skip to main content

Bullying and harassment in the workplace

Workplace bullying is on the rise. According to a YouGov Poll (for the Trades Union Congress) 29% of people have been the victims of workplace bullying – that’s nearly 3 in every 10 workers.

Bullying and harassment at work can come in many different forms and can involve a number of individuals. Typical examples include spreading malicious rumours, unfair treatment, undermining or denying promotion opportunities. It’s also important to understand that bullying and harassment is not always face-to-face, it can take place by email, phone and social media.

When is bullying or harassment against the law?

Under the Equality Act 2010, bullying is not against the law unless it amounts to discrimination, whilst it must relate to a protected characteristic, such as:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

The law defines harassment as '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 person.' This can also include unwanted conduct of a sexual nature.

An employer’s responsibility

Employers have a duty of care to prevent each and every employee from facing harassment or bullying in their workplace, which can lead to stress, anxiety and low confidence. They have a responsibility to protect the welfare of their employees, including taking action against any cases of unlawful harassment.

What can you do if you experience bullying or harassment?

It’s an unfortunate truth, but many people who experience workplace bullying or harassment tend to ‘put up’ with it for too long, not knowing their legal rights. That said, before bringing forward an employment tribunal claim, you may want to consider the following:

  • Tell a colleague of your situation but only if you feel comfortable with them, such a person in HR or a company counsellor.
  • Speak to your trade union or staff representative.
  • Keep notes of the dates and times of all incidents, and be sure to note down any witnesses too.
  • Keep hold of any letters, emails, notes or other communications.

Taking legal action

Escalations to managers, company counsellors or HR professionals will not always provide a prompt solution, and if all else fails you can consider taking the Employment Tribunal route. To make a claim against bullying or harassment, you must first contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

ACAS can provide early conciliation to attempt to resolve the issue, whilst the organisation will advise you and your employer over a period of time, usually around a month, though it can be extended by two weeks if both parties agree. Once this process is compete, you’ll be given an ACAS certificate. You can then issue a claim in the Employment Tribunal, whilst your employer has 30 days to submit their defence. From the moment they respond, the Tribunal will list the case for a full hearing in six to nine months.

How can Noble Solicitors help?

In our time we’ve helped many professionals across a multitude of industries support their cases of bullying and harassment, including at employment tribunals. Our specialist team of solicitors will guide you through the complete process, from collecting evidence and raising your complaint to bringing about legal proceedings. We take the time to gain a deep understanding on the issues our clients are facing at work, and we can quickly help you feel at ease, ensuring you get the protection you’re entitled to by current employment laws.

If you would like to speak to us about the issues you’re facing or wish to request further information from us on how we can help, please send us a message today or call 07000 81 82 83.

Read next article