Avoiding bullying in the workplace
Although bullying is not in itself a legal claim, an allegation of work-place bullying can lead to several legal issues being raised, including discrimination, harassment and/or constructive dismissal. The implications of this can be significant. Employers can face unlimited awards as compensation if a bullying claim is classed as discrimination.
Sometimes an employer can inadvertently foster a bullying culture by simply not addressing warning signs. Employee engagement, staff morale and business productivity are also likely to suffer in a disgruntled workforce.
Here are some guidelines to help create an engaging culture at work:
Employers must provide training and support to their managers, so they can recognise bullying issues and support the affected employee from the outset. It is important that managers feel equipped to be confident in tackling bullying issues.
Make sure there is a policy in place
Employers need to provide clear guidance on what constitutes bullying, as some behaviours might not be recognised as bullying by certain employees. Setting clear behavioural boundaries for staff also makes it easier to take action against those who choose to ignore them, which in turn helps to reduce legal risk. The policy should also contain a clear process for raising and addressing bullying stating how any allegation will be dealt with (ie as a formal grievance) and setting out a process of investigation and responsibility for the process.
Ensure that the environment is “safe”
Businesses must do what they can to ensure that employees feel able to speak out if they feel they are being bullied. Reassure employees that if they raise allegations of bullying then they will be treated. If an employee feels able to raise something informally, there may be no need to begin a formal investigation and the matter can be resolved swiftly.