Often staff will not feel confident raising a bullying complaint, particularly if the alleged bully is a manager. But every employer needs to take grievances seriously; individuals should not suffer in silence and need to speak out where they think they are being bullied.
What is bullying?
What does someone mean when they say they are “being bullied”? In a nutshell, bullying involves some sort of unwelcome or unwarranted behaviour which has a detrimental effect on the recipient. Acas says that bullying means, “unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended”.
Some examples of behaviour which might indicate bullying are:
- exclusion from meetings or social events,
- overbearing supervision,
- deliberately undermining a competent worker by constant criticism,
- spreading of malicious rumours about someone,
- insulting someone,
- unrelenting teasing or banter
- other abuse/misuse of power.
Bullying can be hard to recognise because it is often not done obviously and may be perpetrated over a period of time, or simply a one-off incident. It may be carried out by one person or a group, be either face-to-face, by phone or through written or electronic communications (so called “cyber-bullying”).
What should I do if I think I am being bullied?
A quiet word with the perpetrator or your manager explaining the behaviour that is having a detrimental effect on you may be enough to deal with the matter informally.
However, if you feel uncomfortable doing this, or it has failed to resolve the issue, then the next step would be to use your employer’s grievance procedure and follow it’s instructions on how to make a complaint. Usually you will be required to put your grievance in writing and state the outcome you are looking for. Employers must respond to grievances in a timely manner.
All employers need to have a grievance procedure for staff to use and it is normally found in the staff handbook. If you can’t find it ask your HR or other manager.
Also check to see if your employer has a bullying policy, some larger employers may deal with bullying allegations under a separate stand-alone policy so make sure you use it if it is available.
Can I bring a claim in the employment tribunal?
You cannot get redress from an employment tribunal or Court simply for “bullying”, the law does not recognise such a claim.
However, a claim for harassment under the Equality Act 2010 might be possible where the unwanted conduct is related to age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
If your employer fails to take action to investigate your bullying grievance and the problem continues then it may be possible to resign and bring a claim of constructive unfair dismissal. However, this is an extreme course of action and you should take advice before doing so.
Acas has published guidance on bullying at work for employees.
How can we help you?
Speak to one of our employment law specialists today if you are an individual who thinks they may have a bullying complaint.