Are you being bullied at work
When we think of bullies, we tend to remember the ones we knew at school. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t stop there for everyone. For some, the bullying continues into adult life.
The bullies we knew at school have continued to bully or intimidate the people around them and may have used these techniques to climb the employment ladder to a position of authority. Although there can be a fine line between a tough boss and an abusive one, bullying generally refers to being subjected to repeated emotional or even physical abuse.
The workplace bully deliberately manipulates, belittles, intimidates and tries to control or undermine their victim using any means available to them. In this digital age, the workplace bully’s playground has now extended to cyberbullying with the use of email, mobile phones and social media sites like Twitter or Facebook.
Bullying at work and anti social behaviour resulting in stress, is a fact of life for too many workers in the UK but your employer has a ‘Duty of Care’ to provide a safe and stress-free place of work for all staff.
If you believe you are being bullied or you know someone who is, we will try to help. If you are being harassed at work by a colleague or manager, suspended, Dismissed or Disciplined or you’ve been treated badly by your employer. We have information and practical advice to help you stop the bullying and resolve your issues.
Our advisers are CIPD trained and have specialist skills in conflict resolution and can help you find solutions to your current situation, in some cases we are able to work with you and your employers to help put a stop to the bullying.
Not all bullying is physical, bullying can take many forms and sometimes it’s difficult to prove you’re being harassed or threatened at work. When the bullying has been consistent and subtle over a sustained period, you might start to doubt your own sanity or convince yourself that it’s OK. To determine if your work colleague or boss is actually bullying you, ask yourself the following questions:
If the answer to these questions is yes then there is a good possibility that you are being bullied at work. Bullying can create stress and anxiety amongst staff and is one of the biggest contributors of stress-related health problems, including debilitating feelings of anxiety, panic attacks and clinical depression. In some instances, bullying can even lead to suicide.
Fortunately for those being bullied, help is at hand. One of the most distressing parts of being bullied is the feeling that no one seems to care and there is nowhere to go for help. We care! We can help. Bullying in the workplace can present itself in many way so is important to remember that each incident may seem unimportant in isolation but there is a cumulative effect which builds into a much more serious situation.
We have put together a comprehensive help guide for workers that have been accused of bullying. When someone accuses you of bullying, it can be difficult to know where to turn for help. In some cases, this accusation is a form of bullying itself and is often used to deflect attention away from the actual bully. This guide will explain what you should do and the steps you can take to protect yourself. We are here to help support the staff affected by or accused of bullying in the workplace.
What to do if accused of bullying
We specialise in workplace bullying and harassment disputes and offer employees practical solutions and support. If you require help and advice with bullying at work and don’t find the answers to your questions here, please call us on 0845 22 55 787.
We have put together some quick answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about bullying at work. Bullying in the workplace can cover a vast range of topics including Bullying, Harassment, Stress and Constructive dismissal to mention a few. If you are looking for solutions or support for any of the following questions, we can help. For more information on any of the following questions, please call us.
Frequently asked questions
Workplace bullying in the UK is more common than you might think, the world of business is fast paced and very competitive. High-pressured environments can cultivate morally questionable decision-making. Managers can seem reluctant to do anything to stop the bullying behaviour within their department of organisation. A number of reasons could be preventing your manager from attempting to stop the bullying in your office or place of work. It could be the bully is your manager or a friend of your manager. Quite often they try to rationalise the situation in an attempt to justify the bullying as something else.
Particularly common in a sales environment is tactical acceptance of bullying to achieve targets. Managers often turn a blind eye because the bullies are contributing a profit to the business. In these situation bullying can be ignored or perceived as “motivational”. Short-term gains at your expense may seem OK to them now but the potential cost to staff moral, not to mention the health implications that can present themselves from bullying, will cost them in the long run. Absence from work and sick leave due to stress or depression can have a major impact on the productivity and profitability of a business. It affects the businesses bottom line and even its survival.
Bullying is not OK in any situation, no matter the environment. Bullying is not acceptable if it results in a sale! Bullying has no place at work for businesses that want to be successful. Being bullied by your boss can also increase anxiety levels if you are in fear of repercussions for speaking out. The thought of loosing your job can put an enormous amount of strain on a person.
Firstly we recommend you start collecting as much evidence as you can, this includes keeping a dairy of events to help paint a clear picture of what’s been happening. If you need to recall particular events, having a reliable record will add credibility to your claim of bullying or harassment. If you have one and presuming they are not the bully, go and talk to your HR manager. They will help you. They know your organisation and the people in it better than anyone and they also know the law is there to protect you.
If you don’t have anyone in the business dedicated to employee relations, a human resources or personnel department and you are unable to escalate this to a more senior member of staff. Call us and we will talk you through some of the options available to you
Often, before triggering a formal workplace complaints process, an employee will want to understand whether their case has any merit or likelihood of success, what the risks are and what all their options are. We completely understand this. An employment law specialist will review your situation and provide you with a professional, case specific report with details on how to proceed and what steps to take next.
Find Out More
Facing a disciplinary can be scary for anyone. The potential consequence of a formal action against you can be life changing. It not only affects you but your family too. If you have received formal notice to attend a disciplinary related to bullying at work. Your employer should put a formal request in writing, detailing why you have been asked to attend, what you can expect to happen in the meeting and the potential outcome. You should be given enough time to put evidence together for your defence and you are entitled to see any evidence against you prior to the meeting.
You are totally within your rights to be accompanied by a witness but if you can’t find one, remember to take notes during the meeting. These notes could be vital to your case if you have been treated unfairly. You should seek legal advice if you think you have been treated badly and you believe this could constitute Unfair Dismissal. Your employer must follow procedures and have a good reason to dismiss you.
Constructive dismissal is also something a legal expert can advise you on. If you have been forced to leave your position because of your employer’s actions, then you might have a case for constructive dismissal. In some cases, when an employee has been asked to attend a disciplinary, they can also be suspended from duties until the meeting is concluded. In most case you will still receive full pay while you are off work. In some serious cases an employee can be suspended without pay. See your contract of employment for more information regarding dismissal and suspension.
While you are on suspension you are still employed by the company and must act accordingly and your employment rights are not affected during this time. A solicitor would be able to advise you if your case can be taken to an employment tribunal. For more information or advice on what to do next, call 0845 22 55 787
This is an interesting summary of fair reasons to dismiss which we like to ensure all visitors to our website understand.
Allegedly not being able to do your job properly. Before an employer takes this step you should be told that your work is not satisfactory and you should be given a chance to improve; with training and support etc. Look at the Company’s training policy and request support, in writing.
Redundancy is fair in most cases but in some the term redundancy is used inappropriately. Redundancy is where the job you were doing no longer exists for a sound business reason. In Redundancy cases remember this golden rule – it is the job that is made redundant, not the individual. Before making you redundant the employer needs to follow stringent guidelines and ensure there is no alternative role suitable within the organisation.
You may be dismissed legally if it is impossible for you to carry on doing your job and ‘it is neither your fault or the employers fault’ that the contract has to end – e.g. In cases where a factory burns down or where you are diagnosed with a medical condition that prevents you from operating machinery in a warehouse, for example. You can also be dismissed if by continuing to work you would be breaking the law e.g. If you are a lorry driver and you have lost your driving licence.
Here we talk about role of the Representative through the dispute resolution process. In particular we focus on the right of the employee to nominate their own representative at the conciliation stage.
Conciliation in the Workplace
There are numerous laws that an employee can rely on to bring legal action against an employer including discrimination laws and laws about a constructive dismissal claim. An employee would need to resign to claim constructive dismissal and even then, they may not have a strong case.
The National Bullying Helpline can help you understand whether your case has merit, the likelihood of success, what the risks are and what your options are, including the need for legal representation. In some cases, we can help you reach a negotiated settlement with your employer without the need to proceed with an employment tribunal.
Instructing a solicitor can be costly and certainly stressful. Proceeding to an Employment Tribunal will depend on the actions of both the employee and employer, the processes followed and the strength of a case. An employee considering legal action against their employer needs to demonstrate that they have followed in-house complaints policies.
Many employment solicitors don’t like working on a no win – no fee basis because the risks are too high compared to personal injury cases, which are often easier to prove. There are a few specialist UK employment law solicitors like Landau Law Solicitors or licensed HR Consultants that are willing to consider taking cases on a no win - no fee basis, as this is often an attractive option at a time when financial security is uncertain.
A lot of our callers say that they do not know whether the behaviour they are experiencing is bullying, or not. They know something is very wrong and it is causing them sleepless nights. Sometimes, the behaviour is linked to collusion or exclusion in the workplace. This is where the behaviour is linked to a group of individuals who are working together. Are a group of individuals isolating you or freezing you out? Do you feel intimidated or threatened by this group?
This behaviour is unacceptable and this group of individuals pose a threat to the organisation as a whole. You need to report this behaviour. An employer is vicariously liable for the unacceptable treatment of one or more persons, provided that treatment is linked. You need to act quickly as the general ‘rule of thumb’ requires employees to do something about it within a three-month time-frame. We are unlikely to be able to help you if you are distressed due to something that happened two or three years ago. Only therapy or counselling is likely to help in that situation. (See our article on PTED).
If you have recently, quite suddenly, lost your job - with no satisfactory written explanation, you may have been subjected to an unlawful process or even wrongful dismissal. If you have been made Redundant and you do not believe your employer has treated you fairly, seek advice immediately. You only have a small time-frame of 3 months, so take action, today! Have any of the above circumstances (disciplinary, suspension, dismissal, redundancy) occurred because, in your view, you raised concerns or submitted a formal complaint?
Clearly, this occurs when an employer dismisses an employee unfairly. The fairness of the dismissal is ‘judged’ based on the following factors; That the dismissal was for a fair reason and there are, in fact, only 6 potentially fair reasons for dismissing an employee (See below, Potentially Fair Reasons to Dismiss). The reasonableness of the employer’s actions in dismissing the employee includes ‘whether the employer followed a fair procedure’ – such as the ACAS Code of Conduct and in-house policies.
It is important to understand what constitutes Constructive Dismissal in legal terms. Simply, Constructive Dismissal occurs when an employee resigns in response to the employer’s conduct. Although there may have been no actual dismissal, the treatment is deemed sufficiently bad that the employee is entitled to regard themselves as having been dismissed. In one sense, it is not dismissal at all – it’s a resignation due to concerns about the employer’s failure to provide a safe and lawful place of work.
To prove Constructive Dismissal you would need to prove that you resigned in response to a fundamental breach of contract by your employer. If you terminate your contract in circumstances in which you say is due to the employer’s conduct, and give that as the reason for your termination, that termination constitutes Constructive Dismissal. The reason may be due to an ‘express term’ of the contract of employment or it may be because the employer’s behaviour has broken the mutual trust and confidence of the employment contract (an implied term).
Examples of such conduct may (not exclusively) include isolating the employee, humiliating them in front of others, discrimination, failure to follow procedure, failure to provide a safe place of work or vexatious allegations of poor performance or conduct. So, in summary, to claim Constructive Dismissal you will need to prove three things;
This might sound easy but in fact Constructive Dismissal can be difficult to prove. You must show that your employer breached the contract and that it was a fundamental (not minor) breach and that you terminated your contract as a direct result. Constructive dismissal is not a claim in isolation – you will need to claim unfair dismissal and/or wrongful dismissal.
Whether Unfair Dismissal or Constructive Dismissal you will need to show that you have been employed for the minimum two-year qualifying period in order to raise a case via an Employment Tribunal. (There are exemptions to the two-year period in cases of discrimination or where there are protected characteristics).
One explanation is that they are looking for attention. Being noticed makes them feel important or powerful. The bully might have feelings of envy or resentment towards a work colleague. It might be they are very insecure about their own position within the business or department.
It may simply be that the bully is not being line managed or worse, the employer condones the behaviour believing it gets results. In some cases the bully has a hold over senior management, or they are the business owner or related to the business owner. This category of workplace bully believes they are above the law so does not have to follow process. A classic defence tactic for a bully in either of these scenarios is for the bully to quickly change persona when accused of being a bully, by claiming he or she is the hurt, aggrieved, victim. Bullies can lack empathy or remorse and in most cases, bullies harbour a strong need to control and dominate others.
The personality traits of the bully could be an indication that their behaviour in the office is the result of underlying issues they’ve been coping with for many years. Growing up in an environment where little or no positive interaction with adults is considered normal and in many cases they have been raise by an emotionally unstable or even physically abusive parent or guardian.
From an early age the environment they’ve been subjected to would teach them that vulnerability leads to abuse and the best form of defence is offence. This creates a need for self-preservation and they look to take their own inadequacies out on others. Bullying helps them seize control of a situation or they may feel that some how it compensates for the lack of attention they long for.
With technology at our fingertips, its never been easier to secretly record a conversation, but is it legal and can you use it as evidence? The general census of opinion on covert recording is you need permission from everyone in the room and any clandestine recordings would not be admissible as evidence. Legislation covering covert recording is still a grey and while the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) have indicated these recordings are frowned upon, they have allowed secret recordings in some exceptional cases.
Covert Recording at Work
A Subject Access Request or SAR is the process of requesting information held on file about you by your employer or HR department. Everyone has the legal right to access this information but not all businesses want you to see what they have said about you in documentation produced for management eyes only.
This help guide covers everything you need to know about a Subject Access Request, what your rights are, how to request a SAR and what to do if your request is denied. Included in this download guide are template letters detailing everything you need to ask for.
Subject Access Request
Work-related stress is probably the most commonly used diagnosis employees give for long term sickness. Symptoms of stress can include mental health issues including depression and anxiety as well as physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and excessive sweating. Find information and advice about common symptoms associated with stress, what your employer can do to help reduce in at work, and how to tackle stress.
Stress related to bullying
Gaslighting is a subtle and extremely common form of bullying within the work environment. It’s a manipulate power-game with deliberate intent to control an individual or control a situation. Employees subject to Gaslighting find themselves second-guessing their every decision and questioning their own sanity, making them more dependent on their abuser. Spotting the signs of Gaslighting is easier than you think and it is highly likely you have observed or been on the receiving end of this behaviour.
Spotting signs of Gaslighting
Pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks Statutory Maternity Leave if they give the correct notice to the employer. Employees don't have to take 52 weeks if they don't want to. The first 26 weeks is known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’. The last 26 weeks is known as ‘Additional Maternity Leave’. The earliest that leave may be taken is 11 weeks before the due date or expected date of childbirth (unless the baby is born early).Employee’s must take at least 2 weeks leave after the birth or 4 weeks if they work in a factory. Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), can be paid for up to 39 weeks in total, as follows:
Tax and National Insurance is deducted.
A claim of automatic unfair dismissal and unlawful Sex Discrimination may be made in an employee suffers ‘less favourable treatment’, detriment or discrimination associated with maternity leave or a return to work programme. For example, to make the post Redundant at the point when the employee expresses a wish to return to the workplace would be deemed to be discrimination if the Redundancy is not proven to be genuine.
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.