The National Bullying Helpline

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Bullying Advice for Employers

Help and advice about bullying in the workplace

Help for Employers

Welcome to the National Bullying Helpline page for employers. We specialise in the important area of employee relations. In particular we address Bullying at Work and conflict resolution issues. Whatever your need in the arena of employee advice, relations or dispute resolution, we can help.


No one said managing employees would be easy.  It can be a daunting task.  80% of managers know that bullying occurs in their workplace and despite this, 37% say they have had no proper training.  If you are a Supervisor, team leader, line manager or Director and you have responsibility for managing staffing issues, you will find guidelines, tips, recommendations and solutions here.


Whatever your need in the arena of employee relations or dispute resolution, we can help. We can give specialist help and advice in all areas of staffing issues. Opposite is a list of topics covered on this page.

If you require more help and advice on any issues not listed, please don't hesitate to call us.

Help us help you

As a voluntary run organisation, we operate with limited resources and funds. All donations are gratefully received and 100% of every donation goes in to the running of our free helpline and website. By donating as little as a £1, you are ensuring a dedicated helpline is there when someone is reaching out for help.

Practical Help for Employers

Business Owners, Line Managers, Heads of Department, Team Leaders, Supervisors – and all those Responsible for Managing Staff.

There is an ‘implied term’ in every employment contracts that the employer shall render reasonable support to an employee to ensure that the employee can carry out the duties of his job without harassment and disruption by fellow workers. This was exampled in the Case of Wigan Borough Council v Davies 1979 ICR 411 and quoted with approval by the House of Lords in Waters v Commissioner of Metropolitan Police 2000 ICR 1064, HL.


Guide for Management

on Workplace Investigations.

Simply, an employer has a Duty of Care to provide a safe and stress-free place of work for all employees. Sometimes, that can be a difficult ask.

If you have a problematic employee situation and would like to seek expert, FREE, advice, call us today. Our associates specialise in Workplace Investigations and Settlement Agreements. Importantly, we also provide assistance with Workplace Investigations and Settlement Agreements.  We have written articles and management guides on the above subjects.


We work with Award Winning Conflict Resolution organisations and skilled expert leaders in the field of employee relations. All our advisers are all qualified leaders in HR and Employment Law.  We insist that they are CIPD qualified, have Indemnity Insurance and are registered with the ICO. (Data Commissioner) – in order to ensure your organisation is protected in those areas.


eCRIME or Cyberbullying is any form of anti-social behaviour over the internet or via a mobile device.  It is an attack or abuse, using technology, which is intended to cause another person harm, distress or personal loss. There is currently a significant increase of cyber-crime, Cyberbullying and the inappropriate use of APPS in the workplace, including the use of a product called SPYWARE.


You may have a happy workforce today but from time to time you may experience a degree of ‘fall out’ between management and staff or between groups of employees.  A disgruntled, aggrieved, member of staff or ex-employee may turn to social media sites to vent their anger.  Such conduct may even bring your business to disrepute and cause serious, irreparable, harm. Can you afford to take that chance?


Ensure your HR policies and Settlement Agreements are eCRIME proof.  Any Employment Solicitor or HR Consultant should be able to help you put safety policies in place. Whilst it will never completely stop inappropriate on-line activity, explicit boundary lines will probably act as a deterrent.

Spreading malicious and abusive rumours

Emailing or texting threatening / intimidating remarks

Trolling someone

Mobbing an individual (a group who target one individual)

Harassing someone repeatedly

Intimidation and blackmail

Stalking or continually harassing someone

Posting humiliating images without consent

Setting up a false information online

Posting someone else’s private details on-line.

Identity fraud or identity theft

Fraud or deception over the internet

Call us now if you have any concerns or you would like more information on how to protect your business.

This list is not exhaustive.

We are UK Conflict Resolution experts.

Performance management can be a daunting task.  A high percentage of employees calling

our helpline allege that their line manager is not following performance management policies

or lacks basis skills in this area.  Employee’s will lash out if they do not have the ability to

accept constructive criticism.


Appraisals, if not carried out sensitively and carefully, can cause ‘fall out’ and / or permanent

damage to a manager / subordinate relationship.  From that point on it is difficult to regain trust

and get relations back on track.


Call us if you fear repercussion, as a manager, at Appraisal time or when dealing with conduct issues.


In cases of Grievance or Disciplinary regarding Conduct or Capability, consider calling in an independent expert consultant to conduct a confidential, impartial, workplace investigation.  We can recommend organisations and provide expertise in this complex area of employee relations.


We work with expert, qualified, HR Consultants.  Our team have been working in this arena for over 15 years and are published on various Management forums as exert advisers on the do’s and don’ts of conducting Workplace (Grievance and Disciplinary) Investigations.


Much of our work has been in the NHS and Public Sector. We are also well published and nationally recognised, having been featured in articles by; The Institute of Leadership and Management, Woman’s Own magazine, Personnel Today, People Management and other UK management guides.



suspend or dismiss

an employee without speaking to us first.

We will help you to address cost/risk issues and reduce the risk of employment


Independent Workplace Investigations

Grievance, Disciplinary, cultural bullying or teams of employees colluding and creating both divide and risk to the organisation.

Take Action - Nip it in the bud

One aspect of Bullying in the Workplace which is often overlooked is the effect it has on the rest of the company. The reality is that if bullying is left unchecked it quickly escalates and staff are left feeling intimidated and de-motivated.  Feelings of hostility, intimidation and collusive exclusion become common place and high absence and turnover of staff impacts on the organisations bottom line.


Employers who turn a blind eye to a bullying culture will lose staff, business and reputation.


Increasingly, staff will collude against a co-worker or management and this behaviour is both abhorrent and unlawful.  Employers are required to take immediate action in this scenario.


Call us today for confidential advice on 0845 22 55 787

Suspension and Dismissals


The suspension of an employee can cause irretrievable damage to the employment relationship which often goes to the very heart of the employment contract itself.  It can be extremely difficult to recover fully.  So, do not suspend an employee without first considering matters very carefully.


Even though most in-house policies, and the Suspend letter itself might state that the act of Suspension is ‘neutral’ and not indicative of a disciplinary outcome, it still hurts!  An employee will feel aggrieved.

Do's and Don'ts when Suspending Staff

Make sure that your line managers are aware of the risks of breach of procedure and potential outcomes and make sure they are trained in leadership and basic employment law.

Make sure that if you need to suspend, you follow a fair process.


Do not ‘march’ the employee off the premises no matter how serious the case is in your view.  To do so would be to undermine the employee in question.


Dismissing staff is never easy.  It is a daunting task for the most experienced manager or HR professional.  For some organisations this is a very worrying time as delivering bad news  - whether it is as part of a dismissal process, a redundancy programme or simply because of a recession, can be a complex and highly legal matter for employers.


Before you start, ensure your policies and procedures are open and transparent and are communicated to all staff.


If you are in the unfortunate position of having to deliver bad news, call us first.  We may be able to ‘take the heat out of the situation' and give you some peace of mind as we guide you through the process ahead. We can help ensure you follow a fair, open and transparent process – reducing the risk of future, unnecessary, costly, employment litigation.

Under The Protection from Harassment Act 1997, 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).

Take action and deal with bullying in the workplace

Collusion and Collective Bullying

Employer Breach of Confidentiality

Breach of confidentiality during a suspension

What are the risks

An Employer who Suspends an employee (whatever their level) and then makes an internal announcement, informs customers or makes a statement to the media detailing their concerns and the reason for the Suspension runs a significant risk of the following;


Case Law: RDF Media Limited v Clements (2007) EWHC 2892.


If you have any conserns or would like some advice, please give us a call

  • A claim for Constructive Unfair Dismissal based on their breach of confidentiality

  • A claim for releasing negative statement which means they have already made their mind up before a fair hearing/process takes place

  • A claim for prima facie breach of trust and confidence and a ‘fundamental breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence that goes to the heart of the employment contract’

Low Morale and a high turnover of staff

If morale is low within your department or company, or if you are accused of being an organisation that condones bullying, we can refer you to experts who can help. We work closely with a team of experienced investigators and mediators. We work with a number of HR organisation's and qualified HR experts who specialise in providing independent investigation services.


The referral process is open and transparent and you can place the business with a company or individual of your choice.


Redundancy is a form of dismissal and reasons include; the business is closing down or moving, there is a need to cut costs and so staff numbers need to be reduced, the job you were employed to do no longer exists or technology or new system ns has made your job unnecessary.


It can still be a genuine redundancy if someone else's job disappears and they are moved into your job, making you redundant. This is known as 'bumping' but can be difficult for an employer to justify as fair.


In a redundancy situation certain processes should be followed; a) the selection criteria should be fair, open and transparent, b) employees should be consulted, c) employees should receive redundancy pay, d) employees should be given proper notice, and finally e) organisation should consider alternatives to redundancy.


Compensation for unfair dismissal may be as high as  £66,000 per person and this does not include the cost of a redundancy payment.


Bullying and Harassment

In their advice leaflet for employees ACAS give the following definitions of harassment, taken from The Harassment Act.


'Harassment, in general terms, is unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or an isolated incident. The key is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient.'


'Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

These words were fundamentally taken from a Guide for Employers written by the Founder of The National Bullying Helpline in 1998.  She was the first person to speak publicly about the negative impact of workplace bullying on the bottom line.


The legal definition of harassment also requires the behaviour to have 'the purpose or effect of violating people's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.'


Harassment, in general terms, is unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of men and women in the workplace. It may be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or any personal characteristic of the individual, and may be persistent or an isolated incident. The key is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient.'


'Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

Managing Difficult Staff

No one said managing staff would be easy.  It can be a daunting task for the most experienced leader. If you are concerned about the conduct of an individual, or an entire team, investigate. Any allegation of harassment, bullying or any form of intimidating behaviour should be treated as a disciplinary offence.


Investigation procedures should provide;

A prompt, thorough and impartial response

Independent, skilled and objective investigators

A companion for both parties if required

Complaint details, the right to respond and adequate time to respond

A time-scale for resolving the problem

Confidentiality in all cases

A record of complaints and investigations should always be kept and these

should include the names of the people involved, dates, the nature and

frequency of incidents, action taken, follow-up and monitoring information.

All sensitive information should be treated confidentially and meet the

requirements of the data protection law.

(GDPR) General Data Protection Regulation


Managing difficult staff in the office and investigation procedures

Call us today for further information or assistance on: 0845 22 55 787

80% of managers know that bullying occurs in their workplace



Despite this, 37% say they have had no proper training.

Employers and Employees have Responsibilities

Tackling workplace bullying and harassment is a joint responsibility of the organisation and individuals working within it.


The employer’s first responsibility is to put in place a robust and well communicated policy that clearly articulates the organisation’s commitment to promoting dignity and respect at work.


Individuals (including bystanders) also have a responsibility to behave in ways which support a non-hostile working environment for themselves and their colleagues.

They should play their part in making the organisation’s policy a reality and be prepared to challenge inappropriate behaviour and take action if they observe or have evidence that someone is being harassed. Individuals can be personally liable to pay compensation and can be prosecuted under criminal as well as civil law.

Settlement Agreements

Workplace disputes are an ever-present challenge for employers. If disputes are not resolved quickly and effectively, an employer could find themselves party to costly, stressful and unnecessary employment litigation.


If a case is not managed correctly, it can cost the employer dearly.  In some cases, we have known business to go ‘out of business’.


Government are increasingly encouraging employers to resolve disputes through the use of a mutually agreeable settlement agreements, in order to reduce the number of cases referred to an Employment Tribunal. This is good business sense. It reduces legal costs and risk to the business too and the parties can shake hands and part company amicably.


Settlement Agreements (formerly known as Compromise Agreements) are mutually agreed before signing off.  The Settlement Agreement documentation is a legally binding contract which can be used to end an employment relationship.


Under the terms of a typical settlement agreement the employee receives a severance payment (often tax free up to £30,000) and very often an agreed job reference plus any other outstanding monies – all in return for waiving their right to take a case to an employment tribunal on any grounds covered by the settlement agreement.


HR & Diversity Limited blog about settlement agreements called More Settlements

Christine Pratt, Founder of the National Bullying Helpline has written a piece on Settlement Agreements for HR & Diversity Management Ltd, called More Settlements. Click the link below to read the article.

I suppose it is no surprise that we are seeing a higher number of requests for support in arranging Without Prejudice Settlement Agreements – given today’s climate.  Lets face it, many industries are still cutting down on their expenses and looking to...


Thomson Local blog, The Top Ten Tips for employers to reduce organisational stress

Ten top tips for employers to reduce organisational stress

Stress can prove a major headache for firms, leading to misunderstandings and getting in the way of productivity. Here we advise employers how to reduce stress in the workplace. Nobody’s perfect, we all have too much pressure from time to time, and stress can affect anyone given an accumulation of circumstances...


Top 10 Tips to Reduce Stress

  1. Adopt an attitude that stress is not a weakness and develop this culture within your department and/or organisation

  2. Ensure you are not suffering from stress yourself

  3. Analyse your management style and behaviour. (We can help)

  4. Ensure the working environment is suitable. (Analyse your turnover and absence statistics)

  5. Help your staff cope with change - no matter how big or small

  6. Improve communications. Talk to staff. Observe your staff. Make yourself available. Walk the Talk! (Read In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters & Robert H Waterman Jr.)

  7. Empathise. Think of yourself in your employees' shoes

  8. Do regular, informal, risk assessments on your staff to check nobody is subject to work related stress.

  9. Encourage staff to attend development courses and stress management courses.

  10. Praise your staff. Remember to say "thank you" (it costs nothing and goes a long way).

Cost Cutting Ideas

Recession Suggestions for Employers and Cost Cutting Ideas

We appreciate that the UK economy goes through a recession from time to time. This impacts on SME's and most employers. It is only natural therefore that employers will be looking to make cut-backs at times such as these – and this is where high absence and stress commonly occurs.


Below are some tips before you make changes that have Contractual implications. But if things become dire, seek voluntary redundancies before embarking on a heavy handed downsizing exercise.

80% of Employers struggle with absence issues and absence, due to stress, is costing the UK economy

£13.4 billion.


Cost Cutting Ideas for Employers

  • Ensure there is a Variation Clause in your staff contracts before making changes that will impact on contractual terms (such as altering shift patterns, cutting hours etc). Consider the risk to the business of constructive dismissal. Constructive dismissal compensation in successful tribunal cases may put you out of business.  Do not forget the hidden costs such as legal fees, disruption to the business, management time etc

  • Consider Equality and Fairness procedures. Do not discriminate. Ensure management decisions are sound and are neither selective nor biased. Document decisions and ensure the business case is lawful

  • Place a freeze on recruitment and  temporary staff. Place a freeze on overtime - keep meetings short
  • Ensure Statutory and in-house Policies are followed and that you adhere to change management processes if you do need to make adjustments. Consult and involve Trade Unions or Works Council's where relevant.  Call us if you are unclear

  • Seek employee involvement at the outset; Ask the workforce for ideas. Introduce an Employee Reward scheme for 'cost cutting ideas' that are implemented and prove effective!

  • Ask staff whether they would be prepared to take a temporary pay reduction as an alternative to facing a redundancy process. This is not an unreasonable request right now. This reduction should be % based so that those on a lower income are not overly stretched financially at this difficult time.  In return for cooperation, reward loyalty with bonuses and other incentives when business picks up and when the UK economic recession improves

  • Consider career breaks or sabbaticals (staff take an unpaid holiday but do not lose their job). This gives staff an opportunity to travel or take an extended break
  • Address performance, SMART working and overall productivity. Ensure it does not slip. At the same time, observe STRESS levels

  • If someone resigns, conduct a thorough and documented process to assess the necessity to re-employ. Consider a job share or a restructure at this time

  • Address training needs presently. Without compromising the business, place a temporary freeze on training that can wait 6 months

  • Cut excessive and/or unnecessary executive bonuses and expenses

  • Consider a Utility Operational review; send all post out second class (it will still get there). Switch off lights and computers at night and when the office is unattended

  • Sorry folks, cancel that Xmas party - at least put it on hold. Consider a summer BBQ instead

  • Find out what other employers are doing to address the recession


Incremental ideas with minimal impact on other departments can allow you to trim up to 10% of costs

Harvard Business Review

Post Traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED)

We believe the word ‘stress’ does not adequately describe the condition of an employee signed off by a GP, for example, with Work Related Stress. Some say ‘stress’ is a positive thing which we can all use to our advantage by channelling it in a positive manner.  Of course this is true – but stress can be extremely negative and lead to depression and to far more serious, life changing, health issues.


In the USA, there is a term known as PTED and we believe it more accurately describes the condition of some of our callers to The National Bullying Helpline. Are your staff distressed, suffering with anxiety or depression or are some signed off work with Work Related Stress.  If you are in receipt of a GP Sick Certificate which states that an employee is suffering with Work Related Stress, you should continue reading below.


There is a new disorder being diagnosed in the USA in relation to workplace harassment and bullying called: Post Traumatic Embitterment Disorder. With PTED the victim can no longer trust anyone around him/her and the trauma in essence consumes the victim with profound “bitterness” making the victim incapable of moving on from the incident. We believe quite a few people are entrapped in their trauma and have been for years.

If staff are distressed, suffering with anxiety or depression or are signed off work with Work Related Stress.

Does this sound familiar?

25% of people allege they are being bullied at work or have been

bullied at work


1 in 8

1 in 8 people are affected by bullying

at work

What is PTED?

PTED is a proposed disorder modelled after Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Some psychiatrists are proposing this as a mental disorder because they believe there are people who have become so bitter they can barely function. PTED patients might not fit the formal criteria for PTSD and can be clinically distinguished from it, prompting the description of a new and separate disorder.


A German psychiatrist, Michael Linden, has done some ground-breaking research into this condition and describes its effect on people: “They feel the world has treated them unfairly. It’s one step more complex than anger. They’re angry plus helpless.” He says that people with the disorder are almost treatment resistant and that; These people usually don’t come to treatment, or do not respond well to treatment and/or mediation because they believe the world has to change, not them. This may be one reason (of many perhaps) why mediation is not always successful in conflict cases. He believes that 1% to 2% of people are affected at any given time, and explains that, although sufferers of the disorder tend to have a desire for vengeance, “…revenge is not a treatment.


We believe the statistics are far higher. This behaviour is so common — and so deeply destructive – that some psychiatrists are urging it be more widely identified and acknowledged as a mental illness under the name post-traumatic embitterment disorder. Embittered people are typically good people who have worked hard at something important, such as a job, relationship or activity. When something unexpectedly awful happens — they don’t get the promotion, their spouse files for divorce or they fail to make the Olympic team — a profound sense of injustice overtakes them. Instead of dealing with the loss with the help of family and friends, they cannot let go of the feeling of being victimized. Almost immediately after the traumatic event, they become angry, pessimistic, aggressive, hopeless haters.


This very severe emotional reaction can become ‘all consuming’ and negative. The degree of reaction varies.

If any of this sounds familiar, we would like to hear from you.

Call us on: 0845 22 55 787


The National Bullying Helpline is a member of NCVO Member ID: MEMBERVC/17761

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