News

How to tackle bullying in the workplace

Written by Alana Penkethman, Chartered Legal Executive at Parker Bullen solicitors

Bullying is defined as the use of strength or power to frighten or hurt weaker people. At work, bullying can eventually end an individual’s employment.

Challenging bullying is hard, and resignation may seem like the only option. However, being unemployed in the current climate is also difficult, and therefore resignation may also feel impossible. The impact of bullying on an individual’s mental health can be extremely damaging, and the impact within a workplace is no different.

As well as contractual terms, employees are protected by a number of implied terms. In particular, employers are bound by a duty of trust and confidence, and a duty to provide reasonable support. Therefore, employees should be able to trust their employers to remove bullying from the workplace, and should be able to have confidence in their employers to support them in resolving any bullying behaviour.

Bullying can range from an aggressive or abusive management style to intimidating behaviour from colleagues. The employer will be responsible if it has failed to take steps to address the situation, whether the employee has raised a grievance or not.

If an employee does raise a grievance in relation to the bullying, it should not be assumed that the employee wants the matter to be addressed by an open investigation. It may be that a resolution can be found by simply changing the employee’s role or working arrangements. Could the employee work a different shift? Or could they work from a different location in the workplace?

Alternatively, if the employee agrees to an open investigation, the objective does not need to be a finding of dismissal. Does the bully understand the impact of their conduct? Do they understand the severity of the conduct and the fact that it could amount to gross misconduct? Is there an underlying issue between the colleagues that can be addressed?

Alternatively, if the employee agrees to an open investigation, the objective does not need to be a finding of dismissal. Does the bully understand the impact of their conduct? Do they understand the severity of the conduct and the fact that it could amount to gross misconduct? Is there an underlying issue between the colleagues that can be addressed?

Alternatively, if the employee agrees to an open investigation, the objective does not need to be a finding of dismissal. Does the bully understand the impact of their conduct? Do they understand the severity of the conduct and the fact that it could amount to gross misconduct? Is there an underlying issue between the colleagues that can be addressed?

The key with all employment matters is communication, and addressing issues as early as possible.

Employees may find that it will often be easier to speak up sooner rather than later, and therefore bullying should be tackled at the outset. Similarly, employees may find it less intimidating to raise the issue with a trusted colleague, who may be able to bring the matter to a manager’s attention.

Employers may find that regular opportunities to discuss concerns, whether professional or personal, will encourage open conversations and any difficulties can be resolved without the need for formal procedures.

In the current climate, mental health is more important than ever before. Employers are battling through a difficult period, but it is paramount that they maintain their duties to their employees, and their obligations in respect of bullying and harassment remain imperative.

On Air Now