Employment Tribunals arising out of bullying on the increase

The number of employment tribunal claims lodged citing allegations of bullying has increased by 44% over the past 12 months, reaching record highs, new research has revealed. The research has found that bullying claims increased from 581 to 835 between March 2021 and March 2022.  It seems that the previously used strategies for identifying and dealing with problematic behaviours risk being ineffective in changing working environments, such as remote, hybrid and flexible working.

Tackling workplace bullying is not easy, particularly in changing work environments but this increase in bullying claims may be a sign that some managers are struggling to maintain healthy workplaces during the shift to hybrid and / or home working.

The virtual working environment might have led to new patterns of bullying that are more difficult to identify, such as rude, offhand or cutting remarks being made on video calls, which are hard to address positively; deliberately leaving colleagues out of remote meetings; or using messaging apps to gossip during online meetings.

A workplace where bullying is present negatively impacts on employees’ performance and wellbeing, as those being bullied are less productive than colleagues and are likely to have higher rates of absence, potentially leading to a loss of talent and increased attrition.

In order to help prevent the rise of unhealthy work cultures, employers should consider what has changed in the way that teams are working, and address this by developing positive work environments, with proactive changes being made rather than waiting for a problem to arise.  This might include an increase in one to one meetings and coaching, more structured supervision and openly discussed pastoral care programmes.

Employers must also ensure that they enforce company policies to protect and support colleagues at risk, encouraging employees to speak up, share concerns and admit mistakes.

Ultimately, an employer’s failure to tackle a bullying culture could be perceived as not complying with their duty of care towards employees and could result in employment tribunals. While it isn’t possible to bring a claim directly to an employment tribunal on the grounds of bullying, if the behaviour relates to one of the protected characteristics, then an employee can make a claim of discrimination under harassment provisions.

121 HR Solutions has a wide range of experience in dealing with issues arising out of bullying and can support employers. Contact us on enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk

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