Bullying and harassment at work
There is no specific legal definition for bullying but it is often described as behaviour that is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting. It can include an abuse or misuse of power, treatment intending to undermine and humiliate an individual or purposively excluding someone from certain activities.
Harassment is defined legally as unwanted conduct relating to certain protected characteristics such as age, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.
Protection under the Law
You cannot pursue a claim in the Employment Tribunal for bullying alone. Rather, bullying behavior may form part of another claim being sought, in particular in constructive dismissal, where an employee resigns due to the behavior of their employer. This is because it can be argued that bullying by the employer, or a failure to prevent it, can lead to a breakdown of mutual trust and confidence between the employer and the employee.
A claim for harassment can be pursued on its own either in an Employment Tribunal under the Equality Act 2010, or in the Civil Courts under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
What steps should you take
Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to initially deal with the compliant on an informal basis. This can prevent the complaint escalating and can allow for it to be dealt with in a more sensitive manner.
If the complaint can’t be resolved informally, then more formal action, such as raising a grievance, should be taken. This could then result in formal disciplinary action being taken against the individual.
It is important for employees bring any complaints to their employer’s attention as soon as possible, as well keeping records of discussions and meetings held.