Bullying and harassment stretch beyond everyday workplace qualms and can have a critical impact on both the victim and the wider environment. If you’ve been affected by bullying at work, or you’ve witnessed it happening, our employment law solicitors can help you to assert your workplace rights.
The best way to report bullying at work is to:
- Try to resolve the issue, either by speaking to the person involved or with the help of a manager or HR personnel.
- If the issue continues, lodge a formal complaint via your employer’s grievance policy.
- Once you’ve tried everything you can to resolve the issue, you can take it further by appealing your employer’s decision. If your case falls under the definition of harassment, you can take it to an employment tribunal.
Our guide tells you what you need to know about bullying and harassment at work, and breaks down what you can do to reach a solution.
What is bullying at work?
Bullying is behaviour that causes someone to feel threatened, unsettled or insulted. This could include:
- Spreading rumours.
- Singling someone out and targeting them negatively.
- Consistently undermining someone without reason (such as with undue criticism or an unfair workload).
- Denying or excluding someone from opportunities for training or progression.
- Misuse of authority (such as by baselessly threatening someone’s job).
- Sexual harassment.
What is harassment?
The definitions of harassment and bullying can overlap. While bullying isn’t illegal, harassment has legal implications that are outlined in the Equality Act 2010.
Harassment is legally defined as:
“Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic that has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the victim.”
This includes abusing protected characteristics such as:
- Sexual orientation
- Relationships (marriage and civil partnership)
- Pregnancy/maternity (falls under ‘discrimination’)
How to report bullying at work
Though it may be stressful and uncomfortable, it’s important to take action to combat bullying and harassment at work. Try to:
- Resolve the problem – If you think you can approach the person, confront them calmly and professionally. Tell them about the effect their behaviour is having on your professional life. Try to find a way to resolve things. If they refuse to be reasonable, you should inform them that you’ll have to take things further.
- Keep track of the issues – Note dates and times the bullying or harassment occurred, and keep a note of anyone who may have witnessed the abuse. It’s also important to keep copies any of emails or messages that show bullying or harassment.
- Raise the issue – Speak to a staff member who holds authority and tell them about what has been going on. This may be a manager, HR personnel, a union representative or a company counsellor. Ask them if they can help you to work with the person involved to find a way to sort things out.
- Lodge a formal complaint – If you still can’t reach a solution, lodge an official complaint through your company’s grievance procedure. Typically, you’ll need to put a complaint in writing and then meet with your employer. Explain the problem and the impact it has had on you, and suggest a solution. Try to keep to the facts. Your employer should tell you when they expect to decide what to do, as well as how you can appeal the result if you’re unhappy with their plan of action.
- Take it further – If the grievance process doesn’t resolve the issue, your company should have a process in place that allows you to appeal the decision. If this still doesn’t work and you are forced to leave your position due to the bullying, you may be able to claim for constructive dismissal. If the abuse falls under the definition of harassment, and you have tried to settle it every other way, you can take it to an employment tribunal. This typically must happen within 3 months of the issue being active. For more information, take a look at our guide about How to take an employer to a tribunal.
Forms of bullying and harassment
Bullying and harassment can show itself in various forms. It could be through comments or behaviour in person, over email, via phone or by letter. You could be bullied or harassed by an individual or targeted by a group of people.
Even if it isn’t directed at you, bullying and harassment aimed at another co-worker can still have an impact on your workplace environment, and you still have the right to raise concerns about it.
Similarly, if it is a customer or client who is carrying out the abuse, you can raise it with your employer.
It is your employer’s responsibility to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace, and you can raise a claim against them if you’re impacted by this sort of behaviour.
Dealing with bullying and harassment is an extremely gruelling task, especially when it is happening in a place that you rely on for your livelihood. Our experts can give you advice and help you through the process of reporting bullying or harassment. Contact us and start taking the steps you need to find your way back to normality.
Note: First4lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances and not rely on First4lawyers’ online information alone. All details correct at time of last update.
Last updated: October 2016