Bullying and harassment in the workplace
Bullying or harassment in the workplace can involve groups of people or be between two individuals which in our experience it usually is. It could be apparent or subtle in nature and/or it may be constant or a solitary incident. This does not have to be face to face but can also occur in written communications, by phone or via email.
There are a number of employment regulations in the UK which provide for employee protection against bullying or harassment in the workplace. Bullying and harassment is behavior that makes someone feel intimidated or offended.
A person is being bullied if, for instance, they are:
- Threatened with violence or loss of their job
- Treated unfairly – e.g. not considered for promotion
- Constantly humiliated in front of colleagues/clients/customers
- Made a scapegoat for the mistakes of others
- Given an unfair workload
Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 and occurs when an employee suffers unwanted conduct by the employer or their staff which violates the employee’s dignity or creates an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” for them.
If the bullying and/or harassment in the workplace is due to a protected characteristic, such as age, disability, gender or race, it will amount to unlawful discrimination entitling you to bring a claim in an employment tribunal.
Under the Equality Act, employers are responsible for any staff who harass other employees, however they can escape such liability if they can demonstrate that they took reasonably practical steps to prevent it happening.
There is also an implied term in all employment contracts that employers shall provide ‘reasonable support’ to an employee to ensure that the employee can carry out the duties of his or her job without harassment and disruption by fellow workers.
Any claim must be brought to the employment tribunal within 3 months (less one day) of the last discriminatory act, but before this step you must notify ACAS under their early conciliation process.
It is also open to an employee suffering bullying at work to resign and bring a claim for constructive dismissal, provided that they are an employee and have worked continuously for two years (unless you have also been discriminated against, for example, on the grounds of your age, race, disability or sex).
Thus, employees suffering from bullying at work may, in appropriate circumstances, be able to bring a claim for constructive dismissal or breach of contract against their employers.
Please note that this information is provided for general knowledge only and therefore specific advice should be sought for individual cases.
If you feel you are suffering from either bullying or harassment in the workplace please do not hesitate to contact us
Lexadeen employment law solicitors representing clients across Manchester, Bolton, Stoke, Lancashire and Stafford