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This week is anti-bullying week across the UK, and whilst it’s easy to assume that bullying only takes place in the playground, workspace bullying is a serious issue that many individuals experience at some point in their career.

Bullying comes in many different forms and can be hard to characterise. Although there is no statutory definition of bullying, ACAS describes it as ‘offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient’.

Employees often feel unable to report workspace bullying due to fear of making the situation worse. However, failure to address bullying at work can lead to detrimental social and economic implications, such as time taken off work for bullying-related stress or mental health issues, reduced productivity and a negative working environment, not only for the victim, but for the workforce in general.

Employers have a duty of care for their employees and should create a safe environment in which employees feel able to come forward and report any intimidating or offensive incidents. ACAS reports that bullying should be viewed as an ‘organisational problem requiring an organisational response’ and recommends employers take a preventive approach in tackling workspace bullying by doing the following:

  • Implementing a formal policy with input from staff members
  • Ensuring that the employer and its senior employees set a good example of behaviour
  • Maintaining fair procedures for dealing promptly with complaints from employees
  • Publishing an organisational statement about the standards of behaviour expected and make it easily accessible for employees

They also recommend that employees should do the following if they are being bullied at work:

  • Keep an accurate and up-to-date diary of all incidents including dates, times and witnesses
  • Keep any relevant letters, emails or notes
  • Report the bullying to someone they trust, or speak with a manager or HR if appropriate

Whether you are an employee or a manager, you have a part to play in ensuring that there is no bullying in your workplace. We are experienced in advising both employers and employees on these issues so if you need help, please contact any member of the Edwin Coe Employment team.

Edwin Coe LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership, registered in England & Wales (No.OC326366). The Firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A list of members of the LLP is available for inspection at our registered office address: 2 Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn, London, WC2A 3TH. “Partner” denotes a member of the LLP or an employee or consultant with the equivalent standing.

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