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Bullying Legislation and
Employment Law

Employment Law covering Bullying and Harassment in the workplace

The National Bullying Helpline have specialist knowledge in Dispute Resolution, Mediation, Facilitation and employment law. We can advise on the best course of action if you have a legal concern related to bullying. Our advisers are all qualified leaders in HR and Employment Law and we insist that they are all CIPD qualified, have Indemnity Insurance and are registered with the ICO. (Data Commissioner) – in order to ensure your organisation is protected in those areas.


We work closely with specialist Employment Lawyers, Family Law Solicitors, Award Winning Conflict Resolution organisations and skilled expert leaders in the field of employee relations. We are obliged under regulations laid down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to point out where there is a financial referral arrangement between a Solicitor and ourselves.

Employment law information and help topics

 If you require help and advice on any issues related to bullying at work and you don't find the answers to your question here, call 0845 22 55 787.

National Minimum Wage

April 2018 rates (which change every April) for National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage is currently as follows:


Under 18 years old

18 to 20 years

21 to 24 years

Over 25 years

£3.70 per hour

£4.20 per hour

£5.90 per hour

£7.38 per hour

£7.83 per hour

The definition of Apprentice is someone aged under 19 years of age or 19 years and over but in the first year of their Apprenticeship.

We are UK Conflict Resolution experts.

Bullying Legislation

There is no UK legislation specifically to protect those who may be suffering, or have suffered, from bullying at work. This does not mean they have no legal protection. 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.


Bullying at Work is a topical problem in the professions as well as in industry (see for example Jones v Tower Boot Co Ltd CA 1997 ICR 254, CA and the newspaper report of a firm of Manchester solicitors settling for £50,000 a bullying/sex harassment claim brought by a trainee.


Useful books on the subject include "Bully in Sight" by Tim Field and "Harassment, Bullying and Violence at Work" by Ishmael and Alemoru, published by the Industrial Society.   (Bully in Sight can be purchased through us. Call our helpline for a copy). ACAS, the HSE and our Government have all produced guidance documents on Bullying and Harassment also.

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Settlement agreements

Under clause 17 in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill compromise agreements were renamed Settlement Agreements (formerly known as Compromise Agreements. These are a legally defined agreement under which an employee whose working relationship with the employer has become irretrievable agrees, in return for a negotiated financial sum, not to bring a tribunal claim against the employer.


Importantly; there is a requirement for the employee to receive independent advice from a solicitor, trade union official or qualified advice worker before entering into a settlement agreement. Call us on 0845 22 55 787 for more information

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The Law is changing all the time.

 Inappropriate use of technology is driving an urgent need for new, sharper, enforceable, laws.

The Protection From Harassment Act 1997

The Protection From Harassment Act 1997

Under The Protection from Harassment Act it is a criminal offence to commit an act of Cyberbullying with intent to harass another person or which the perpetrator knows, or reasonably ought to know, amounts to the harassment of another person.


6-months Imprisonment

A person found guilty of this behaviour could face imprisonment of up to 6 months, or receive a financial penalty, or both.

Up to 5 years imprisonment

Section 4 of the Act provides the potential for greater punishment to those found guilty o f causing another person to believe, on two or more occasions, that violence will be used against them. A person found guilty of this offence could face up to 5 years imprisonment.

Restraining Orders

The 1997 Act also gives Courts powers to grant Restraining Orders against those found guilty of one of the above offenses.

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The Protection From Harassment Act 1997

The Malicious Communications Act 1988

Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 states that it is an offence for any person to send a communication that is “indecent or grossly offensive” with the intent of “causing distress or anxiety to the recipient” and this includes threats and information which is false or known or believed to be false by the sender of the communication.

6-months Imprisonment and/or £5,000 fine

A person found guilty of this behaviour could face imprisonment of up to 6 months or a fine of up to £5,000 or both.

The Protection From Harassment Act 1997

The Health & Safety At Work Act 1974

Under the Health and Safety Act at Work 1974, all employers have a Duty of Care to provide employees with a safe working environment.  If an employee can prove they are a target of eCRIME in the workplace, by colleagues using Company technology (computers, mobiles etc)., the employer may be in breach of their duty to protect employees under The Health & Safety at Work Act.


In such a case (described above) an employee is advised to raise a formal complaint ie: a Stage 1 Grievance.  Refer to the Company Harassment and Grievance Policies and trigger the formal process.

eCRIME and Cyberbullying Legislation

Bullying does not discriminate, we are all potential targets. No one person is immune to Cyberbullying either. Both individuals and organisations may be susceptible to Cyberbullying which targets an individual or an organisation is Cyberbullying.


We are hearing about some very serious cases of on-line abuse associated with the workplace.  APP’S are being used to stalk a person (SPYWARE for example), or place a person under surveillance without their knowledge or consent.


eCRIME in the workplace is an increasing, very serious, problem that employers are struggling with. It is reported that bullying in the workplace costs UK employers in excess of £2bn per annum in litigation, investigation costs, lost productivity and sick pay.  We think the figure is probably higher.  So, this new anti-social behaviour on line is not helping.


There is legislation that covers areas closely associated with eCRIME and Cyberbullying. In this section we look at some of the laws that are in place to protect you.

  • The Protection From Harassment Act 1997
  • The Malicious Communications Act 1988
  • The Communications Act 2003
  • The Obscene Publications Act 1959
  • The Public Order Act 1986
  • The Computer Misuse Act 1990
  • The Health & Safety At Work Act 1974
Example of ecrime, a mobile phone showing abusive messages from a bully
The Protection From Harassment Act 1997

Obscene Publications Act 1959

This is an old piece of legislation which still applies today.  It is an offence to publish an obscene article intended to deprave or corrupt persons likely to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in the article.


Publishing includes; circulating, showing, playing or projecting the article or transmitting that data.

The Protection From Harassment Act 1997

The Public Order Act 1986

Under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 it is an offence to use threating, abusive or insulting words, behaviour, writing or any visual representation likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress within the hearing or sight of a person.  With regards to Cyberbullying, this offence could apply where a camera or video functionality now found on the vast majority of mobile phones is used as a way of causing such harassment, alarm or distress.

The Protection From Harassment Act 1997

The Communications Act 2003

The Protection From Harassment Act 1997

The Computer Misuse Act 1990

Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 states that it is a criminal offence to send comments electronically which are deemed “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”.


6-months Imprisonment or a fine

If found guilty a person can receive up to 6 months imprisonment, a fine or both.

If, during the course of an act of eCRIME (cyberbullying) a person hacks into the victim’s online accounts or personal computer, they may be committing an offence under this piece of legislation.

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“The Equality Act protects people from being victimised for making complaints about any form of discrimination in the workplace. It also says employers have a responsibility to take complaints seriously and to put a stop to discrimination".

The Equality Act

Case Law - Claims against the NHS and tribunal decisions.

Michalak v Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust ET/1810815/08

A former NHS worker was awarded £933,115 in compensation after an employment tribunal found that he had been subject to racial discrimination and unfair dismissal. Elliot Browne was a divisional director at Central Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust until he was dismissed in 2008. Browne told an employment tribunal that he had been the victim of “discriminatory treatment” in the final year of his employment at the trust and had been unfairly dismissed.


The tribunal found that Browne had suffered “systematic discrimination” and “an intimidating environment” in his role, and that after Browne had raised a grievance the trust had failed to take it seriously or investigate it sufficiently. The expenditure of almost £1 million of taxpayers’ money could have been avoided if this employer had just followed its own policies and procedures – experts say.

Brown v Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Trust ET/2407264/07

An Employment Tribunal awarded a former NHS doctor one of the largest every discrimination pay-outs after she was subjected to a sustained campaign of sex and race discrimination.  The tribunal found that three senior managers, one of whom was the HR Director, to be jointly and severely liable.

McGraw v London Ambulance Service NHS Trust ET/3301865/11

ET’s are currently approaching the concept of ‘discrimination arising from disability’ under The Equality Act 2010, as this case shows.  However, the claimant (the employee) lost the case because he failed to demonstrate a link between his disability and his treatment by the employer.  However, this is an important case which should not be underestimated.

Other Case Law Examples

Job References and Misstatements

Royal Mail Racism

Damages for negligent misstatement were awarded in a case involving Swindon College and Mr McKie, an art historian.    The Judge described a job reference issued to a prospective employer to be ‘slapdash’ and staggering – due to reference to a formal process which was contrary to an earlier, positive, job reference issued.


Also, in the case of Kidd v Axa Equity & Law Life Assn’ce Soc’y Plc (IRL 301 QBD) it was said; ‘There is no general or statutory obligation on an employer to give a reference for an ex-employee but in particular cases there may be a contractual or other obligation to do so, either express or implied.  However, if an employee does give a reference for an ex-employee he must take reasonable care to ensure that it is not misleading.

The Manchester College – Tupe Case

This rare case involving Manchester College demonstrates that a Judge will occasionally make an order for reinstatement in TUPE cases. It was decided that there should be re-engagement by way of recognising the breach of TUPE that has occurred here.

Discrimination due to partner’s disability

As this case demonstrates, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee by treating him or her less favourably than others because of someone else’s disability.

In August 2012 a bungled racism case cost Royal Mail big tribunal pay-out. Employer investigation into complaint ‘shambolic,’ says EHRC . A Royal Mail employee who blew the whistle on racism at his workplace but was then sacked is believed to have won £100,000 compensation in an employment tribunal.


Abdul Musa, a former worker at a RM depot in Blackburn, reported racist behaviour at the depot to managers, which resulted in one worker being sacked and others disciplined. However, following his complaint, Musa was victimised by remaining colleagues as managers failed to protect or support him, the tribunal heard. He was then sacked so claimed both race discrimination and unfair dismissal.


The tribunal found failings in the employer’s internal investigation, which it said had not examined complaints that union representatives from the Communication Workers Union had backed an unofficial campaign to have Musa sacked by fabricating evidence.


The tribunal judgment said RM’s managers had viewed Musa as “a problem” in terms of the negative reaction of other workers, which could only be solved by dismissing him. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which funded Musa’s legal representation, called RM’s internal inquiry into the complaint “shambolic”.


John Wadham, general counsel for the EHRC, said: “The Equality Act protects people from being victimised for making complaints about any form of discrimination in the workplace. It also says employers have a responsibility to take complaints seriously and to put a stop to discrimination".


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The National Bullying Helpline try and provide FREE, confidential, unconditional, help and advice.

We will give you option and choice and we will not record your call. Whilst we do everything we can to help our callers, occasionally there are circumstances where we are unable to help due to limited resources and expertise. You may need to seek advice from a specialise expert.


It is our Policy not to get involved in a dispute you may be having with; • The Police • The Courts or Legal System • Your GP or the NHS • Local Authority. In those cases we recommend you seek advice from your local MP or a Solicitor.

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