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Bullying in the workplace can cover a vast range of topics and have a substantial effect on your staff and your business. Here you will find some of the topics covered on this page with useful information and advice.
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.
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.'
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.
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.
Grievance, Disciplinary, cultural bullying or teams of employees colluding and creating both divide and risk to the organisation.
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.
We will help you to address cost/risk issues and reduce the risk of employment tribunals.
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...
The importance of Dispute Resolution in the workplace can reduce productivity and create a difficult work environment, leading to unwanted turnover of staff and reduced morale. Managing conflict well can help find creative solutions to internal relationship issues, and can help to prevent environments that breed negativity, stress, de-motivation and general employee unrest.
Conflict resolution can be defined as the informal or formal process by which two or more parties reach a peaceful and amicable resolution to a workplace dispute.
Conflict in the workplace may occur between co-workers, or between a manager and employee, or between service providers and their clients or customers.
Mediation is a process of resolving disputes using an independent mediator to assists both parties in reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement. Mediation can be used to resolve disputes about workplace relationships rather than disputes involving pay or issues related to dismissal or conduct. You could use mediation services to resolve issues related to bullying and harassment or personality clashes.
When there’s a disagreement between an employer and employee, a third party can make a decision on the dispute to settle it. This is called ‘arbitration’. Arbitration is delivered by a neutral, impartial person. The arbitrator considers the arguments from both sides of the dispute and makes a decision based on the evidence presented. Before arbitration starts, both sides must agree to accept the arbitrator’s decision.
Further to our introduction to Dispute Resolution and Mediation, our friends at Levinson Law Limited have written a number of blogs addressing Bullying and Mediation. Stephen Levinson, Independent Commercial and Workplace Mediator is a certified Civil and Commercial Mediator (ADRg, 2014) and Workplace (ADR-ODR, 2018) Mediator and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (1989). With over 40 years’ legal experience as a solicitor, Mr Levinson was frequently identified as one of the UK’s leading employment specialists.
There seems to be a huge increase in the reported number of workplace bullying not only in the UK but internationally. The natural response is to deplore this as a decline in standards of conduct but there is a reason to view it otherwise.
If involved in litigation of any kind it can be an expensive mistake to refuse an offer to mediate. A stubborn refusal can cost even if you win the case. It can also be a useful tactic to offer to mediate and to repeat the offer if it is declined.
Lockdown has created a backlog of unresolved disputes in a whole variety of situations. Not only workplaces but insurance, supply of goods and landlord and tenant issues. Before they become enforceable you should be deciding whether to put in place a possibility to mediate a resolution.
The Law Commission has recommended a range of improvements to Employment Tribunal processes, time limits and jurisdiction. Government has not yet announced what it will implement but most of the suggestions are excellent and should be adopted.
It is frequently said that early intervention and using mediation saves both costs and stress. Assuming that the reduction of stress by avoiding cross-examination, publicity and a court hearing is self-evident this exercise deals expressly and in detail with cost savings.
Mediation is the best route to resolve disputes. Litigation, either in public courts before a hearing occupies a great deal of management time. The classic processes using litigation externally or grievance procedures internally are increasingly seen as far too expensive, as taking too long and to be productive of excessive stress.
The National Bullying Helpline hear all too frequently from employee’s who ask whether a recording they have made can be used as evidence against their employer or if they can record a bully at work to prove bullying in the workplace. Recording conversations at work is a grey area that the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has accepted in some exceptional cases but dismissed in others.
Here we look at the legalities of covertly recording and when covert recording can be used as evidence with some practical advise for employers about recording staff and how to protect your business against covert recording.
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.
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).
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. Suspending an employee for a perceived act of wrongdoing or for gross-misconduct is a big step to take. Very often a decision to suspend is made before an investigation takes place.
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.
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
What are the risks
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’
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.
Compensation for unfair dismissal may be as high as £66,000 per person and this does not include the cost of a redundancy payment.
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.
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
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.
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.
80% of Employers struggle with absence issues and absence, due to stress, is costing the UK economy £13.4 billion.
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.
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
The National Bullying Helpline is a member of NCVO Member ID: VC/17761
©️ The National Bullying Helpline 2020
Advice for Employees
Advice for Managers & Businesses
Frequently asked Questions
Bullying in the NHS
Conciliation in the Workplace
Spotting the Signs of Gaslighting
Information for Parents
Information for Children
Bullying Help Guides
Self Harm & Suicide
Bullying on Social Media
Hacking & Blackmail
Work Related Stress
Call the National Bullying Helpline on
0300 323 0169 or
0845 22 55 787
Open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday