Steps to avoid bullying and harassment in the workplace

The #MeToo movement has increased the awareness of sexual harassment claims in the workplace. Any forms of harassment or bullying is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. It is in no one’s interest and everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. For anti-bullying week we have set out key steps that organisations should take to prevent and deal with bullying in the workplace.

It is important for an employer to take steps to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace not least because an employer may be liable under the Equality Act 2010. In addition an employee may be personally liable if it is established that they subjected an individual to harassment.

Furthermore, employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment and not to act in a manner that could undermine trust and confidence.

What is bullying?

The ACAS code defines bullying as ‘offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.’

What is harassment?

Harassment is defined in the Equality Act 2010 as:

Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.

Bullying and harassment policy

Is one needed? There is no legal obligation to have a bullying and harassment policy. However, having a separate policy may help an organisation establish a ‘reasonable steps’ defence to a claim under the Equality Act 2010 referred to above.

What should a policy include?

The following are key items that a policy should include:

  • Identify what is bullying and harassment and include examples of what constitutes bullying and harassment
  • Confirm that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated and will be treated as a disciplinary offence
  • Set out how the individual can make a complaint, whether it is formal or informal
  • The process for dealing with any complaints received, including timescales and that the matter will be treated confidentiality
  • The individual will be protected from victimisation
  • Set out what support is available for anyone who think they are being harassed or bullied

Any such policy should be should be considered together with the organisation’s disciplinary and grievance procedure.

If you have any questions or would like advice in preparing a bullying and harassment policy or dealing with claims of harassment and bullying in the workplace then please contact:

Sejal Raja
Partner, Head of Employment
T. 020 7227 7410
E. sejal.raja@rlb-law.com


Disclaimer

This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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