What Is bullying In The Workplace?

Bullying in the workplace can take many forms.  If it is related to age, race, sex, disability or religion it is seen as “harassment.”

What counts as bullying? There is no specific definition of bullying and it can take many forms. Examples include:

  • Unfair treatment
  • Excluding you and/or treating you badly for complaining (victimisation)
  • Deliberately undermining you in front of your colleagues including mocking you, interrupting you, talking over you, overloading you with work and criticism
  • Preventing you from progressing in your career/within the company by blocking promotions or training opportunities
  • Spreading rumours about you
  • Making nasty and/or offensive comments about you

Harassment occurs when you are subject to behaviour that is intended to mistreat or humiliate you or to create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you. Harassment occurs when you are subject to this treatment because of your age, race, sex, disability, sexual orientation or religion. The bullying need not be to your face – it could be over the phone or via text message or email. It also does not need to be just against you – it is still bullying if a group of you at work are targeted. What kind of claim can I make? Harassment

  • You bring a claim of harassment under the Equality Act 2010. In order to bring this claim, the bullying must relate to a protected characteristic that you possess – this means your race, age, gender, disability, sexual orientation or religion.
  • You can also claim for harassment if the bullying is not directed at you but makes your working environment offensive or hostile. For example, your colleague who sits at the desk next to you is constantly teased for being homosexual. You, yourself, are heterosexual, but the bullying of your colleague makes your workplace an offensive environment for you to work in.

Unfair dismissal

  • There is an implied duty of mutual trust and confidence between you and your employer. This means that your employer must not act in a way which destroys your trust in him. It if he does you can resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.
  • However, the Employment Tribunal, will normally expect your to have you followed your employer’s grievance procedures and raised your complaint with the necessary managers before resigning. The legal system encourages employees to resolve disputes internally. On the other hand if the employer does not address or investigate your grievance this strengthens your constructive dismissal claim.
  • Note that, unless the bullying is related to your race (or some other protected characteristic you can only make a claim for unfair dismissal if you have worked for your employer for two years or more. For more information on unfair dismissal, please see our unfair dismissal page. 

How do I finance a claim? There are many ways in which claim can be financed. You may be entitled to Trade Union support. More promisingly, you may find on close examination of your household insurance policies that your benefit from legal expenses insurance – YEB barristers are expert at dealing with insurers. The highly publicised Employment Tribunal Fees should never in fact be a barrier to a deserving ET claims. What can I get? If your claim for harassment is successful, the possibilities are:

  • A declaration of your rights.
  • A recommendation regarding the action your employer should take to reduce the effect the harassment has on you.
  • Compensation (no maximum amount).
  • Your compensation can include damages for injury to feelings.

If your claim for unfair dismissal is successful, the possibilities are:

  • The maximum amount of compensation you can recover is £78,335 or one year’s salary whichever is the lower.
  • A reinstatement order. This means you can return to your job and will be given compensation for any loss you have suffered in the period since your dismissal until your reinstatement. This will only be ordered if you agree to it. Your employer can refuse to reinstate you where it is reasonable to do so. This normally happens when the employer can prove that the mutual trust and confidence has been irreparably broken. If an employer unreasonably refuses to reinstate you then you could get an additional compensation award.
  • A re-engagement order. This means you can return to a similar job or to a job with an associated employer. As above, you have to agree to this and your employer can refuse provided their reason is reasonable.

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