Bullying in the workplace is not acceptable
  • Standing-up to bullying takes courage
  • Employers hold a duty-of-care towards their employees

Introduction

While some incidences of bullying are clear cut other incidences may seem to fall into ‘grey areas’. What one person considers firm management, may be considered bullying by another.

These pages will help you identify and act on bullying in the workplace from the employer and employee perspective.

Please contact us with any feedback you may have. 

Related topics

Forms of bullying:

Bullying and harassment can often be insidious and hard to recognise. These are some examples outlined by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service ACAS.

  • Repeated criticism often in front of others
  • Spreading rumours
  • Using aggressive/threatening language
  • Removal of responsibilities without due reasons
  • Asking the employee to do trivial/menial jobs they are not responsible for
  • Withholding information
  • Isolation or exclusion
  • Overbearing supervision or misuse of power
  • Taking credit where it is due to someone else
  • Unrealistic/impossible timescales
  • Misplaced blame
  • Harassment - based on sex, sexual orientation, race, age, gender, belief, disability, marital status, being pregnant or on maternity leave
  • Making threats or comments about job security
  • Preventing individuals from progressing by blocking training/promotion opportunities

Bullying may be face to face or via e-mail, letter, phone, social media.

It is good practice for employees to have an anti bullying policy and give examples of what is unacceptable behaviour in their organisation. Further information on discrimination can be found here.

What to do about bullying?

If you feel you are being bullied in the workplace it is important to seek support.

It is easy to feel isolated and vulnerable. Speaking up can feel like a huge step, but it is essential to moving forward. You should take action quickly.

You should consider:

  • Talking to others within the workplace - colleagues, supervisor, personnel department.
  • Talking to your Union rep
  • Speaking to a counselor or health and wellbeing team (Occupational health)
  • Speaking to Human Resources

You should find out if you place of work has an anti bullying policy and grievance procedure.

You may want to consider:

  • Keeping a diary of all the incidents/dates/times you felt bullied.
  • Talk to others within the workplace - colleagues, supervisor, personnel department, trade union representative. Take advice on the options open to you to deal with this e.g. by making a formal complaint through the grievance procedure.
  • Keep a diary of all incidents with dates and times and copies of any notes, memos etc. from the bully which you feel constitute bullying, intimidation, harassment etc.
  • Write to the bully clearly saying that you find their behaviour is unacceptable and amounts to bullying and set out the reasons why you believe this. Keep copies of any letters you send to the bully.
  • If it is possible to tape conversations where you are being bullied then do so.
  • Try to look at ways of being assertive and standing up to the bully.
  • If other colleagues witness any incidents where you are being bullied ask them whether they would be willing to write a statement relating to what they witnessed.
  • If you have to take time off sick due to being bullied at work ask your GP to record this on your certificate.

Be firm, not aggressive. Be positive and calm. Stick to the facts

Follow your employer’s grievance procedures.

Where harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 you can take the claim to an employment tribunal.

Why employers need to take action

Bullying is unacceptable. Progressive management of bullying is essential to the success of organisation.

Incidences of bullying in the workplace can lead to:

  • Increased absences
  • Poor morale
  • Reduced productivity
  • Loss of respect for managers/supervisors
  • Resignations
  • Tribunals
  • Loss of reputation

Employers have a duty of care towards their employees and in law are responsible for the acts of their workers. Further information can be found in the Equality Act 2010.

Employers should have relevant, policies and procedures and provide appropriate training to supervisors/managers.

National legislation and guidance

Equality Act (2010)

Health and Safety at Work Act (1974)

Resources

Please note: the resources on this page are provided for informational purposes only. No endorsement is expressed or implied, unless otherwise stated. While we make every effort to ensure this page is up to date and relevant, we cannot take responsibility for pages maintained by external providers.

Practice based scenario Bullying accusations

ACAS Bullying and harassment in the workplace. A guide for managers and employers

ACAS Bullying and harassment at work. A guide for employees

Gov.uk Workplace bullying and harassment

YouTube video from ACAS covering the impact of bullying on mental health and how managers can help

Useful contacts

ACAS

www.acas.org.uk

For information and advice on employment rights/bullying at work.

Citizens Advice Bureau

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

Equality Advisory and Support Service

www.equalityadvisoryservice.com

Employee Assistance Professional Association (EAPA)

www.eapa.org.uk

Information on Employee Assistance Programmes

Equality and Human Rights Commission

www.equalityhumanrights.com

SupportLine:

Tel: 01708 765200

Email: info@supportline.org.uk

Telephone Helpline providing confidential emotional support to Children, Young Adults and Adults on any issue. Particularly aimed at those who are vulnerable, isolated, at risk groups and victims of any form of abuse. Also provides details of counselors and support groups across the UK.

Unite

https://unitetheunion.org/

Contributors

Kathryn Cann