How can you prevent bullying and harassment in your workplace?

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace. If you fail to prevent and/or act on workplace bullying and harassment, you leave your business open to poor morale, loss of respect for management and a decline in performance and productivity, as well as the more obvious absence issues and resignations. There is also a pressing legal side to taking action against mistreating employees, which is the possibility of tribunals, court cases and the damage to your company’s reputation.

What is bullying and harassment?

Bullying and harassment is defined as any unwanted behaviour that makes a person, or group, feel offended, intimidated, degraded and humiliated. The Equality Act 2010 says that harassment is unwanted conduct that is related to the following characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Instances of bullying may not always be obvious to you as an employer, or other people in the business. It may take place insidiously, it may involve two individuals or groups of people; and it may be an isolated incident or persistent actions.

You also need to be aware that bullying and harassment may not occur solely through face-to-face communications, but by writing, phone or online. Bullying or harassing behaviour could include spreading malicious rumours, or insulting someone, exclusion or victimization, misuse of power or position, unwelcome sexual advances, unfair treatment or deliberately undermining a competent worker by constant criticism.

What can I do to prevent bullying or harassment taking place in my organisation?

As described above, bullying and harassment may not be easy to recognise, therefore you need to ensure that any member of staff feels able and confident enough to complain, especially if the situation involves a manager or senior member of staff. All staff need to be aware that complaints of harassment, or anything relating to such complaints, will be dealt with fairly, confidentially and sensitively.

Acas recommends steps you can take to prevent bullying/harassment in the workplace. These include:

  • implementing a bullying and harassment policy, with statement of commitment, examples of unacceptable behaviour, the steps your company will take to prevent bullying and harassment, investigation procedures (including timescales and confidentiality) and how the policy is to be implemented, reviewed and monitored.
  • maintaining fair procedures for dealing promptly with complaints from employees
  • setting standards of behaviour with an organisational statement about the standards of behaviour expected.
  • setting a good example: the behaviour of employers and senior managers is as important as any formal policy.
  • training for your managers to recognise, prevent and deal with instances of bullying and harrassment.

If you involve your staff in the creation and implementation of the policy, it will gain additional authority and ensure that everyone feels involved. You need to make sure that the policy applies to staff on and off the premises, including those working away from base, as well as visitors.

If you need help prevent bullying and harassment in your workplace, implementing a bullying or harassment policy or working through the impact of a complaint, contact me today to get advice and find out more about my services

How do you tackle Bullying and Harassment at Work?

Bullying and harassment at work, of any kind, should not be tolerated. It’s important to have a policy that deals with bullying and harassment, so you and your staff know how to deal with it, as well as the risks it poses to your business.

You, as an employer, are responsible for preventing bullying and harassing behaviour. What steps do you need to take to ensure that your staff feel safe at work?

What is bullying?

The Equality Act 2010 defines harassment 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”.

The relevant protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. Employees can complain of behaviour that they find offensive, even if it is not directed at them.

Acas lists examples of bullying/harassing behaviour to include spreading malicious rumours, insulting someone, exclusion or victimisation, unfair treatment or deliberately undermining a competent worker by constant criticism.

Bullying and Harassment Policy

A HR policy covering bullying and harassment is essential so staff know what constitutes as bullying and harassment and what they need to do if they believe that they, or another member of staff, are being bullied or harassed.

You need to make a clear statement about the standards of behaviour you expect in the workplace and what is unacceptable. This policy should also include the responsibility of staff to respect others and how to report actions they feel are inappropriate or threatening.

It is important that your team know that any accusation will be taken seriously and kept confidential.

Why do you need a policy?

Staff that feel attacked or harassed at work, and staff members that witness such actions, even if they are not the target, will suffer from low morale and poor staff/management relations. There will be inefficiencies in work output and you are likely to lose staff as a result. These staff may also feel too embarrassed to tell you why they are resigning, so there is a high risk that you will not know about the problem until it is too late to do anything about it.

Alternatively, accusations of bullying or harassment could lead to tribunals, court cases and payment of unlimited compensation.

If you need help with your bullying and harassment policy, contact HR That Helps today for advice 

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