Bullying in the workplace is a serious issue. It’s vital that leaders create a culture in which people feel safe and secure, and where bullying of any kind is seen as unacceptable.
Bullying can cause grievances, absences, disengaged employees, resignations and claims. Here is a reminder of the laws on bullying and harassment in the workplace, and your responsibilities as a leader.
What is bullying?
Acas defines bullying as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient”. Examples range from picking on someone, spreading malicious rumours, ostracising them, unfairly criticising their work or undermining them. Remember that bullying can be subtle: even when an employee has tolerated the conduct towards them, it does not necessarily mean the conduct is acceptable to them.
Under the Equality Act, harassment is defined as “unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual”. It can be in relation to someone’s age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
If an incident of bullying falls under the scope of harassment and concerns one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act, your employee may be able to make a claim for bullying to an Employment Tribunal. Under the Equality Act, employers can be liable if an employee is found to have harassed another employee.
What are your duties?
You must be able to prove that you have taken all reasonable steps to prevent employees from committing harassment in your workplace, so make sure it is clear to all employees that you do not tolerate any kind of bullying and harassment. You should have a clear bullying and harassment policy in your employee handbook, which sets out your standards and expectations.
All managers should be trained to ensure they understand all the relevant policies, can deal with any concerns that do arise and ensure their own management style is appropriate.
Remind employees that it’s their responsibility to ensure that their behaviour does not cause offence and that any allegations made will be investigated and disciplinary action can be taken.
For more information or advice, contact Ellis Whitham on 0845 226 8393. Ask for the Partnerships Legal Team and quote your ACEVO membership number. Read ACEVO’s Leading with Values report which highlights three pillars of moral leadership to enable leaders to create safe workplace cultures.