Your employees have a right under the Equality Act 2010 to work in an environment that is free from ‘unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.'
Protected characteristics comprise: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation, and behaviour can show itself in many different forms.
Bulling and harassment policies
We would strongly recommend that all our clients have a policy in place outlining what is expected of all employees in terms of their behaviour and what is not acceptable, and this should be given to staff during their induction on joining your company and reviewed at regular intervals. When a new policy is put in place, you should provide ample opportunity for your staff to be able to discuss your policy in a timely manner.
There are model bullying and harassment policies available online. If you’re a member of the Federation of Small Businesses, they have model policies their members can use and adapt for their own purposes.
The Employment Law Team at John Fowlers Solicitors can provide advice on creating a policy and would also direct clients to an online booklet published by ACAS, which is an excellent guide for employers on bullying and harassment.
What if I get a complaint of bulling?
If an employee believes they are suffering from harassment at work, then you should take the complaint very seriously. Employees rarely make these sorts of complaints without serious thought and something serious having occurred. It is your responsibility to give them a fair hearing and fair treatment throughout.
You should be independent and objective in your investigation and follow the procedures outlined in your company policy. At any time, you may wish to consult an Employment Law specialist or your HR lead, to ensure that you are taking appropriate steps and acting fairly to all concerned.
Sometimes people don’t realise that what they have done or said was harassment and that can be resolved informally by providing greater understanding about what has happened. You should be able to obtain their agreement that their behaviour will stop immediately, sometimes with additional support via a colleague, manager or counsellor or without any further action required.
This ACAS information booklet outlines in some detail the different methods that this situation might be resolved. Each step may be necessary before a satisfactory conclusion is reached for the employee who has suffered as a result of another or a group of employees’ behaviour.
If you would like to discuss this or any other employment issue with a member of our team, please contact Karen Morovic at our Colchester offices on 01206 576151 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more about the Employment Law services offered at John Fowlers.