BULLYING & HARASSMENT
‘Bullying is discrimination but bullying does not discriminate’
Christine Pratt. 2005.
In this section we address bullying and harassment at work. The following is covered;
What is Bullying? How do we recognise a Bully? Actions & Tackling Bullying. Cyberbullying. What is bullying in the workplace? How do we recognise a bully? What is a serial bully? What actions can you take in the workplace to tackle bullying? What is Cyberbullying? Is bullying in your workplace an issue? Are you suffering with anxiety and is it anxiety due to abuse at work or discrimination in the workplace? Is harassment at work an issue? Is your distress turning to stress? Are you suffering with work related stress? Has your doctor signed you off with workplace stress? Do you believe your employer is treating you unfairly? Is someone at work bullying or harassing you? Are you being subjected to an unfair dismissal or disciplinary process? Have you been suspended? Is the cost of it all impacting on your home life and your general welfare?
We also look at Bullying Laws and implied terms in the employment contract.
If any of these sound familiar, please read on. We may be able to help you.
Bullying in the workplace and the effect of bullying, impacts on all our lives. Solicitors who specialise in Employment Law will no doubt tell you, UK Laws do not specifically legislate to protect those who may be suffering, or have suffered, from bullying at work. This does not mean they have no employment law rights or protection under British law. It does mean, however, that to get legal protection or redress they must look to parts of employment related law which may be relevant – or to the general law.
The ACAS Code of Practice.
- Employment Rights Act 1996 (especially the parts dealing with unfair dismissal , constructive dismissal and victimisation ) and Dispute Resolution Reforms;
- Health and Safety at work etc Act 1974 and related personal injury aspects (see eg Health and Safety at work/stress ).
- Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998;
- Contract Law (see eg wrongful dismissal and implied terms in employment contracts/duties of employer ).
- Protection from harassment Act 1997 s.3
- The Overlapping Disputes Rule.
- Human Rights Act 1998.
- Data Protection and Subject Access laws.
There is an implied term in a contract of employment that an employer ‘shall take reasonable steps to support and employee and ensure an employee can carry out the duties of his job without fear of bullying and harassment’. In proven cases of harassment or victimisation, it could quite easily be legally argued that the treatment is of such a serious nature, it is the cause of a ‘serious breach of confidence’ which goes to the heart of the employment contract. (Arnold J. in Wigan Borough Council v Davies 1979 ICR 411), quoted with approval by the House of Lords in Waters v Commissioner of Metropolitan Police 2000 ICR 1064, HL.
In the Waters case the House of Lords also quoted Spring v Guardian Assurance plc 1994 HL ICR 596 and Wetherall (Bond Street W1) Ltd v. Lynn  1 WLR 200 as authority for the proposition that the Courts recognise a ‘common law duty’ on an employer to take care of his employees, including a duty to prevent ill treatment or bullying, quite apart from statutory requirements. As always, the position in any particular case will depend on the facts and the House of Lords was careful to point out that “it is not every course of victimisation or bullying by fellow employees which would give rise to a cause of action against the employer, and an employee may have to accept some degree of unpleasantness from fellow workers. Moreover the employer will not be liable unless he knows or ought to know that the harassment is taking place and fails to take reasonable steps to prevent it”.
PROTECTION FROM HARASSMENT ACT
One route by which employers can be made liable to pay huge damages for harassment of an employee by fellow employees was opened up by The House of Lords in 2006 when it held that, in some circumstances, a bullied employee can win damages under The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 s.3. This is so notwithstanding that the Act was originally intended as an anti-stalking measure and notwithstanding that, there was no negligence on the part of the employer (See: Majrowski v Guy’s & St Thomas’s NHS Trust L 2006 UKHL 34). An additional advantage, for employees, of using this route even in the cases where a sex or race discrimination claim might be made, is that the employee or ex-employee can bring a Protection from Harassment Act claim up to 6 years after the bullying, rather than the normal 3 months allowed under anti-discrimination laws.
COLLUSION : 2011
Under The Protection from Harassment Act 1997, in light of a recent case (2011), employers are vicariously liable for harassment caused by the acts of two or more employees, provided the conduct is linked. See (Dawson v Chief Constable of Northcumbria Police. Case ref: 209 EWHC 907 QB).
Useful books on the subject include “Bully in Sight” by Tim Field. We hold limited stocks.
Contact us for a copy.
“I AM A GOOD MANAGER. MY EMPLOYER NEEDS ME”.
An employee in one Company said to us: “After several months of uninterrupted bullying I was a quivering wreck, unable to eat, unable to sleep, terrified of going to work and all because of one individual, unfit to be allowed out on his own let alone be in a position of management”.
The CEO of the same Company at the same time said; “We don’t have bullying here. It’s not a problem”.
Sadly, this is not unusual. Often, a manager will take a view such as this; “Our Company respects the Law”. or, ”Diversity issues rarely arise in my department. As and when they do I pass them on to the HR Department, where they have people qualified to deal with the issue so that I can carry on with the job I am paid for. As for bullying, it is just not tolerated in the company and it never occurs.” This is a form of denial – a ‘not my problem’ attitude. These managers are usually ill equipped to deal with problems effectively and responsibly, in our view.
The above scenario crops up time and time again.
Show us an employer who denies bullying is occurring
and we will show you a bullying culture.
Contact us if you would like to speak to a confidential, expert, advisor.
Tel: 01793 338888 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org