An employer is responsible for maintaining a safe working environment that is free from bullying, intimidation and harassment. Whilst there is no legal definition for bullying, it is usually characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour. Harassment is defined by the Equality Act 2010 as unwanted conduct related to a 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.
Employees who feel that they may be victims of bullying or harassment in the workplace should familiarise themselves with their employers bullying and harassment policy and take the steps advised.
It is also open to an employee suffering bullying at work to resign and present a claim for constructive unfair dismissal, provided that they are an employee and dependent on two year's continuous service. There is an implied term in all employment contracts that employers shall provide 'reasonable support' to an employee to ensure that the employee can carry out the duties of their job without harassment and disruption by fellow workers. Employees suffering from bullying at work may, in appropriate circumstances, be able to bring a claim for breach of contract or constructive dismissal against their employers.
As an employer, unless you take reasonable steps to prevent the behaviour occurring, e.g. publishing and implementing anti-harassment policies, you will be held liable for any act of harassment committed by an employee. If you have been bullied or harassed at work or have resigned as a result of the way you were treated in the workplace, please contact a member of the Employment Team on 01279 755777 or get in touch with Gary Smith, Partner in our Employment Team.