D-BRIEF – Employment & Pensions Blog: Anti-bullying Week

This week is anti-bullying week. This is an annual event organised by the Anti-Bullying Alliance to raise awareness of bullying and highlight ways of preventing it. Each year anti-bullying week has a theme; this year it is Reach Out. Reach Out aims to encourage people to do something positive to counter the harm and hurt that bullying causes.

What is bullying?

It can be difficult to spot bullying as no legal definition exists. Acas suggests that bullying is unwanted behaviour that is either offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting or an abuse or misuse of power that undermines, humiliates, or causes physical or emotional harm to someone.

Some examples of bulling may include:

  • Spreading malicious rumours about someone
  • Excluding others (ostracism)
  • Deliberately giving someone a heavier workload than everyone else
  • Overbearing and intimidating levels of supervision

What to do as an employer?

As an employer, you have a duty of care for the wellbeing of your employees. Some useful and effective ways that you can do this is by implementing the following:

  • Providing training to all employees to raise awareness
  • Having an “open door policy”, so employees feel able to raise concerns
  • Regularly checking in with your employees to create open conversations
  • Creating a zero-tolerance environment, enabling employees to feel comfortable to come forward with their concerns , knowing that they will be dealt with appropriately
  • Ensuring that you have a policy dealing with allegations of bullying

How should you handle allegations of bullying?

Bullying can at times be played off as a joke or “banter”. As an employer it is important to ensure that reports of bullying are taken seriously and addressed as soon as possible. The first step would be to talk to the employee that raised the bullying allegation to gain more information and check how they might like it to be handled, i.e formally or informally.

Informally can include options such as a meeting with both parties where the behaviour can be discussed, and if appropriate, an apology provided. If the employee wants a more formal route, then you should follow a formal grievance procedure or any specific bullying policy in place.

Alternative working arrangements may also need to be considered if allegations of bullying are raised between colleagues or against a manager.

It is important employers deal with bullying allegations as soon as possible, carrying out a reasonable investigation and taking the appropriate action. Not only can bullying behaviour/allegations have an impact on employee relations and morale, they can expose employers to legal claims if the conduct is found to be in breach of the implied term of trust and confidence.

For more information, please contact a member of our Employment Team.

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