Julie Duane, Legal Counsel at CG Professional.
The week commencing 11 November 2019 kickstarts the campaign of anti-bullying week. Bullying affects all types of individuals whether its childhood bullying or adults in the workplace and it often has a detrimental impact on how individuals behave. This article seeks to look at bullying in the workplace, the types of potential claims which can be pursued and ways in which employers can try to stamp it out.
Can bullying be brought as a standalone claim in an employment tribunal?
Bullying is not usually a claim which can be pursued as a standalone claim, however, that does not mean it cannot form part of another claim, or substantially enhance claims being pursued. For example, the types of claims which can be pursued in connection with bullying could include:
- bullying in connection with discrimination under one of the protected characteristics such as disability, race and/or sex;
- bullying and harassment in connection with a protected characteristic(s);
- where an individual carries out a course of conduct under the Harassment Act (which does not have to be determined as a protected characteristic) and which may cause an employer to become vicariously liable for an individual’s actions;
- in connection with claims for constructive and/or unfair dismissal; and
- in connection with a whistleblowing claim whereby individuals suffered a detriment because of the protected disclosure made.
What can bullying do to a workplace?
- generate poor morale in the workplace thereby leading to potential poor performance, conduct and/or absences;
- create a lack of cohesion in the workforce thereby meaning that the quality of service delivered by the business is affected; and
- management time is drawn away from strategic and logistical work in order to resolve workplace conflicts.
So how do employers tackle and reduce bullying in the workplace?
Employers should consider the following measures:
- implementing robust policies and procedures which highlight that bullying is not appropriate, explaining what bullying looks like, the processes which will be adopted if there is a breach and ensuring that this message is disseminated to staff;
- Employers should ensure that their managers are trained on bullying in the workplace, including how to manage it and reduce it;
- look at the current company structure and culture to see if there is a shift in the power balance which is causing bullying to manifest. If so, are there ways in which this can be varied and altered;
- ensure that any issues regarding bullying are addressed promptly in order for them to be stamped out early doors; and
- ensure that there is a speak out culture against bullying in order to eradicate it.
If you have any questions about this article or would like to discuss another matter, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the CG Team who will be more than happy to help.