How to manage allegations of bullying in the workplace
B P Collins’ employment team, ranked by independent legal directory, The Legal 500 as a ‘Top Tier’ practice, explores what constitutes bullying and how to manage it in the workplace.
ACAS describes bullying as: “unwanted behaviour from a person or group that is either:
- offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting; or
- an abuse or misuse of power that undermines, humiliates, or causes physical or emotional harm to someone.”
It is important to note that there is no legal definition of bullying.
What can constitute bullying?
Bullying is very broad and can include a range of actions such as:
- abusive or intimidating behaviour;
- overbearing or intimidating levels of supervision;
- inappropriate or derogatory remarks about an individual’s performance.
The relationship between bullying and harassment
Bullying and harassment are often confused. Harassment is covered by the Equality Act 2010 and can give rise to a claim in the Employment Tribunal. Bullying can therefore become harassment under the Equality Act if it is related to any of the following protected characteristics:
- gender reassignment
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
Separately, sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. This type of harassment does not need to be related to a protected characteristic. Certain acts of harassment may also fall under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which is separate to the types of harassment under the Equality Act 2010.
How employers can combat bullying and harassment at work
Employers should be proactive in promoting a respectful and inclusive working environment and importantly, should ensure they address bullying and harassment.
Employers are advised to:
- Implement clear policies on managing grievances and separate policies (if applicable) on managing allegations of bullying and harassment;
- Fairly and consistently investigate complaints of bullying and harassment and, if appropriate in the circumstances, consider appropriate disciplinary action against alleged perpetrators;
- Provide diversity training which includes examples of unacceptable behaviour.
B P Collins’ employment team is highly experienced in advising employers on how to manage allegations of bullying in the workplace. Due to its quality of work, it has been instructed on high-profile age discrimination and whistleblowing cases, which have established legal precedent. It also advises on non-contentious work, including helping clients to buy or sell a company or achieve an amicable exit for an employee.
The team has recently expanded with the appointment of employment partner, Alix Beese, who joined from Mishcon de Reya. A member of the Employment Lawyers Association, Alix provides legal advice on a range of employment law matters including complex Employment Tribunal litigation, supporting clients with employee relations issues, drafting employment documentation and advising on TUPE processes.
For further information, please email [email protected] or call 01753 889995