Bullying & Harassment

As this year’s United Against Bullying for Anti-Bullying Week 16th – 20th November 2020 kicks off, we at PACT HR explore whether Bullying and Harassment remain significant workplace issues and how best to deal with complaints of this nature.

Is Bullying & Harassment Still Significant in the Workplace?

Author: Paula Beck, HR Business Partner

Date: 16th November 2020

Whether it happens in the playground or in the workplace, bullying can seriously impact a person’s mental health and wellbeing at the time and way into the future. But how rife is bullying in the workplace and should this be something that you as an employer are concerned about?

ACAS reports that bullying at work costs the UK economy £18 billion a year through the costs of sickness related absence, staff turnover and loss of productivity. However this figure does not include the human cost; living with the mental scars and lasting harm inflicted.

A Conflict in the Workplace survey conducted earlier this year by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, (CIPD) states:

“…employees working in the public sector are significantly more likely to say they have experienced bullying …nearly a quarter of those interviewed working in public sector have experienced bullying of some form”

Bullying or Banter?

“It’s just banter!” If you’ve had to approach someone about a comment to a colleague that landed badly, then there’s a chance you’ll have heard this phrase thrown back at you dismissively. But just because they believe it was “banter” doesn’t mean it was or that the person must accept it. Bullying and harassment can range from extreme forms of intimidation, such as physical violence, to more subtle forms such as inappropriate jokes/banter or ignoring someone.

Bullying and Harassment – one, both or neither?

Bullying isn’t illegal but harassment is. The problem is that there are often a number of overlaps between the two. There is no definition of bullying in law but ACAS states:

“offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient”

The Equality Act 2010 defines harassment similarly as “unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.”

This year the Employment Tribunals ruled on a high profile sexual harassment claim. Highways England v Kim Beaney the claimant was awarded £74,000 in compensation including a significant sum in injury to feelings (an often un-capped compensation award) and aggravated damages.

So sadly it seems that bullying and harassment remain prevalent in today’s workplaces and can be costly in terms of the direct costs to business and potential employment tribunal claims. We have a duty of care and legal responsibilities to our employees and volunteers but what can you do about it and how can PACT HR help?

What you can do?

  • Ensure you have a robust policies and procedures in place which is communicated to all staff, regularly.
  • Developing a positive and inclusive culture with a zero-tolerance approach.
  • Demonstrate strong values that communicate what a culture of dignity and respect looks like.
  • ‘Walk the talk’ and be prepared to challenge inappropriate behaviour and invoke formal procedures where necessary.
  • Remember your responsibilities may likely extend to work parties or outings.

How can PACT HR help?

PACT HR can;

  • Provide a range of suitable policies, procedures and guidance.
  • Offer specific and timely advice on the various options available to you.
  • Support with cultural transformation.
  • Provide support with investigations and hearings.
  • Direct you to support by working in partnership with Employee Health and Wellbeing.
  • Provide restorative services such as mediation and conflict resolution via their fully qualified Mediator.
  • Offer a variety of learning and development sessions including bespoke training to support you in addressing the workplace culture.

For more information on how we can support your organisation with any bullying, harassment or discriminatory issues in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact the PACT HR helpdesk via phone 01274 436644, or email info@pact-hr.co.uk