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Simran Lalli

Article written by Simran Lalli, Solicitor, Employment department

Suffering unfair treatment  at work can be distressing and can have an impact on your life both inside and outside the workplace.  Some may be worried about their financial situation should they leave, their performance at work, or suffer from low self-esteem. However, there are laws to protect employees from such treatment, but one must first understand what type of negative treatment you are experiencing under the law. In this article, we look at what bullying in the workplace is, and what you can do if you are a victim.

What is bullying?

Bullying is where you experience behaviours from a person or group of people that make you feel uncomfortable, frightened, made fun of, or put down.

What are some examples of bullying in the workplace?

Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct. Typical examples include:

  • Someone continually putting you down in meetings or in front of superiors
  • Someone spreading rumours about you
  • When you are prevented from joining in social events by the rest of your team
  • When your boss doesn’t let you attend training or social events but allows everyone else

Bullying can be a regular pattern of behaviour or a one-off incident and doesn’t necessarily have to happen inthe workplace. It is possible to experience bullying at a workplace social event, on social media, by email or phone call or face-to-face.

It is also possible to experience bullying from junior members of staff if you are a more senior employee. This is known as upwards bullying and may include actions such as:

  • Refusing to carry out instructions or tasks you have delegated to them
  • Spreading rumours about you
  • Showing disrespect towards you
  • Doing things to make you seem incompetent

What is the difference between bullying and harassment?

Bullying is deemed to be harassment under the law where it is related to a protected characteristic. The protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

What can I do about bullying in the workplace?

You should speak to those involved in the bullying and explain how the behaviour makes you feel. If you do not wish to speak to them face to face, you could set out the facts in an email. You may also be able to speak to a trade union representative or someone else at work to help you.

Where there is a pattern of bullying, you should try to keep a record. Include details such as:

  • The date and time of the incidents
  • Evidence such as emails, screenshots or details of any witnesses
  • The effects of the bullying such as how it made you feel or any impact on your performance at work

If informal steps are not appropriate, or have been unsuccessful, you should follow the formal grievance procedure set out by your employer. If you require advice on workplace bullying or wish to discuss a particular employment law matter further, please feel free to email me or contact the department on 020 8858 6971.