Feeling bullied at work? Help is at hand.

Posted by Amir Jaleel

When we think of bullying, I suspect most of us think back to childhood and that bigger boy or girl at school that decided for some unknown reason to pick on you for their own amusement.

Albeit it still a major problem, hopefully children in that situation now have a much better network of teachers, parents and outside agents and charities to help put a stop to this and indeed there is much greater awareness of the problem.

But what happens if later in life, you find yourself being bullied or harassed in your place of work? As grown ups can we really stand up for ourselves or are there still dargk forces at work? Of course no-one should be subject to any form of bullying, but perhaps some are still more likely to be able to stand up to this behaviour than others.

In the workplace the bullying could be apparent or subtle in nature and/or it may be constant or a solitary incident. This does not have to be face to face but can also occur in written communications, by phone or via email.

A person is being bullied if, for instance, they are:

Threatened with violence or loss of their job
Treated unfairly – e.g. not considered for promotion
Constantly humiliated in front of colleagues/clients/customers
Made a scapegoat for the mistakes of others
Given an unfair workload

There are a number of employment regulations in the UK which provide for employee protection against bullying or harassment in the workplace. Bullying and harassment is behavior that makes someone feel intimidated or offended.

Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 and occurs when an employee suffers unwanted conduct by the employer or their staff which violates the employee’s dignity or creates an "intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment" for them.

If the bullying and/or harassment in the workplace is due to a protected characteristic, such as age, disability, gender or race, it will amount to unlawful discrimination entitling you to bring a claim in an Employment Tribunal.

Under the Equality Act, employers are responsible for any staff who harass other employees, however they can escape such liability if they can demonstrate that they took reasonably practical steps to prevent it happening.

If you are an employer and you are concerned about the potential for such activity and any ramifications that might lead from this, please come and talk to us for advice as to the correct procedure going forward.

If you are an employee and feel you are suffering from either bullying or harassment in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact us in the strictest confidence, and we will guide you to the most suitable course of action.

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