How Employers Should Handle Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

13 May 2022
As an employer, you're responsible for protecting the wellbeing of your employees, preventing bullying and harassment in the workplace and for making it clear that it won't be tolerated. We understand that navigating these scenarios can be tricky, complex and incredibly uncomfortable, especially if you’ve never had to face anything like this before. However, it’s essential that you deal with workplace bullying effectively in order to protect both your staff and your business.
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All employers have a legal duty of care to protect their employees while they're at work which includes dealing with bullying and harassment issues. Here at John Fowlers Solicitors, we’re proud to have a skilled and qualified team of legal professionals who are highly experienced in helping clients navigate through a wide range of employment related issues. We understand that handling bullying and harassment in your workplace can be complicated and leave you feeling unsure of where to start. So, we’ve compiled some useful information on an employer’s responsibilities when it comes to dealing with workplace bullying and harassment. 

For all employment law enquiries, please get in touch with our Employment Law Solicitors in Colchester today.

What is workplace bullying?

There is currently no legal definition of bullying. However, it is commonly described as unwanted behaviour from a person or group of people. This unwanted behaviour can be described as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting. It could also relate to misuse of power from a colleague which is considered to be undermining, humiliating or even causing harm (both physical and emotional) to someone. 

What is counted as workplace harassment?

Harassment is slightly different to bullying as it is considered to be unlawful under the Equality Act 2010. Bullying that could be recognised as harassment is when the unwanted behaviour is focused on ‘protected characteristics’ defined by discriminaton law. These characteristics include age, race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment, and religion or belief. 

Harassment and bullying can take different shapes and forms including face-to-face, on the phone or online including social media, messages and emails. It could happen in front of colleagues or it could happen away from others, which can often make it difficult to notice. It’s also important to note that bullying does not have to be a pattern or something that occurs regularly, it can be a one-off incident too. 

What are the responsibilities of an employer when it comes to bullying?

Legally, employers are required to protect their employees which means that they are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment in the workplace. If an employee suffers harassment, employers are considered to be liable for this. 

What are the benefits of anti-bullying and harassment policies?

Anti-bullying and harassment policies can help prevent workplace issues. It’s important to implement a clear and easily accessible anti-bullying and harassment policy. This policy should clearly communicate the organisation’s commitment to protecting employees well-being. It should also state the procedures and consequences that could arise as a result of bullying and harassment. Even if your business does not have an anti-bullying and harassment policy in place, you still have a legal duty of care to your employees and must deal with bullying issues adequately and effectively. 

We understand that creating a clear, well-communicated anti-bullying and harassment policy can seem time consuming. It might also feel a little daunting and overwhelming, particularly if you’re unsure where to begin. However, we’d highly recommend that you take the time to create one. 

Here at John Fowlers Solicitors, our employment solicitors work with businesses on a wide range of issues. From contracts of employment to staff handbooks and policy documentation, we can help you to protect your team of employees and your business. If you require further information and support regarding employment policy documentation or any other employment matters, please get in touch with our team of Employment Law Solicitors in Colchester. 

We’re experienced in providing representation and legal advice on a range of employment law matters. Contact our employment law expert, Karen Morovic, for support with all your employment law needs.

Speak to an expert:
Karen Morovic 
01206 593433