22nd January 2014

Feeling bullied at work? We can help

If you are feeling harassed or bullied at work it can have a significant impact on your well being, your family and friends and, in the worst cases, your long term health. For some, they simply resign putting it down to experience. For others, that may not be possible and they may ask: why should I lose my status and income because of the bullying conduct of my employer?

Before you can make any decisions about what to do, it is helpful to know where you stand legally. We often advise people in this situation and after meeting with us they feel more able to make informed decisions, taking the matter forward with, or without, our help.

Although our advice would depend on all the circumstances, we have set out below a brief summary of what protection you have and some steps you could consider taking if you find yourself harassed or bullied at work.

What protection do you have?

Employers have legal obligations to prevent harassment and bullying at work.

  • The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 can impose liability on an employer for a course of conduct amounting to harassment by an employee.
  • Equality Act 2010. This makes an employer liable if it fails to protect its employees and workers from harassment at work. Harassment under the Equality Act means unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of either violating your dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. It has to be related to a ‘protected characteristic’ which are set out in the Act and include age, sex, disability and race. There are separate definitions for harassment of sexual nature and harassment because someone has rejected or submitted to sexual harassment.
  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to provide a safe place and system of work.
  • There are also a number of implied duties in the employment contract which employers owe to their employees, including a duty to provide a safe and suitable working environment, a duty not to destroy mutual trust and confidence, and a duty to provide redress of grievances

What steps could you take?

  • Get hold of any policies your employer may have regarding anti-harassment, bullying or equal opportunities to show you how they should deal with such matters.
  • Get hold of your employer’s grievance and disciplinary policy. This will outline what behaviour is not acceptable and also how to raise your concerns. The policies should include the basic principles from the Acas Code (available on the Acas website).
  • Raise your concerns with the appropriate person. This could either be directly with the perpetrator (to tell them to stop) or someone like a manager or HR (see your employer’s grievance procedures). You can do this as a formal grievance or informally at first. If you are going to raise it informally and you prefer not to send an email or letter, do make notes of any discussions. At some point, you may need to send a formal grievance (the legal terminology for a complaint) in order to protect your position.

We can help you.You may simply need a fixed fee meeting to discuss your concerns or you may wish to lodge a Tribunal claim. Either way, we are specialists in employment law and that experience is invaluable in helping you judge what course of action is right for you. Please contact Linda Wilson at or on 01730 268211 to find out how we can help you.