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Bullying can cause physical and/or mental harm and could result in criminal charges under health and safety legislation as well as expensive employment law prosecutions.

Employers are under a duty to do everything they reasonably can to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace. Acts of bullying and harassment may be committed by managers, employees or third parties e.g. customers or suppliers. The fact that the employer didn’t know that the act or acts took place is no defence – the employer must show that it did everything it reasonably could have been expected to do to prevent the act or acts occurring in the first place. For smaller employers establishing a Dignity at Work Policy and an Equal Opportunities Policy and ensuring employees are familiar with it will help to show ‘due diligence’ in this regard. Larger employers should expect to have more comprehensive education, information and training programs. myHRdept can supply these policies (and many more) in the form of a staff handbook.

Smaller employers may also like to use our Banter video as part of their workplace training schedule – this could be shown to new employees on induction and all employees from time to time.

Whatever the size of the employer allegations or suspicions must be acted upon fast, a proper investigation carried out and the policy rigorously enforced. To know about an issue and then to fail to deal with it properly will very likely land the employer in a great deal of trouble.

Typical employment law pitfalls

Employees suffering from bullying or harassment may resign and claim constructive dismissal, with potentially unlimited compensation if unlawful discrimination is involved. Prosecutions could be brought by the HSE and criminal convictions are possible. Employers unable to show a robustly enforced and communicated policy on bullying and harassment are likely to be particularly vulnerable. Many employers fail to appreciate that their duty of care extends to controlling the behaviour of contractors, suppliers and customers, not just their own managers and staff. It is equally important to remember that bullying and harassment does not have to be suffered personally. To simplify, if there is a culture of inappropriate comments about race or sex for example, and an employee becomes offended by a colleague’s conduct, this may give them reason to raise a complaint and potentially resign, claiming constructive dismissal. It is imperative that an employer does all it can to protect its employees.

Help and support

If a bullying, harassment, victimisation or discrimination-related dispute is apparent (or an incident reported) please contact us straight away.

myHRdept can provide a range of outsourced HR support including on-site presence if required. We believe we offer the best combination of quality and price available in the UK. Contact us to discuss how we can assist you or call 01628 820515.

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