What is workplace bullying and harassment, and how as an Employer should you be dealing with this in your workplace?
At HR and You Ltd we have a deep-rooted passion for the fair and reasonable treatment of everyone, regardless of who they are, this includes any of the protected characteristics, bullying and harassment does happen in the workplace, sadly, it happens time and time again, we have outlined some simple actions that as an Employer you can take to deal with it.
What is bullying and harassment?
At times it can be difficult for Employers, and HR managers alike to recognise the tell-tale signs that someone or a group of individuals are being bullied, and or harassed. It is also true that the individual/s may not recognise, and or realise that they are being treated in this way, this may be because:
- The bullying and harassment is subtle and not easily identifiable.
- Bullying and harassment is part of the culture, and ways of working, in these circumstances it can therefore be considered acceptable.
- The Employee, and or others may feel too frightened to report the bullying and harassment, this may be due to many factors.
There are areas that are easily overlooked, such as:
- A senior manager is creating the bullying and harassment
- The Employee has a genuine fear, this may be about their continued employment, a genuine fear of the bully, this may relate to a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
How does bullying and harassment take place in the workplace?
Bullying and harassment can happen in varying ways, many believe only in person, this is not true, bullying and harassment can take many forms, in the following ways:
- By telephone
- By letter
- By email
As an Employer do you have a legal duty to prevent bullying and harassment?
It is imperative that as an Employer you are aware of the legal implications where bullying and harassment is, or has taken place in your workplace, whilst bullying itself is not against the law, harassment is. This is when the unwanted behaviour is related to one of the following:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
These are the 9 protected characteristics that are covered in the Equality Act 2010.
What are my legal obligations as an Employer?
As an Employer you have a legal duty to ensure you take the appropriate action to prevent:
- Unlawful discrimination on the grounds above, and or the membership of a trade union or non-membership and status as a fixed term, and or part-time Employee.
- A breach of Contract covers any such breach of one or more of the implied terms of any employment with you.
- A criminal offence.
- As an Employer, you could and would be liable unless you have taken reasonable steps to prevent any such bullying and harassment. This is applicable post-termination of employment and as such action could be brought against you as an Employer in this instance.
What does bullying and harassment look like in the workplace and how can you spot it?
Bullying and harassment can take many forms, it can involve anyone in your workplace including your leaders, in fact, an abuse of power is in many instances the cause of the bullying and harassment.
Here are just some easy signs to look for that an Employee/s is being or has been bullied, and or harassed:
- Unwelcome behaviour displayed toward the Employee/s
- Abusive, and or offensive language
- Teasing, and or the spreading of rumours
- Insults, and or criticism that is unwelcoming
- Overlooking, and or trivialising work, tasks, and or achievements
- Isolating, excluding, and ignoring behaviours
As an Employer how can you eliminate bullying and harassment?
Once you have identified any bullying and harassment in your workplace, you should act, and do so promptly, to do this you should instigate a thorough investigation into any allegations of any Employee/s who is, or has been bullied, and or harassed. You should ensure that you follow your internal HR procedure when doing so and follow the ACAS Code of Practice.
Bullying and harassment should never be tolerated, regardless of the seniority of the role, as an Employer, you should promote a positive culture, one that encourages open and honest communication and zero-tolerance in relation to bullying and harassment.
As an Employer you may wish to introduce a champion into your workplace, this would help your Employee/s to speak to an impartial team member and raise any concerns they may have, from that point either you or your champion could:
- Understand and know what workplace bullying and harassment is and what to do.
- Watch out for any tell-tale signs in the workplace.
- Carry out training, this could be on your policies, how to report bullying and harassment, how to spot it in the workplace etc.
- Promote a positive culture in your workplace, lead by example and demonstrate what great looks like.
- Watch out for Employee/s who may be at risk of bullying and harassment or have raised concerns.
It is important to remember to Bullying and harassment call what it is, the definition of bullying and harassment of is: Bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended. Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
How should Employee/s raise their concerns?
Your Employee/s should understand who and how to raise their concerns with this would normally be:
- An internal champion
- HR Team/Department
- Union Representative
Where the issue still exists, your Employee/s should make a formal complaint using your internal grievance procedure. If this does not resolve the issue, your Employee can take legal action at an employment tribunal.
How can we help?
Remember, to act reasonably, fairly, to have policies and procedures that are communicated and understood in your business, to also ensure you are treating your Employee/s fairly and reasonably, to keep your Managers up to date and ensure you have a zero tolerance to bullying and harassment.
HR and You’s handbooks and policies are fully in line with current legislation in regard to Discrimination – and should you find yourself requiring help, support, and or assistance with policy writing, we have every policy you could ever need, these cover respect in the workplace, we would be more than happy to help advise and guide you towards the ideal solution for you, your Employee, and your Business.
We are here to provide full advice, support, and guidance. We can advise in any HR or Employment Law matter: you can contact a member of our team on 0333 006 9489 or [email protected]
This article contains a general overview of information only. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any specific legal problem or matter.
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