Workplace Bullying and Harassment

Harassment and bullying remain significant in the workplace, even though the issue is tackled more openly than in the past. The general characteristics of harassment and bullying vary from uninvited comments and persistent, unjust judgment to unwanted physical touch and more. 

The Anti-Bullying Week is organised in the UK by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, taking place from 15 to 19 November 2021. This year’s theme focuses on ‘One Kind Word‘ which promotes how one kind word can inspire hope and positivity amongst the somewhat negative world we often live in. 

People on the receiving end of unseemly behaviours have an increased chance of experiencing anxiety, fear, stress, and confidence loss, and with mental health being so prevalent, it’s important for workplaces to understand how they can support their employees and eradicate bullying and harassment.  

Workplace bullying and harassment - kindness is a superpower

What are harassment and bullying behaviours?

Harassment and bullying can be directed against one particular person, sometimes more—incidents range from severe intimidation where physical violence is present to more psychological threats. Sometimes it involves one person whilst other times a group of people can be responsible. 

These days, bullying and harassment in person or entirely without face-to-face interactions, using online methods such as via social media platforms. 

Bullying and harassment can present as: 

  • Undesired physical touch
  • Unwanted comments about a person’s mental or physical features
  • Yelling/shouting
  • Establishing impracticable deadlines
  • Steadfast, unjust criticism
  • Personal insults
  • Separation or non-cooperation and isolation during group activities
  • Pressure regarding sexual inclinations
  • Obligation to engage in political/religious associations
  • Personal intrusion such as stalking
  • Failure to safeguard confidential information
  • Unwelcome jokes, offensive language or gossip 

Where do organisations stand with the law?

In Great Britain, harassment is illegal under the Equality Act 2010. Failure to safeguard employees from harassment due to their age, disability, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics could result in employment tribunal claims. 

When it comes to bullying, there is no individual piece of legislation that considers anti-bullying, but other laws can offer some protection for example the Equality Act 2010, the Employment Rights Act 1996, or the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. 

Prosecutions can include criminal and civil law in the case of bullying and harassment, with employers and individuals required to pay compensation in some cases. 

How can you prevent bullying in the workplace? 

  • Implement a sound and clearly-communicated policy that explains the organisation’s dedication to fostering a culture of dignity and respect in the workplace, that provides examples of what constitutes harassment, bullying and intimidating behaviour 
  • Educate employees on the damaging effects that bullying and harassment can cause individuals 
  • Build an all-inclusive workplace culture 
  • Ensure education and guidance for senior leaders and managers to spot signs of bullying and harassment and champion cooperative behaviours based on tolerance and acceptance of all
  • Train managers to be aware, notice and correctly manage inappropriate behaviour and disputes 
  • Implement procedures and training to ensure employees understand how to make a complaint and that complaints are handled in the correct manner
  • Review formal accusations of harassment, bullying or any intimidating behaviour as a disciplinary offence
  • Be aware of work-related outings, where employers could still be accountable for occurrences outside of work
  • Be aware of cyberbullying, for which the employer could be accountable and is more common at social outings 
  • Send a clear message that employees will be held accountable for unacceptable behaviour with a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate behaviour

The Anti-Bullying Alliance calls to action kindness…

“Best of all, one kind word leads to another. Kindness fuels kindness. So from the playground to Parliament, and from our phones to our homes, together, our actions can fire a chain reaction that powers positivity.”

The Sussex HR Hub provides small to large businesses with personalised HR Support across the UK. To bolster your anti-bullying/harassment policies or to learn how to build an all-inclusive work culture contact our team for support today.