Tackling bullying in the workplace

There is no specific legislation covering this particular issue so no legal definition exists as to exactly what types of behaviour can be constituted as bullying. However, the accepted definition, as adopted by the TUC, is: 'persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress.' Despite the absence of specific legislation, there are laws which may be applicable depending on the circumstances of the individual making a complaint:

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 2(1)

This places a responsibility upon every employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all their employees.

Section 3 of the Management of Health & Safety Regulations 1992

Every employer has a legal responsibility to make a suitable sufficient assessment of the risk to the health, safety and welfare of employees in order that preventative and protective measures can be taken.

Safety Representatives

In Regulation 4A of the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977, employers have a legal duty to consult with Union Safety Representatives concerning Health & Safety matters.

Employment Law

Duty to prevent unlawful discrimination. This covers bullying, which may be defined as discrimination where it is based on gender, race or disability.

Constructive dismissal

Employers have a general duty of care under civil law. If bullying leads to a fundamental breach of the employment contract, an employee may be able to pursue a claim of constructive dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996, provided that they have worked with the same employer for at least one year.

Workplace policy on bullying

This should include:

  • A statement that bullying will not be tolerated and will be treated as a disciplinary offence
  • A commitment that complaints of bullying will be taken seriously and dealt with quickly
  • All elements of the procedure to be conducted in confidence
  • A timetabled complaints procedure
  • Provision of confidential counselling for both the bullied and the bully
  • The policy should include regular monitoring to assess whether it is actually achieving its intended aims  and objectives. Training for management and Health & Safety Representatives

More information can be found at bullyonline.org.