When Does Something become Bullying in the Workplace?

While the law in England and Wales offers many protections to employees, there’s no strict legal definition of bullying in the workplace. This means that the term bullying can be very subjective and open to interpretation.

As a result, anyone wanting to take legal action against their employer for bullying in the workplace must understand what types of potential claims may be available. Our Employment Solicitors can help you navigate this complex area of law, and help you get the justice you’re entitled to.

For free initial legal advice get in touch with our Employment Solicitors.

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Definition of Workplace Bullying

The employee conciliation service Acas, characterises workplace bullying as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient”.

What one person sees as insulting and demeaning might be seen as gentle banter by another, and a strong and assertive management style could be misinterpreted as belittling and undermining behaviour.

Protected Characteristics

An Employment Tribunal can only make a finding that discrimination at work has occurred if the bullying at work relates to a “protected characteristic”, as laid out in the Equality Act. The protected characteristics are:

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

If you feel you have been bullied based on one of the protected characteristics set out above, then you may therefore be able to seek a remedy or compensation at an Employment Tribunal.

Our Employment Solicitors can help you determine whether or not the bullying you faced at work was illegal.

Constructive Dismissal

Our Employment Solicitors can also advise on whether you could claim constructive dismissal, as the trust and confidence between you and your employer may have broken down irretrievably to the point where you cannot return to work.

However, you can usually only claim constructive dismissal if you’ve worked for a particular employer for a minimum of two years.

Common Examples of Bullying in the Workplace include:

        • Being given excessive workloads
        • Being regularly criticised and undermined
        • Having malicious rumours spread about you
        • Having promotion opportunities blocked
        • Being excluded from meetings, workplace correspondence and colleague lunches/drinks

We should also stress that workplace bullying does not have to be limited to face-to-face interactions. A person can also be bullied through social media, by phone, email and instant messaging apps, and this may prove useful evidence if you wish to take legal action.

Steps to Take for Bullying in the Workplace

          • Keep a written record of all incidents, including incidents that have happened in the past
          • Speak to your manager, human resources department or trade union representative to see if you can resolve the issue informally
          • If this doesn’t work, submit a formal complaint to your employer.

It’s worth taking these steps first before considering legal action, as if you do go on to make a claim, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you tried to resolve the matter in-house first.

All UK employees are entitled to work in a safe environment, and your employer should create a safe workplace free from bullying and harassment. If you feel that you have been bullied in the workplace, speak to one of our Employment Solicitors who will be able to go through your options with you.

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