The bullies have left the playground…but have they arrived in your workplace?


Recent reports suggest that there has been a big increase in bullying in the workplace – and once again, it’s the recession to blame.

With businesses large and small under incredible pressure to survive in these hard economic times, that pressure seems to be being passed on to employees via their managers and even their colleagues.

A survey by the union Unison has found that more than a third of workers say they have been bullied at work in the last 6 months. That’s double the number of just a decade ago. And one of the main reasons is the extra stress that line managers are under to deliver business objectives – often with no training to deal with those increased levels of stress - so they have become more demanding and more critical of their employees. And this leaves members of staff vulnerable to bullying and harassment.

A culture of fear and harassment in the workplace is one of the biggest occupational hazards facing employees in the UK, whether they work in the public or private sector. And anyone can be a victim. This is why compensation claims for being bullied in the workplace are now at an all time high, with allegations of being bullied at work becoming a frequent feature of compensation claims for constructive dismissal and discrimination at work.

Workplace bullying can cause stress and ill health with symptoms including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, headaches, nausea, sleeplessness and even more serious stress-related illnesses including high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, strokes, heart conditions and ulcers.

Research suggests that the stress caused by workplace bullying contributes to the 13.7milion working days lost every year in the UK, costing the nation £4billion a year.

But what does workplace bullying look like?

Bullying at work can take many forms, including but not exclusive to:

  • Being unfairly criticised for your work, having responsibilities removed or being given tasks of much more junior colleagues
  • Being singled out for unfair treatment by a boss or colleague
  • Being deliberately ignored or excluded from work activities
  • Being overloaded with work or set impossible deadlines
  • Being made the butt of jokes

If you feel you are subject to psychological intimidation or excess pressure at work you maybe able to claim compensation for the psychological injury that you have suffered.

For example, if the bullying causes a recognised psychiatric illness and there is a direct link between the bullying and the disorder you may be able to bring a personal injury claim for the injury that you have suffered. Even if you do not have a recognised psychiatric illness directed linked to the bullying you may still be able to bring a claim if the behaviour you have been subjected to is particularly severe.

  • If you think you are being bullied at work and may want to bring a claim in the future you should keep a diary of the dates, times and nature of the bullying. This is likely to be very useful if you do make a claim.
  • If you are in a union make sure that you notify your union rep as soon as possible about any bullying or harassment that is taking place.
  • If you make a formal complaint at work that you are being bullied it is advisable that you attend any hearing with your union rep or alternatively a work colleague, you have a legal right to do so.

Being a union member often gives an increased chance of winning your compensation claim for being bullied at work or for constructive dismissal – in the space of just one year union legal services won a record £330million for their members.

Everyone has the right to join a union and your employer does not need to know that you have joined.

How do I pay for solicitors to handle my claim for being bullied at work?

  • First check your home insurance policy – it may well cover legal expenses for employment and personal injury compensation claims. Your insurance company may want to appoint solicitors for you, but you can insist on using a firm of solicitors of your choice to fight for your compensation – Simpson Millar LLP has a dedicated stress department with solicitors who specialise in this area of work.
  • If you have a claim with reasonable prospects of success your claim may be suitable for a no win no fee agreement. More details can be provided of this type of funding.
  • If you have union membership your union may cover the cost of running a claim for you.

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