Bullying in the workplace

News on 01 October 2018

Bullying doesn’t just take place in schools. It also happens in the workplace. But what can you do about it?

Firstly, what exactly is bullying? ACAS defines it as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate, or injure the recipient”. In real terms, bullying is about how the person on the receiving end interprets it. It may be that something was intended as a joke, but the person who the joke is about sees it as bullying.

The other side of this is that bullying doesn’t just take place face to face anymore. Cyberbullying is becoming more common, with employees being bullied via social media even when they are outside of work.

What are the legal obligations of employers?

An employee who has been bullied can put forward one of four types of claim to an Employment Tribunal

  • A claim for harassment or discrimination under the Equality Act, where the bullying relates to race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability, gender reassignment, or pregnancy / maternity

  • A claim for personal injury where the stress of the bullying has caused the victim to suffer a psychiatric injury

  • A claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, where there have been at least two occasions of intentional bullying that the wrongdoer knew or ought to have known amounted to harassment

  • A claim for constructive unfair dismissal if the bullied employee resigns as a result of the bullying

Aside from the legal risks, why should you be concerned? Well, it’s not great to work in a Company where nothing is done about bullying. It’s bad for your employees, customers, and bad for business in general.

There are steps you can take to minimise the risk of bullying in the workplace.

  • Have a robust bullying and harassment policy

  • Train your staff – not just the managers, all staff.

  • Refer to bullying as an act of misconduct in your disciplinary policy

  • Encourage a workplace culture in which its clear to everyone that bullying and harassment won’t be tolerated, and that staff complaints about bullying will be taken seriously

  • Have an appraisals and performance management process. It’s quite common for allegations of bullying to be made when someone is being given negative feedback about their performance


If you don’t have a staff handbook, PitStop HR can help! We have a staff handbook package which will give you a ready to use handbook to roll out to your employees. We also offer training on Bullying and Harassment. Contact us to find out more.