This week is anti-bullying week in England and Wales and it highlights a serious issue which can affect people at all stages of life and in many different settings, including in the workplace. Workplace bullying can have a detrimental impact not only on those who are subject to it but on organisations too. So, what can it be helpful for employers to know when it comes to workplace bullying?
1. What exactly is bullying?
It may come as a surprise to some employers but unlike discrimination and harassment there is no set definition in law as to what bullying is. That said, bullying can often be described as the repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another or others. Bullying behaviour can be physical, verbal and non-verbal.
2. Why does workplace bullying occur?
There can be many reasons why it occurs, these can include:
- A lack of understanding and awareness – whilst bullying can be deliberate, it can also sometimes arise from an employee not understanding what the organisation and those around them consider to be bullying behaviour or not recognising their actions as falling into that category. What one employee may view as having a ‘bit of a laugh’, such as frequent teasing of a colleague, could in actuality be bullying
- Employees thinking that they can ‘get away with it’ – sometimes bullying can be opportunistic with employees thinking they won’t get ‘caught’ or the person being bullied won’t report them
- Workplace culture – if employees come to view bullying conduct as normal workplace behaviour, they are more likely to engage in it as they view it as acceptable conduct. This will be particularly the case if managers are aware of the behaviour and don’t take action as it will be seen to be condoned
3. Are there any steps that employers can take to try to prevent bullying occurring?
Employers can take action to try to prevent bullying, helpful steps include:
- Having in place a clear anti-bullying policy and communicating it to all employees and managers. If you would like an anti-bullying and harassment policy for use in your organisation, please contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd.
- Ensuring employees know how to report bullying concerns and that they feel able to speak up
- Undertaking anti-bullying training with employees and managers and refreshing it periodically. Training can help to reduce the likelihood of bullying occurring and, if it does happen, it can put the organisation in a better position to deal with it.
4. What should employers do if a complaint about bullying is made?
As you would expect it’s important to ensure that any complaints about bullying are dealt with promptly and appropriately and that all those involved are treated fairly. Generally speaking, dealing with a bullying complaint will often involve addressing the matter through a formal grievance procedure and, if there is sufficient evidence to warrant it, following a disciplinary process to take action in relation to the perpetrator. If a complaint of bullying is raised in your organisation it’s always important to seek specific advice from Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd on the facts of your situation before taking any action.
5. Should employers be alert to tribunal claims related to bullying?
Employers should bear in mind that there can be cases where a bullied employee who has two years’ service or more is able to argue that they have been constructively unfairly dismissed because of how they were treated. This can include where a grievance about bullying is not appropriately addressed.
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.