Bullying and harassment

There is no legal definition of workplace bullying but it is usually seen as offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting or humiliating behaviour, or where power and authority are misused to undermine you or make you so unhappy that you leave.

Being bullied at work is a horrible experience for you. We help employees who have been:

  • Excluded from meetings, emails, or office gatherings you would normally be expected to attend
  • Stripped of authority and team management responsibility reduced
  • Given an unwarranted poor appraisal or performance review
  • Blocked from promotion or denied training opportunities
  • Constantly threatened about job security

Harassment is defined in the Equality Act 2010 as: unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating your dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you. Harassment is unlawful if it relates to your age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. The Equality Act deals with sexual harassment separately.

Under the Act, your employer can be liable for their staff, clients or suppliers  who harass you, if they fail to prevent it from occurring.

 

What about workplace ‘banter’?

Many employers and managers use the label ‘banter’ as a defence to bullying, especially in an informal setting or in some lines of work. Banter can be fun, however, when someone crosses the line and the comments become personal, to your obvious distress, then that is unacceptable. In those circumstances, even if you were originally voluntarily joining in with the banter, the comments can become bullying or harassment.

It is not always clear where the line is drawn, but if you make it clear that the other person has gone too far- and they don’t stop, you may have evidence of harassment or bullying.

What should I do if I am being bullied or harassed at work?

Talk to us. You can call free on 08000 614 631 and without any obligation. We’ll explain your options.

We always advise you to keep a diary record whenever you feel bullied or harassed, as well as keeping any emails or other communications as evidence of the unwanted behaviour. Your evidence will be useful if you are required to recall it later on.

If you are being bullied or harassed at work, consider whether an informal approach would resolve the problem. You may be able to discuss your concerns with a sympathetic manager, HR, or union representative if you find it difficult to raise it with the person who is bullying or harassing you.

If you cannot resolve your complaint informally, then a formal grievance could be needed. Your employer should then investigate the allegations you made and meet with you to discuss them. We can help you raise a grievance to get the outcome you want.

What if I just want to leave work?

We know there are times when carrying on working somewhere is intolerable and there is no alternative but for you to resign. Getting expert legal advice quickly is essential. Tactically you will be in a stronger position if you take legal advice first.

We can help to negotiate your exit, avoiding a resignation which might put your financial security at risk – or we try to remove the pressure you are working under. But if you do want to resign, our advice will give you the best chance of success.

 

Can I take it further if I don’t settle?

You can bring a claim in an Employment Tribunal for damages if you have been discriminated against, harassed or bullied into resigning.

Employment law has strict time limits. Good cases can be lost before they even start through hesitation or delay. In most cases you will have to notify Acas of a potential claim within three months (less one day) of your employment ending or the last act of harassment. It is important you get in contact with us as soon as possible so we can help before it is too late. We can handle the mandatory Acas Early Conciliation process from start to finish.

Harassment (under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997)

You also have the right to make a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 through the County Court –  although it can be an expensive and a lengthy process. You have 6 years from the last act of harassment to bring a claim.

The conduct about which you are complaining needs to be a sustained campaign, rather than a one-off incident. Courts have ruled that what constitutes as  harassment in this type of claim is more extreme than in the Employment Tribunal. Examples of claims which can be made through the courts include:

  • Unwanted physical contact
  • Personal insults, unwelcome remarks about age, dress, appearance, race or marital status, offensive language, gossip, slander
  • Posters, graffiti, obscene gestures, flags, bunting and emblems
  • Isolation or non-cooperation and exclusion from social activities
  • Coercion for sexual favours
  • Pressure to participate in political/religious groups
  • Personal intrusion from pestering, spying and stalking
  • Failure to safeguard confidential information
  • Shouting
  • Setting impossible deadlines or unachievable targets
  • Persistent unwarranted criticism

What do I do now?

This is where we come in. Employment law is all we do.

It can often feel like your employer holds all the power.  They will likely have experienced HR professionals or a solicitor working in the background.  That’s why you need the best support and advice available.  You need a specialist employment lawyer – one who will push for the best outcome for you.

We understand how it feels. We have helped hundreds of employees and because we act for businesses too, we know the tactics you’re likely to face from your employer.  We know every trick in the book.

We will advise you of your options and how best to proceed – whether you want to return to work or would like us to negotiate an exit on your behalf.

You only have a limited amount of time to take action to preserve your employment rights – usually just three months (less one day) from the date of the last act of harassment or when your employment ends.

FREE first advice

Have you ever wanted to just ask an expert employment law solicitor if they can help you, without worrying about what it may cost to contact them?

Get in touch

We’d like to talk to you to see what we can do to help, so please either call us anytime for free on 08000 614 631, email us or use the online form.

Together we can work out what your next steps might be...in confidence, at no cost and with no obligation.