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St Andrew's First Aid Australia

Bullying and harassment

Table of contents

Bullying and harassment 2


Introduction 2
What is meant by bullying and harassment? 2
Why does bullying and harassment occur? 4
The impact of bullying and harassment 4
Recognising bullying or harassment 5
Preventing bullying and harassment 6
Drawing up an anti-bullying and harassment
policy 6
Dealing with bullying and harassment claims 7
Here's how I developed an anti bullying and
harassment policy 8
Helplines 9
Related guides on businesslink.gov.uk 9
Related web sites you might find useful 9

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Bullying and harassment

Subjects covered in this guide


Introduction
Introduction
Bullying and harassment in a workplace are
What is meant by bullying and harassment? serious matters, and employers are
responsible for taking reasonable steps to
Why does bullying and harassment occur? prevent such behaviour.

The impact of bullying and harassment The equality legislation makes it unlawful in
employment or vocational training to harass
Recognising bullying or harassment
someone on the grounds of:
Preventing bullying and harassment
• sex
Drawing up an anti-bullying and harassment • gender reassignment
policy • race
• disability
Dealing with bullying and harassment claims • religion/belief
• sexual orientation
Here's how I developed an anti bullying and • age
harassment policy

Helplines Harassment of a sexual nature is also


unlawful.
Related guides on businesslink.gov.uk
Bullying and harassment are unacceptable
Related web sites you might find useful on moral grounds and may, if they are
allowed to go unchecked or are badly
handled, create serious problems for your
business. Harassment is also against the
law and can result in an employment
You can find this guide by navigating to: tribunal or other civil claims against the
employer and large awards in
Home > Employment & skills > Equality and compensation.
diversity > Bullying and harassment
Bullying and harassment can also have a
bad effect on your business in other ways,
including poor performance, low staff morale
and poor employee relations, loss of respect
for management, increase in absence,
higher staff turnover and damage to your
business' reputation.

What is meant by bullying and


harassment?

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Bullying and harassment

the purpose or effect of:


Harassment - in relation to employment -
has a legal definition, but bullying does not.
• violating the dignity of an individual
• creating an intimidating, hostile,
Bullying
degrading, humiliating or offensive
There is no single legal definition of bullying, atmosphere for an individual
but it can include:
Note that an employee can claim
• offensive or insulting behaviour by harassment even if the harassment was not
another employee which makes an actually directed at them, eg where a female
individual feel threatened, or taken worker overhears a female colleague being
advantage of verbally harassed by a male colleague and it
• humiliation of an employee violates their dignity.
• less obvious ways of making an
employee feel frightened or Sexual harassment is defined as any form
demoralised of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical
conduct of a sexual nature that has the
Some common forms of bullying are: purpose or effect of:

• verbal abuse - eg persistent taunting • violating an individual's dignity


• physical violence or violent gestures • creating an intimidating, hostile,
• public humiliation of an employee degrading, humiliating or offensive
environment for an individual
However, bullying can be more subtle, such
as: It can also occur when an individual:

• giving someone an impossible • rejects the unwanted conduct


deadline mentioned above or unwanted
• removing an employee's conduct related to gender
responsibilities and giving them more reassignment or sex and
menial tasks • is treated unfairly as a result
• withholding information or giving
false information It's important to note that, while sexual
harassment is commonly committed by a
Harassment man against a woman, it can also be
committed by a woman against a man, by a
Harassment on the grounds of sex, gender man against another man or by a woman
reassignment, race, disability, religion/belief, against another woman.
sexual orientation and age, along with
sexual harassment, is explicitly prohibited in Third-party harassment
employment and vocational training.
It is unlawful to allow an employee to be
Harassment is defined as any unwanted persistently harassed by a third party, eg a
conduct related to race, age, etc that has client or customer.

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Bullying and harassment

However, you may only be liable for such because of underlying problems in the
harassment if you know that the employee workplace such as:
has been harassed in the course of their
employment on at least two other occasions • poor job design and work
by a third party. relationships
• lack of accountability
Note that it does not matter whether the • the existence of a particular culture
third party is the same or a different person at work
on each occasion. • an over-competitive environment
• fear of redundancy
Examples of harassment include: • a rigid style of management
• lack of procedure for resolving
problems
• embarrassing or otherwise offensive
jokes
• unwelcome physical contact or If bullying and/or harassment is a problem in
sexual advances your workplace, try to find out why it's
• the expression of racist, homophobic, happening before taking action.
etc views
• lewd comments and innuendo For example, if a number of employees
• the sending of offensive emails, text have started to complain of being on the
messages, etc receiving end of sexist jokes, it may be that
• displays of pornographic material there is a culture of sexist banter in your
workplace. If so, you could:
It is possible that some incidents of
harassment may not be covered by the • take informal disciplinary action
anti-discrimination legislation. However, if an against those telling the jokes, eg
employer fails to deal with any form of verbal or written warnings
harassment, the victim could resign and • remind all your staff about your
claim constructive dismissal. See the page bullying/harassment policy, eg that
in this guide on the impact of bullying and bullying and harassing colleagues is
harassment. a serious disciplinary matter

It is good practice for employers to have a See the page in this guide on dealing with
bullying and harassment policy giving bullying and harassment claims.
written examples of what is unacceptable
behaviour in their organisation. See the
page in this guide on drawing up an The impact of bullying and
anti-bullying and harassment policy.
harassment
Employers should be aware of the potential
Why does bullying and legal implications of bullying and
harassment occur? harassment in the workplace.

Bullying and harassment may occur

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Bullying and harassment

relations
Harassment of an employee can amount to: • loss of respect for managers
• reduced productivity and profits
• unlawful discrimination on the • increased absenteeism and turnover
grounds of race, sex, gender of staff
reassignment, disability, • damage to the image of the business
religion/belief, sexual orientation or • employment tribunal or other civil
age court claims- see our guide on
• a breach of contract, ie a breach of employment tribunal claims - the
one of the implied terms of any basics
employment contract, such as the
duty to provide a safe working
environment or to maintain trust and Recognising bullying or
confidence in the employer
• a criminal offence
harassment
Bullying and harassment can often be hard
You could be liable for the actions of your for employers to recognise, particularly as it
employees unless you have taken may not be obvious to colleagues of the
reasonable steps to prevent bullying or person being bullied or harassed.
harassment. Action could still also be taken
against you even after a person has left your This may be because:
employment.
• the harassment or bullying is done in
You could also be held liable for harassment subtle ways
if you fail to prevent a third party, eg a • staff may think it's part of the 'culture'
customer, harassing an employee. of the workplace

However, you may be liable for such An individual may also be too frightened to
harassment only if you know that the report an incident.
employee has been harassed in the course
of their employment on at least two other
occasions by a third party. A good employer should be aware of this,
and keep an eye out for some of the
possible signs of bullying and harassment,
Note that it does not matter whether the see our guide on supporting front-line
third party is the same or a different person managers.
on each occasion.
Signs may include:
Bullying and harassment can also have a
serious adverse effect on the success of the
business leading to reduced productivity and • absenteeism - if this is more
profits. This is because bullying and frequent, or for longer periods than
harassment can cause: usual
• high staff turnover - especially if it
occurs in a particular section or
• low morale and poor employee where staff work for a particular

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Bullying and harassment

manager and in day-to-day charge, of


• stress symptoms - including fatigue, implementing the policy.
anxiety, depression, immune system • You have set aside time to train
suppression, aches, pains, those in charge on their
numbness and panic attacks responsibilities.
• a change in an individual's behaviour • The policy covers all the areas
or performance at work covered by anti-discrimination law.
See our guide on how to prevent
Bullying and harassment may be carried out discrimination and value diversity.
face-to-face. However, it may be done in • The policy is linked to other
more underhand ways, such as: disciplinary and grievance
procedures and any appraisal
system for managers.
• by letter • You use all appropriate ways to
• electronically, by email advertise the policies to your
• by phone workforce including any induction
• at work-related social functions process.
• You keep note of complaints so you
See our guide on how to manage absence can detect any patterns of
and sickness. inappropriate behaviour. Remember
that an absence of any complaints
does not necessarily mean that
Preventing bullying and bullying and harassment is not going
on.
harassment • You review the policy from time to
Employers are responsible for preventing time to make sure it's working
bullying and harassment, so it is in your properly.
interest to have a policy to avoid it and put
procedures in place to implement the policy.
See the page in this guide on drawing up Drawing up an anti-bullying and
an anti-bullying and harassment policy. harassment policy
It is your responsibility to make sure that any Ideally you should draw up a bullying and
policy has been properly implemented, is harassment policy in consultation with staff
understood by staff and is being used and and/or their representatives.
monitored properly. If a tribunal believes that
all reasonable steps have been taken by the For example, trade unions may help you as
employer to prevent bullying and they may well have experience in handling
harassment, it may escape liability. bullying and harassment cases.

You should make sure that:


Your policy on bullying and harassment
could include:
• All the management team are seen
to be fully committed to the policy.
• You identify who is in overall charge, • An explanation of what the terms

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Bullying and harassment

mean and that harassment covers all


the areas protected by the equality Dealing with bullying and
legislation. See our guide on how to
prevent discrimination and value harassment claims
diversity.
• Examples of behaviour that could be You should take bullying or harassment
considered bullying and harassment. complaints seriously as you can be held
• A statement that bullying and liable for harassment suffered by your
harassment will not be tolerated, and employees at work or at work-related
could result in the bully or harasser events. Therefore, you should know, and
being subjected to disciplinary action, make known to your employees, what
which may result in dismissal. approach you will take, for example, by
• A statement pointing out that bullying issuing a policy that:
and harassment will not be tolerated
at work-related events, eg Christmas • encourages victims of bullying or
parties, training courses - even if harassment to come forward, in a
they are away from the normal way that provides a way to bypass
workplace. the bully or harasser
• Details of the procedures to be • combines an informal route to
followed if bullying and/or complain within a formal procedure
harassment occurs, including both to be used when the matter cannot
informal and formal approaches and be resolved informally and balances
relevant timescales that should be the interests of the victim and the
linked to your discipline and alleged bully/harasser
grievance procedures. • tells staff and trains managers as to
• Assurance that any complaint will be what they should do if they become
taken seriously, treated confidentially aware of someone being bullied or
and that employees making harassed - see the page in this guide
complaints will be protected from on drawing up an anti bullying and
retaliation. harassment policy
• Assurance that a thorough and fair
investigation of a claim will take Bear in mind that a claim could be malicious
place. - to investigate it thoroughly and fairly you
• A statement that there will be a right should:
of appeal.
• Sources of guidance and support.
• if possible use an impartial, trained
investigator
You should also include: • consider suspension of the alleged
bully or harasser on full pay while the
• the name of the person the employee investigation is carried out
should contact if they are being • allow both parties to be accompanied
bullied or harassed to a hearing by a representative of
• an alternative name in case this their choice
person is unsuitable, for example • make it clear that both parties have
because they are the employee's the right of appeal
manager

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Bullying and harassment

When you are dealing with a case of develop a Grade II listed Victorian palm
bullying and harassment, decide carefully house in Sefton Park near Liverpool. The
what action you are going to take - whether Trust raises income through commercial
against the complainant or bully/harasser. hires of the building, to ensure a sustainable
This could be: future and support the development of an
events programme for visitors. Director
• counselling or training Elizabeth-Anne Williams describes how a
• an informal or formal warning review led to the introduction of a new policy
• suspension to prevent workplace bullying.
• transfer - only the guilty party should
be transferred What I did
• dismissal
Recognise the need for a formal policy
Trade unions may have a role in cases of
bullying and harassment. They can provide: "We recently reviewed all our policies, to
make sure we were legally up to speed and
to reflect the growth of the business. We
• support for claims also wanted to build on our culture of
• guidance and support for the openness and good communication.
complainant or the alleged bully or
harasser
• accompaniment to hearings "One area that hadn't been properly
• help in eliminating a bullying culture addressed was bullying and harassment.
The management team decided to develop
a formal bullying and harassment policy, not
because we had a problem in that area, but
Here's how I developed an anti because we wanted staff to know where
bullying and harassment policy they stood."
Elizabeth-Anne Williams
Write a policy
Sefton Park Palm House Preservation "We gathered information from sources like
Trust - Opens in a new window the Acas website and also used a model
policy supplied by Tourism HR to get us
Elizabeth-Anne's top tips: started. The document sets the scope of the
policy upfront and explains why it's
• "Involve staff as much as possible." important. For example it aims to give
• "Be clear about why you're employees a clear sense of what behaviours
introducing a policy and underline are acceptable and what are not, to support
management commitment to it." and protect them in the workplace and to
• "Communicate the messages in a encourage teamwork.
variety of ways."
"The policy also includes sections on the
principles behind the policy, legal
The Sefton Park Palm House Preservation responsibilities and the procedures to be
Trust was formed in 1996 to restore and followed in the event of an allegation. For

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Bullying and harassment

example, it's important to show how it Andrea Adams Consultancy


dovetails with related policies such as
disciplinary and grievance procedures. 01273 389 412

"We included examples of what constitutes Acas Helpline


bullying and harassment. We especially
wanted to highlight the less obvious forms, 08457 47 47 47
such as circulating offensive jokes or
consistently setting unachievable deadlines.
We also developed a simple flow-chart to
show the lines of reporting and procedures Related guides on
at-a-glance." businesslink.gov.uk
Communicate with staff Prevent discrimination and value
diversity | Set up employment policies
"For staff to have faith in a bullying and for your business | Handling
harassment policy you have to involve them disciplinaries | Employment tribunal
and make it more than just a document. We claims - the basics | How to deal with
consulted staff about the new policy via stress | Managing conflict | Supporting
team meetings and individual discussions to front-line managers | Manage absence
make sure they understood the principles and sickness | Work effectively with
and procedures involved. trade unions | Here's how asking
employees for ideas improved our
"We've made the policy very much a part of business |
our company culture and we look for ways
to reinforce the message during day-to-day
activities. Having the policy in place has Related web sites you might find
already proved useful. Not only does it useful
support our goal to create an open and
team-spirited environment, we've actually Bullying and harassment at work
referred to it formally to help resolve a minor guidance on the Acas website (PDF,
incident." 232K) - Opens in a new window

What I'd do differently Tackling bullying at work for employers


on the Andrea Adams Trust website -
Introduce a policy sooner Opens in a new window
"We believe our bullying and harassment
policy is thorough and comprehensive and Resolving conflict online courses on the
sets clear guidelines for acceptable learndirect business website - Opens in a
behaviour. In an ideal world, we would have new window
put it in place from day one."
Download guidance on dealing with
bullying at work from the Chartered
Institute of Personnel and Development
Helplines
St Andrew's First Aid Australia | Created by Business Link on 29 December 2010 12:32 © Crown copyright 2010 Page 9
Bullying and harassment

website (PDF, 550K) - Opens in a new


window

Stress at work advice on the Acas


website - Opens in a new window

Assess your people management


systems and find best practice guidance
on the Acas website - Opens in a new
window

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