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:
- Being “shut out” of meetings, gatherings and events that you would otherwise regularly attend
- Unwarranted poor appraisals or scrutiny of your performance
- Having your employment security be threatened
- Loss of people who would usually report to you
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:
- Unwanted sexual advances, including unwarranted touching, sharing of offensive materials, pressuring for sexual favours and the abuse of power and decisions based on whether sexual advances are rejected or accepted
- Homophobic or derogatory slurs made toward you
- Being teased or humiliated frequently regarding and disabilities you have