Anti-Bullying Week


This week, from the 18th to 24th of November is anti-bullying week. The theme this year focuses on cyber bullying, which can affect anyone.


The rise of cyber bullying

Cyber bullying can take many forms, from gossip on a social media website, being ignored, to offensive texts, emails and instant messages. Sometimes cyber bullying can be exploitative, for example pressuring someone by blackmailing them.

Many high profile cases of cyber bullying have reached the media. Sadly, many of these cases have resulted in the victims taking their own lives. This is why awareness should be raised to the problem.

Who can be a victim of cyber bullying?

While the media has focused on the teenage victims, cyber bullying also affects adults in the workplace. ACAS, the government body supporting industrial relations, have published guidance on cyber bullying in the workplace after it has become a common problem. They have also produced advice on bullying generally.

Between 15% and 20% of people surveyed had experienced cyber bullying on a weekly basis, which is comparable to figures reported for non-electronic bullying.

What are the effects of cyber bullying?

The media has portrayed the worrying consequences of cyber bullying, where teenagers have taken their own lives, whether they're being blackmailed or harassed by their bullies.

One of the main problems with cyber bullying is that it can be anonymous. People behave differently under a veil of anonymity, especially where they can communicate at arm's length, such as through email, rather than face to face. Therefore, it can be easier for those who want to bully their victims to do so, and potentially far easier to get away with it.

What can be done about cyber bullying?

It is important to recognise that certain people have a responsibility to support victims and prevent bullying in all of its forms. Employers and teachers should implement procedures to investigate, prevent, and stop bullying. The law places a duty of care on a school and employers towards their pupils and employees respectively. You have a right not to be harassed or bullied by others, whether at work or school.

However, it seems that none of this is useful in a practical sense without those with such a responsibility being approachable and trustworthy. If either of these isn't there, the cycle will simply continue.

Next steps

If you are being bullied at work because of your race, gender (including pregnancy or maternity), age, sexual orientation, religion or disability, seek immediate help from your union representative - if you have one. If you are not a union member, it may be worth considering as such bullying is unlawful and they may be able to support you in bringing a claim to the Employment Tribunal.

Bullying of any form can cause severe stress in the workplace, contact Simpson Millar LLP if you need further advice on the next steps in your possible claims process.

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