Bullying and Harassment - What is Bullying
Bullying and harassment of any kind should not be tolerated by
anyone in the workplace.
Examples of bullying/harassing behaviour can include:
- Spreading malicious rumours, or insulting
someone by word or behaviour (particularly on the grounds of race, sex,
disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief)
- Copying memos that are critical about
someone to others who do not need to know ridiculing or demeaning someone
- picking on them or setting them up to fail, exclusion or victimisation
- Overbearing supervision or other misuse
of power or position
- Unwelcome sexual advances - touching,
standing too close, the display of offensive materials
- Making threats or comments about job
security without foundation
- Deliberately undermining a competent
worker by overloading and constant criticism
- preventing individuals progressing
by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities.
Bullying can be either one individual
bullying another or can involve groups of people. Sometimes it can be
by someone in a position of authority such as a manager or supervisor.
Harassment can be unwanted behaviour that violates someone's dignity
or creates an:
- Intimidating environment
- Hostile environment
- Degrading environment
- Humiliating environment
- Offensive environment
This can be applied to:
- Sexual orientation
Note: Orientation is defined as:
same sex: lesbian/gay
opposite sex:heterosexual, both sexes, bisexual
- National origin
Harassment can be related to:
- Personal characteristic of the individual
It may be persistent or an isolated incident.
The key to this is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning
and unacceptable to the recipient.
Harassment can also have a specific meaning
under certain laws if for instance it is related to sex, race or disability
and could be be unlawful discrimination.
From December 2003 the law also gives protection against harassment relating
to religion or belief and sexual orientation..
Bullying and harassment are not necessarily
face to face. They may also occur in written communications, electronic
(e)mail, phone, and automatic supervision methods such as computer recording
of downtime from work or the number of calls handled if these are not
applied to all workers.
The legal side:
Your employer is responsible for preventing
bullying and harassing behaviour. It is in their interests to make it
clear to everyone that such behaviour will not be tolerated
What can you do?
It is not possible to make a direct complaint
to an employment tribunal about bullying. However, employees might be
able to bring complaints under laws covering discrimination and harassment.
- Sex: The Sex Discrimination
Act gives protection against discrimination and victimisation on the
grounds of sex, marriage or because someone intends to undergo, is undergoing
or has undergone gender reassignment
- Race: the Race Relations Act
1976 gives protection against discrimination and victimisation on the
grounds of colour or nationality. The regulations that amended the Act
(Race Regulations 2003) also give a stand alone right to protection
from harassment on the grounds of race and ethnic or national origi
- Disability: the Disability Discrimination
Act 1995 gives protection against discrimination and victimisation
- Sexual orientation: the Employment
Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 give protection against
discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation (orientation
is defined as 'same sex' - lesbian/gay - 'opposite sex' - heterosexual
- and 'both sexes' - bisexual)
- Religion or belief: the Employment
Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 give protection against
discrimination and harassment on the grounds of religion or belief.
Bullying help sites can also be
found on the Internet - search under 'Workplace Bullying'.
For further help and advice on Sexual harassment visit Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Equality and Human Rights Commission:
Working to eliminate sex discrimination and tackling racial discrimination and promoting racial equality
England - 0845 604 6610
Scotland - 0845 604 5510
Wales - 0845 604 8810
Suggested further reading:
Bully in Sight by Tim Field, published by Success Unlimited in 1996.
Harassment, bullying and violence at work
by Angela Ishmael with Bunmi Alemoru, published by The Industrial Society