The statistics suggest that workplace bullying is an all too common problem, with many cases likely to go unreported as victims suffer in silence. Many workers may not even realise that their treatment could be regarded as bullying, so, what exactly are we talking about when we use the word and, what can you do about it if you are unlucky enough to be subjected to it at work? In this article we summarise what you need to know.
Understand what bullying is and how your organisation defines it
While most people will agree what constitutes bullying in extreme cases, there is a grey area in the middle which may cause more debate. One person’s robust management style is another’s bullying. It is therefore really important that employers give an indicative (but non-exhaustive) definition in any bullying policy. This means that should a grievance be raised about bullying, the person considering it is clear about what they are looking for. Employees also have to understand what bullying is so they know what sort of behaviour is unacceptable in the workplace.
Follow employer’s grievance procedure
All employers whatever their size should have a formal grievance procedure for resolving workplace issues; a complaint of bullying should be dealt with like any other grievance. The procedure is normally found in the staff handbook and should ideally be drafted to reflect the best practice recommendations of the Acas Code on disciplinary and grievance procedures.
Anytime you are feeling bullied or think you are experiencing bullying behaviour, document the date, time and details of the incident ASAP. Keeping a detailed record will assist with any grievance or complaint you ultimately bring.
Don’t try an employment tribunal
Unfortunately, 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. So, take notes of how the bullying manifests.
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.
Consider whether there is a wider problem in your workplace?
Is it just one person who is the problem or does it go wider? Is there a culture which allows bullying to go unchecked? Bullies rarely have just one victim, consider if the perpetrator(s) may have bullied others? While not everyone will be brave enough to make a complaint, evidence collected during any investigation into a grievance could suggest a “bullying culture” which goes far wider than just one individual.
Employers need to take bullying seriously and deal with it quickly
A workplace with a bullying culture is ultimately problematic for an employer as it affects morale, productivity and staff turnover and they should therefore want to take action to deal with the problem. A failure to deal with grievances in a timely manner could be a breach of trust and confidence by an employer, entitling the employee to resign and claim constructive dismissal.
If you would like to know more or want help dealing with bullying in the workplace, talk to our employment law specialists today. We’ll help you figure out the best way forward for you.