Bullying and harassment at work

Bullying and harassment within the workplace needs to be treated seriously to prevent unhappy employees and low retention rates. Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 and is seen as behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended.

What is bullying and harassment?

It’s when any member of staff / employee within a company is being affected by another member of staff / colleague with negative or unwanted behaviour. This negative or unwanted behaviour can make the member of staff feel upset or intimidated. Examples of harassment in the workplace are:
● Physical behaviour such as rude gestures.
● Offensive emails or social media posts.
● Unfair treatment or exclusion.

How can you spot bullying or harassment in the workplace?

Noticing some of the telltale signs of workplace harassment and bullying is crucial to your business and will help you to remove people causing the issues and support the employees receiving the bullying and harassment. Examples of behaviour to look for within your employees:
● Mood swings.
● Stress and anxiety.
● Aggression.

Having an Anti-bullying and Harassment Training Policy in place can help an employer to evidence that they have taken measures to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace, in the event that they were ever in the unfortunate position of having to defend such a claim. However, as the Allay versus Gehlen showed, not if the training has become “stale” and in need of refreshing.

What is an example of bullying and harassment in the workplace?

The Claimant was subjected to racist comments on a regular basis. In a claim for harassment related to race, the employer relied on the ‘reasonable steps’ defence under s109(4) Equality Act 2010: that it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment, due to its provision of relevant training to the perpetrator and other employees.

The EAT upheld the tribunal’s decision to reject the defence. As to the reasonableness of the steps taken. The training, given over a year before the harassment, had become “stale”. This was demonstrated by the racist comments and managers failing to report them when they were aware.

Additionally, the employer needs to have taken all reasonable steps. In this case, a reasonable step would have been to refresh the training, and there was nothing to suggest that this would not have been effective. In fact, the employer provided the perpetrator with training after the harassment, so must have thought it was likely to be effective.

This supports not only the value of such training, but also of the need to keep it up to date and fresh.

Our team of award-winning HR specialists can help you and your business with the training required to ensure you’re prepared for all eventualities when it comes to bullying and harassment within the workplace. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch, we can guide you on the right path to ensure you have the correct information.

Image: Shutterstock