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Bullying in the workplace

Anti-Bullying Week takes place 14th – 18th November to try and reinforce

  • how workplaces approach the subject of bullying
  • what to do if you are being bullied
  • what action will be taken against those who do bully their colleagues, and
  • highlight the impact bullying can have.


As with many campaigns of this nature, it seems as though it should not be necessary. It should not require a campaign to stop colleagues bullying each other. Surely common sense and common decency mean this is a given, and that bullying is what happens at school between children who are still learning? Unfortunately (after 16 years in employment law) campaigns such as this, and some of the comments that can be read on almost any social media site, say otherwise.

What may surprise people is that there is no specific law against “bullying”. This is likely because of the difficulty in being able to define what bullying is – if you gave 10 people the same scenario and asked if it was bullying, you may find that not all 10 agreed on whether it was bullying or not. There is often a blurry line between, say a manager being firm with an employee, a manager bullying the employee by singling them out, or perhaps an employee laughing at a mistake made by a colleague and the employee deliberately embarrassing their colleague in front of others.

Essentially, bullying is creating an intimidating or humiliating work environment for another, and although there is no legislation specifically designed to prevent bullying, if the behaviour that creates an intimidating or humiliating work environment relates to a protected characteristic (such as your age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation) then the bullying may fall under discrimination under the Equality Act.

What should I do if I am being bullied?

  1. Try and resolve the issue informally. That might mean speaking to the person you feel is bullying you (if you can) or speaking to a manager or your HR department.


  1. If that doesn’t work, or the situation is more serious than that, then you should raise a formal grievance about the bullying. The grievance should be as specific as possible with names, dates & times of the bullying, and anyone who witnessed it


  1. Consider talking to someone outside your workplace about what is happening.


What can employers do to prevent bullying?

  1. Make it really clear that bullying will result in the bully being dismissed. Have a policy that covers bullying & harassment that is also linked to your disciplinary procedure & rules.


  1. Having a policy is no good if managers do not know how to implement it, and employees aren’t aware of it. Make it clear what you as a business regard as bullying and ensure managers and staff know how to identify it.


  1. Remove the fear factor of making an allegation by reassuring staff that complaints will be taken seriously, and if you receive one, take it seriously.


Nobody wants to be bullied and all employers want employees who are happy, engaged and contributing. Taking steps to ensure that bullying in the workplace does not happen, but that if it does, it is stamped out, helps achieve that and means everybody wins.

If you need help and guidance to create your own anti-bully procedures, then please contact our Employment law team on 01246 932100 or email for a no obligation chat.

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