Bullying is described as “unwanted behaviour from a person or group of people that is either offensive, intimidating or insulting or is an abuse or misuse of power that humiliates or causes physical or emotional harm”.

Someone displaying this unwanted behaviour might not realise that their behaviour is of a bullying nature but this does not mean it is not bullying.

Bullying might be mostly associated with children at school, however, it is entirely possible for someone to be bullied as an adult at work.

Examples of bullying at work:

  • Being overly and constantly critical of someone’s work;
  • Putting someone down or disrespecting them in front of others;
  • Deliberately giving someone a heavier workload than others in a similar role;
  • Blocking promotion opportunities;
  • Excluding someone from team or social events;
  • Ignoring someone’s thoughts and opinions; and
  • Putting humiliating, offensive or threatening comments or photos on social media.

This is not an exhaustive list and bullying / unwanted behaviour can take many forms.

Bullying and the Law

Under the Equality Act 2010 bullying can be classed as harassment if it relates to ‘unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic’ such as age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. Even if bullying does not constitute harassment, it could still lead to other claims such as constructive dismissal. For example, if the bullying is severe, the employee may feel they have no choice but to leave their job. It should be noted that there are eligibility requirements for employees to bring claims against their employers but this should be seen as a last resort and it is advisable for employees to explore all avenues before bringing a claim such as raising a complaint or formal grievance with their employer if they feel their concerns are not being taken seriously.

What should employers do to prevent workplace bullying?

Employers have a duty to ensure that their staff are working in a healthy and safe environment which includes protection from bullying and harassment. There is an implied duty of mutual trust and respect which is essential both employees and employers relationships with one another.

Employers should have zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullying in the workplace. Any accusation or complaint brought to the attention of management should be taken very seriously and dealt with effectively.

If you think you are being bullied at work, it is important to speak to someone you can trust or approach your HR representative.

There is no place for bullying in our society.

If you need legal support or advice surrounding this topic, please email lloyd.clarke@attwells.com

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