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Bullying at work: Workplace bullying advice for employees

Bullying at work advice for employees dealing with Harassment and unfair treatment by managers and colleagues

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.

Bullying Help for Employees

Bullying in the workplace can cover a vast range of topics including Bullying, Harassment, Stress and Constructive dismissal to mention a few. Here you will find some of the topics covered on this page with useful information and helpful advice with employee related bullying.

> Bullying & Employment Law

> Are you being bullied at work

> Have you been accused of bullying

> Why do bully's, bully

> My manager won't stop the bullying

> Stress due to Workplace Bullying

> Disciplinary and Suspension

> Unfair and Constructive Dismissal

> Maternity Rights and Discrimination

> Collusion and Exclusion

> Settlement Agreements

> Post Traumatic Embitterment Disorder

Bullying & employment law specialists

The National Bullying Helpline specialise in workplace bullying and harassment disputes for employees and we can offer practical support for the following areas related to bullying and employment law. 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.

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Boss won't do anything

Managers can sometimes be reluctant to do anything about bullying behaviour within their department...

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They don't include me

Are a group of individuals freezing you out. This could be collusion or exclusion in the workplace...

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I'm being bullied at work

Bullying creates stress and anxiety. It's one of the biggest contributors of stress-related health problems...

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Getting a disciplinary

If you have received formal notice to attend a disciplinary related to bullying at work. Your employer should...

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Work is making stressed

Stress in the workplace, the symptoms to look out for, what it stress and useful tips on dealing with stress.

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Been accused of bullying

We have put together a comprehensive help guide for workers that have been

accused of bullying.

What is the 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. There are some people who do not qualify for the National Minimum Wage: self-employed people, volunteers or voluntary workers, company directors, members of the armed forces, family members, or people who live in the family home of the employer, work experience students, depending on the length of their placement. All other workers including pieceworkers, home workers, agency workers, commission workers, part-time workers and casual workers must receive at least the minimum wage.

Why do bully’s, Bully?

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.

An image of an office worker shouting at his colleague

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.

Stress related to bullying in the workplace

Stress is one on the biggest contributors to long term sick leave in the UK with over half a million workers citing stress, depression or anxiety as a factor to their absence in the last year.


For more information about stress related to bullying at work click here as we address the issue of Work Related Stress and talk you through causes, effect and action you can take to reduce the risk of negative stress.

Stress related to bullying



Unfair and Constructive  Dismissal

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.

Constructive Dismissal

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 breached the term of mutual trust and confidence that goes to the heart 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;


The employer acted in a way that would be regarded by any reasonable person as a breach of contract


That an employee resigned in direct response to that breach and for no other reason


That an employee did not wait too long before resigning.

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.

Qualifying Period

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).

Potentially fair reasons to dismiss

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.

Capability Due to Ill Health

You can be dismissed if you have a persistently long absence record or illness makes it impossible for you to do your job. Before an employer takes this step the employer should look at ways to support you and consider whether it is the job itself that is making you ill. Also, the employer needs to give you reasonable time to recover from your illness.


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.

Some Other Substantial Reason

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 – eg 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.

Statutory Reason

You can be dismissed if by continuing to work you would be breaking the law eg: if you are a lorry driver and you have lost your driving licence.


Case Assessments

Settlement Agreements

If you want case specific advice we recommend that you have your CASE ASSESSED by an Employment Law Solicitor or an expert employment specialist.


Only a company that is a Regulated Claims Management Service provider can advise you regarding potential losses or claims you might make relating to your employment law dispute. Call us today for FREE advice.

A Settlement agreement is a legally binding document between you and your employer. Settlement Agreements used to be called Compromise Agreement. The purpose of these forms is to agree the terms and conditions of a settlement or agreement between you and your employer when you agree to settle a potential employment tribunal claim.


If you want to part company with your employer on amicable terms and seek a settlement, CALL 0845 22 55 787

Maternity Discrimination

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.

The National Bullying Helpline try to provide FREE, confidential, 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.


Help us reach the people that need our help

Bullying destroys lives and can have a devastating and lasting effect on someone subjected to constant abuse or harassment. If you believe bullying should be eradicated from our schools and workplace then help us reach a wider community so anyone suffering from bullying can find the help they need. Please like and share our page.

Are you being bullied at work?

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:


- Do I feel intimidated or threatened at work?

- Am I regularly humiliated or ridiculed in front of my colleagues?

- Have I been called names?

- Are my efforts consistently undervalued or disregarded?

- I feel sick or nauseous when working with a particular colleague or manager?


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.


What to do if you are accused of being a bully

Have you been accused of bullying?

Bullying help guide cover about people accused of bullying

We have put together a comprehensive

help guide for workers that have been

accused of bullying.


This guide will explain what you should

do if you've being accused, and the

steps you can take to protect yourself.


Did you know that over 80% of managers admit that bullying occurs within their business but very few admit to being responsible.


In an ideal world we would not need to deal with workplace bullying but unfortunately it happens. We are here to help support the staff that are effected buy or accused of bullying in the workplace.

More Information

My manager won’t stop the bullying

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


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.

Member of staff interviewed about bullying at work

For employment law advice related to Suspensions and Dismissals

Call 0845 22 55 787

Disciplinary, Suspension and Dismissals

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. Please see below


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


‘After more than a decade of bullying which subtly but steadily increased in intensity, it got to the point where I didn’t care whether I was alive or dead’.

A quote from a bullied employee.  BullyInSight by Tim Field.

Man at work crying

Definition of Bullying and Harassment

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.

A girl sat on her own because she has been excluded at work

Collusion or Exclusion

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?

Post Traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED)

Are you feeling helpless or distressed? Are you angry or frustrated? Has your doctor signed you off work with Work Related Stress, Anxiety or Depression recently or in the past? Is the cost of your depression, frustration and anger impacting on your home life and your general wellbeing? Do you feel unable to move on with your life as a result of something traumatic that happened to you at work?


There is a new disorder being diagnosed in the USA in relation to workplace harassment and bullying: It is called Post Traumatic Embitterment Disorder. With PTED the person suffering can no longer trust anyone around him/her and the trauma in essence consumes them with a 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. For more information about Stress and PTED click here

PTED Advice
a girl suffering with Post Traumatic Embitterment Disorder

Maternity Rights and Discrimination

Maternity Leave

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.

Maternity Pay (SMP)

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), can be paid for up to 39 weeks in total, as follows:


• The first 6 weeks: 90% of the average weekly

    earnings before tax.

• The remaining 33 weeks: £145.18 or 90% of

   the average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower.


Tax and National Insurance is deducted.

We are UK Employment law and Conflict Resolution experts.

We specialise in workplace and harassment disputes and  offer employees practical support to help with bullying at work by managers and colleagues.


TELEPHONE: 0845 22 55 787 |

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CALL 0845 22 55 787


* Call Charges: 0845 calls are charged at circa 7p per minute plus your telecom providers access charges. We do not receive revenue from inbound calls and nor do we profit from calls.