Bullying & Harassment At Work- What Are Your Employment Rights?

  • Author: Yasmin Govan
  • Posted on: 26th March 2019
  • Posted in: Blog

Did you know there are distinct differences between Bullying & Harassment in the Workplace?

Bullying and harassment may be used hand in hand, however, they are not the same when it comes to your employment law rights. Both can, however, occur at any time, whether in person, in writing, phone or via social media or other online platforms.

What is workplace bullying?

Some of the classic signs of bullying include:

  • Exclusion from meetings which you would normally be expected to attend
  • Exclusion from meetings, emails, lunches or other office social events
  • Being targeted for performance, or having a poor appraisal which is undeserved
  • Having your promotion or training opportunities blocked
  • Being constantly threatened about your job security

What is harassment?

Under the Equality Act 2010 (“the Act”), the relevant protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

Harassment is unwanted conduct associated with a relevant protected characteristic, that has the aim or result of violating an individual’s dignity or making a discouraging, hostile, degrading, humbling or offensive environment for that individual.

Under the Act, employers are also responsible for their employees who harass other employees. However, they can escape liability if they can demonstrate that they took reasonable practical steps to prevent the harassment from happening.

Some signs of harassment include:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances – such as touching, standing too close, the display of offensive materials, asking for sexual favors or making decisions on the basis of sexual advances being accepted or rejected
  • Derogatory homophobic comments being made about the employee
  • Frequent teasing and humiliation about an employees disability

"What about “the banter excuse”?

Many managers use the “banter excuse” as a defence to bullying especially in industries where banter is commonplace- such as the finance and banking sector. Banter is all well and good and an employee cannot complain whilst they are a party to it.

What about the “constructive criticism” excuse?

Many managers will use the defence that they were simply giving “constructive criticism” or acting in a way necessary for firm management. Whilst they feel that this may be justified, there are occasions where a manager’s “firm management” and criticism cross the line of what is acceptable.

What should you do if you are being bullied or harassed at work?

You could perhaps try and resolve the matter informally. You could discuss your concerns with your line manager, HR, a union official, or even the person who is bullying you (if you feel that you can).

It is advisable to keep a written record of events with dates and details of the circumstances in which you felt bullied or harassed, as well as keeping records of any emails and any other written communications as proof.

If you cannot resolve matters informally, then you should consider lodging a formal grievance through the Company’s Grievance Procedure. Your employer is obliged to investigate the allegations in your grievance and hold a grievance meeting.

A decision will then be made whether or not to uphold the grievance and you will be given the right to appeal. You can also seek legal advice before submitting your grievance.

Want to find out more?

If you would like to discuss an Employment Law matter confidentially with an experienced solicitor, then please contact our Yasmin Govan on 01273 734 600 or email yasmin@crosbywoods.co.uk