If you feel that you are being bullied at work, there are several options open to you. However, if you have been employed for less than 2 years, you need to be wary in this area because unless the bullying can be construed as discrimination, if your employer responds to any complaint by dismissing you, you may not have a claim or any remedy available.
Bullying at work
Bullying can take many forms and can in some cases be extreme and amount to a criminal offence if you are for example being racially abused or assaulted or subjected to a sustained campaign of abuse or stalking.
If the bullying is perceived by you as relating to one of a number of protected characteristics, this can constitute discrimination and / or victimisation. There are 9 protected characteristics and these include sex, race, age, disability, sexual orientation and religious belief. Being abused or bullied or taunted at work because of one of these characteristics is unlawful and as such, you would be protected.
In the first instance, you should make it quite clear that you object to the behaviour complained about and speak to the person who is responsible namely the perpetrator or the bully. If this does not result in a change of behaviour, you should report it to your employer. In larger organisations, there will be an HR department or person who is responsible for dealing with such matters and there may be a written policy contained in an employment handbook or referred to in your contract of employment. This might otherwise be called a grievance procedure. Some policies specifically deal with alleged harassment and victimisation and you should address your complaint in writing (by email or letter) to the responsible person.
Once that process has begun, the employer is then under an obligation to conduct an investigation with you and with any witnesses who you name as supporting your case. The employer should then write to you confirming the outcome and if you are not satisfied, you have a right of appeal to a more senior person within the organisation.
It is important you do not simply resign as if you do, you will not generally have any right to bring a claim unless you have first of all used the grievance procedure. Certainly, any claim for constructive dismissal would be weakened by the absence of the employee using the internal procedure as the employer can simply argue that they were not given the opportunity to address the issue and respond.
With regard to evidence, you should keep a record of incidents and report these as they occur. There is generally a 3 month time limit for bringing claims although this can be extended but it would be safer to report matters sooner rather than later.
- Do not resign
- Do let the bully know their behaviour is unacceptable
- Do speak to your HR person / report to your employer
- Do check your employment handbook
- Do check if the bullying falls under the protected characteristics
Hopefully, this will bring about a solution and an end to the problem and legal action will not be necessary. However, if you are considering legal action, then advice at an early stage is highly recommended in order to improve your chances not only if the matter reaches an employment tribunal but also to negotiate a settlement if you decide that you would rather leave your employment. We have extensive experience of dealing with such matters and negotiating compensation.
I have never had to use a solicitor's services before, I needed to have a redundancy notice reviewed and was unsure where to start. I contacted Winston Solicitors via their website, Paul Grindley contacted me later the same day. The whole process was very straightforward, everything was very clear and Paul was very helpful. I would definitely use Winston Solicitors again in future. Annabel