Tackling Workplace Bullying

According to a recent consultation paper produced by ACAS, bullying in the workplace is on the increase.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) says that since 1998 that there has been a steady increase in the number of reports of grievances being made concerning bullying. Further, their data shows that around 80 calls a day are made to their helpline requesting advice about bullying. The ACAS findings provide evidence that bullying is a serious problem in Britain’s workforce.

work place bullying in office

Consequences of Workplace Bullying

A business’s failure to take steps to address bullying can have catastrophic effects.

Victim – It may affect them psychologically and physically. They may have symptoms of stress, suffer from fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and in some cases it may cause them to suffer a personal injury. The employee’s performance will generally dip and in extreme cases affect their ability to work at all.

Workforce – It may affect their morale and their wellbeing. This is particularly true where they feel that no steps are being taken by their employer to address the matter,  leaving them with little or no alternative other than to stand by and watch helplessly. This may also have a knock on effect upon their own performance at work as they fear becoming a victim of bullying themselves.

Employer – An unhappy and distressed workforce is generally believed to be an unproductive workforce and so can have an effect on the business profit.

The Employer’s Duty

An employer has a duty to provide its staff with a safe working environment and a failure to do so can render the business liable to a claim. Dealing with a claim can be time-consuming, disruptive to the working environment as well as expensive.

It is important that a business has an understanding of what bullying is if they are to have any prospects of successfully tackling the problem (thus reducing their liability to a claim) in compliance with this legal obligation.

So what constitutes bullying?

The law does not provide a definition, which unfortunately makes it more difficult to state with certainty what would constitute bullying. It also depends upon the particular circumstances – what may be considered to be acceptable behaviour in one working environment may be totally unacceptable in another.

However in the absence of a definition there is some conduct and behaviour that will generally be considered to be bullying and includes:

  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Creating a hostile working environment
  • Overburdening an employee and/or setting them unachievable targets
  • Making the same person the butt of jokes and a victim of pranks
  • Ignoring or excluding an employee from activities within the workplace or external activities connected with it

UNISON has defined workplace bullying as persistent offensive, intimidating, humiliating behaviour, which attempts to undermine an individual or group of employees.

What can an employer do in order to reduce the risks of bullying claims occurring in their workplace?

Our Employment Law Specialist believes that a business should put an Anti-Bullying Policy in place which sets out their position in relation to bullying and what steps it will take to address it. They may also consider training managers responsible for employees as many of the claims centre around managers and employees.

If you are an employer that requires an Anti-Bullying policy or you need assistance in tackling bullying that is occurring within your workplace and would like speak to a solicitor, then call us today on 01273 604123.