A new study by Acas has revealed an increase in workplace bullying and suggests that many people are afraid to speak about it. Coodes Solicitor Philip Sayers explains how businesses can tackle the problem and protect their staff.
“This report from Acas has exposed a worrying trend. Not only does workplace bullying appear to be on the rise, but despite whistle blowing and anti-discrimination legislation, employees seem reluctant to speak out. Employers need to know what is expected of them and how to deal with bullying. If they don’t, they risk not only having an unhappy and unproductive workforce, but could face Tribunal claims.
“Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment. Every business should have something in place that clearly outlines who staff can talk to about incidents of bullying and how the business will then respond. Preferably that will be a written policy that staff can access. Wise employers will also talk to their staff about this and find out why there is a reluctance to raise concerns.
“Acas defines bullying and harassment as any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. This should not be confused with an employer’s responsibility and right to manage staff performance, which sometimes requires some straight talking.
“Bullying or harassment can be between two individuals or it may involve groups of people. It might be obvious or it might be insidious. It is not necessarily always obvious or apparent to others, and may happen in the workplace without an employer’s awareness. It may be persistent or an isolated incident. It can also occur in written communications, by phone or through email, not just face-to-face. Employees can also find themselves bullied by customers and clients.
“If someone is being bullied directly as a result of one of the characteristics defined in the 2010 Equality Act–with intimidating comments being made about their sexuality, or being humiliated about their disability, for example, the implications are rather more serious. A business failing to tackle complaints of this nature could face employee claims under the Equality Act 2010.
“Even if bullying is not directly linked to one of the characteristics defined by the Equality Act, businesses should still respond quickly and appropriately, or risk facing a constructive dismissal claim.
“The key is that businesses need to face up to the fact that bullying can happen in any workplace. They need clear procedures in place, which staff understand, and they need to respond to any reports of bullying or harassment.”
For more information on this or any Employment enquiries contact Philip Sayers on 0800 328 3282 or email email@example.com