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Bullying in the Workplace – Top Five Things Employers Need to Know

The Home Office has been hitting the headlines with the news that a senior civil servant, Sir Philip Rutnam, intends to bring an employment tribunal claim for constructive dismissal following alleged workplace bullying by the Home Secretary Priti Patel.

This high profile situation highlights the importance of employers being alert to bullying in the workplace. So, what are the top five things every employer needs to know when it comes to bullying?

1.What is bullying?

Whilst there is no statutory definition of bullying, it can generally be described as the less favourable treatment of a person by another or others. Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct. It can include behaviour such as ridiculing, demeaning or insulting someone, excluding someone, spreading malicious rumours or picking on someone.

If the conduct relates to ‘protected characteristics’ such as sex, age or race, then it will usually be a case of harassment rather than bullying. It’s worth bearing in mind that  there are different rules in place regarding harassment. If you would like further information on harassment, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd.

2. Why should bullying matter to employers?

Bullying can have a devastating effect on those that are subjected to it which in turn will have an impact on organisations. It can lead to performance issues, lost productivity, absenteeism, high staff turnover, mental health issues for employees and even reputational damage for employers. It’s therefore important for employers to take steps to prevent bullying from occurring.

In some cases, an employee who has been bullied may be able to complain to an employment tribunal that they have been constructively dismissed – that they have been treated in such a way that they have effectively been forced to resign. However, for a claim of ordinary constructive dismissal employees will need at least two years’ continuous service. The compensatory award in such cases is capped at the lower of one year’s pay or £86,444.

3.What steps can employers take to reduce the risk of bullying occurring in their workplace?

Sometimes employees engage in bullying behaviour because they don’t recognise that what they are doing is bullying – they might see it as a ‘bit of banter’ or they do it because they think they can get away with it.

There are a number of simple steps employers can take to reduce the likelihood of bullying occurring, these include:

  • Having an anti-bullying policy in place and clearly communicating it to all employees
  • Making it clear to new starters as part of their induction that bullying is not tolerated and ensuring they have read and understood your anti-bullying policy
  • Providing anti-bullying training to all employees and refresher training when appropriate and keeping records of attendance – this ensures everyone is aware of what bullying is and the Company’s stance in relation to it. It will also help you to evidence this if required.

4.What should an employer do if an employee complains that they are being bullied?

It’s important that such complaints are taken seriously and that they are addressed promptly and appropriately. In most cases, this will involve addressing the matter through the employer’s formal grievance procedure. If there is evidence that bullying has taken place, appropriate action will need to be taken in relation to the bully, if they have two years’ service or more this will require a disciplinary process to be followed.

If an employee in your organisation raises a complaint about bullying or you are considering taking action in relation to a suspected bully it’s important to seek specific advice from Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd on the facts of your case at the outset.

5.What should employers do if they would like anti-bullying training from Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd?

Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd offers training on a wide range of employment law matters including bullying and harassment. Our training packages are:

  • Cost effective
  • Written and delivered by employment law experts you can trust
  • Praised by managers and employers for being practical, engaging and effective. Through interactive workbooks, case-studies and activities your employees have the opportunity to develop their skills and test their learning
  • Able to be delivered at your premises (or other location of your choice).

If you are interested in training for your organisation, please do not hesitate to contact your Employment Law Specialist to discuss your training needs and to request a quote.

If you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.