Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying and harassment in the workplace can take many different forms, and can be very difficult to determine in a legal context.

To make matters even more complicated, there is currently no specific UK employment law legislation that covers bullying or general harassment in the workplace, even though research has shown that this is a widespread problem that can dramatically affect the quality of your employees’ working lives.

Whilst you do have an established duty of care towards your employees and a legal obligation to ensure their safety and protection, they should also be expected to tolerate a certain degree of unpleasantness from colleagues. It is a little less clear cut when there is any unpleasantness from managers. Every accusation of bullying in the workplace must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.  Failure to properly address a complaint of workplace bullying could give rise to a claim for constructive unfair dismissal, if the bullying and/or your lack of proper response causes the employee to resign.

As there is no legislation that relates directly to bullying in the workplace, cases of workplace bullying are normally pursued using other forms of legislation, including discrimination.

If there is no element of discrimination in the bullying, your employee could make a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act. However, this cannot be made in the employment tribunal, so they are at risk of having to pay your costs if they lose. Likewise, if they win, you would be liable for their costs, which is generally not the case in the employment tribunal.

If you are seeking to put into practice a policy to safeguard your employees or are currently handling a grievance about bullying, Ashby Cohen can help you. We specialise in employment law cases, and our years of experience as employment lawyers make us especially qualified to assist you with any workplace bullying issues you may have. Please contact us for an initial free telephone consultation.

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