Office Bullying Employment Law
Harassment and bullying employment law & employment rights
Whilst bullying and harassment are often used interchangeably, they don’t mean the same thing when it comes to employment law and employment rights. There are also multiple forms of both, which can occur in various different situations, such as verbally (in person or via phone), on social media, online or in writing.
What is bullying in the workplace?
Whilst there isn’t any specific “legal” definition of bullying, it is most commonly defined as intimidation, malicious and insulting behaviour, humiliation, abuse of power or general offensive behaviour which intends to undermine an employee or multiple employees, often resulting in work related stress.
There are a variety of common signals relating to bullying, including:
What is harassment in the workplace?
In the workplace, harassment relates to conduct that is undertaken for the purpose of creating a hostile, intimidating, offensive or degrading workplace environment for an individual or for the purpose of violating a person’s dignity. Generally this relates to disabilities, age, gender (and gender reassignment), religion, race and sexual orientation.
The Equality Act means that employers can be held responsible for members of staff who are harassing other employees, however if they can show that they have taken sufficient and reasonable actions to prevent harassment from happening they can escape this liability.
There are a variety of common signals relating to harassment, including:
If you are looking for a No Win Fee Employment Law Solicitor to represent you at an employment tribunal, we need to assess the merits of your potential claim which we are normally happy to do free of charge.
It’s common for managers to hide behind “banter” as an excuse for bullying or harassment in the workplace. If an employee is participating or is party to the “banter” then typically they cannot raise a complaint. However, when somebody crosses the line and makes the ‘banter’ personal and to the obvious distress of the target, then this is stepping toward harassment and bullying. Unfortunately the line between the two is not always clear, but if it can be made clear that the person purposefully took the ‘banter’ too far and targeted you for the purpose of humiliation or degradation then you have a far stronger basis to make a complaint.
Much like the above, some managers use constructive criticism to defend the way they have acted, stating that is was a necessary form of firm management. Once again, if it can be made clear that the person crossed the boundaries then a complaint can be justified. Typically the following are considered to be behaviour that can’t be defended by the ‘constructive criticism’ excuse: personal insults, unfair blame and aggressive behaviour.
Your first decision should be whether you believe the situation can come to a resolution informally first. If possible, discuss your concerns and situation with your line manager, union official or HR. In some cases, confiding in colleagues is also a feasible choice, as it may be that others are also experiencing the same treatment. You should also collate all evidence of bullying or harassment you have experienced, be it emails, written communication or a diary record.
If you believe your situation cannot be resolved informally, then you should begin a formal grievance. This should lead to your employer investigating the circumstances and hold the necessary meetings to discuss the situation.
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