Harassment and Bullying cases are serious, very difficult to deal with and on the rise, according to our recent experience.
In a recent poll I run on LinkedIn, 56% of voters said they had experienced bullying or harassment during their employment. Whilst on a recent ‘Banter or Harassment’ training course, 84% said they had experienced harassment at some point during their working life.
Harassment is defined as conduct which violates dignity. It is intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive. Bullying is defined as behaviours that seek to cause harm or to intimidate.
As the definitions are almost identical, what’s the difference?
While the damage to someone’s health, wellbeing and status may be the same, the terms have different legal connotations.
Harassment is a personal act against someone relating to their ‘protected characteristic’. This would be seen as discriminatory, affording compensation against proven breaches regardless of the worker’s length of service. Employers can be seen as vicariously liable if they have not put measures in place to stop this kind of behaviour.
Bullying is still very serious, but does not come with these automatic rights.
However! The line between harassment, bullying…and banter can be so unclear, yet the ramifications could be huge. Jobs are lost, penalties are paid, and relationships are broken.
What should employers do?
- Have a really good policy, and communicate it to your staff.
- Ensure your workforce know the role they have in preventing harassment and bullying.
- Deal with allegations of harassment and bullying seriously, and compassionately.
- Train your teams…this can clarify the rights from the wrongs.
Why do this?
- Protect lives! Harassment and bullying affect mental health.
- Protect livelihoods! People remain in work, are happy, productive and committed.
- Protect business! The financial and reputational damage of a claim could result in you losing your business.
For help with these matters or just some information on our employment law and HR services give us a call 03456 122 144.
Head of Employment Law