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Avoiding Bullying In The Workforce; Top Ten Tips For Employers

Bullying in the workplace does, unfortunately, exist.  The problem is what one person considers bullying, another considers banter.  Bullying often involves an abuse of power and results in behaviour which is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting.  It can include physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct. 

So here’s my top ten tips for employers.


1. Have a clear anti-harassment and bullying policy in place, make sure this is communicated to all staff and evidence that you have done this.  Don’t forget, a policy should cover events out of the workplace, like work social events, parties or business trips.

2. Make sure your policy makes it clear staff will not be victimised or suffer any detrimental treatment as a result of raising a complaint.

3. Train your managers.  They should be your beacons of acceptable behaviour, be able to recognise bullying when it occurs and feel confident implementing your policy where breaches occur.

4. Ensure conversations with employees over their performance are constructive, documented and evidenced wherever possible to avoid accusations of bullying.

5. If an employee raises a complaint with you verbally, have an informal discussion to see if they want it dealt with informally or formally.  Wherever possible, encourage them to put a complaint in writing.  Where an employee complains of bullying but refused to formalise this, consider investigating the matter anyway.  Verbal complaints which are not dealt with properly, if serious in nature, can be evidence of an employer’s failure to address bullying.

6. Ensure a thorough investigation is carried out and follow a fair procedure when dealing with the complaint.  If the complaint is sufficiently serious, consider suspending the offending employee whilst you investigate.

7. Wherever possible, limit the people involved.  Those not named in the complaint or involved in the investigation should not be aware of the complaint.

8. If a complaint of bullying is upheld, follow this with a fair disciplinary procedure against the offending employee and consider the appropriate sanction.  Sanctions could include dismissal, relocation (subject to your contractual terms) of the offending employee, a final written warning, demotion, loss of bonus or transfer to a different department.

9. After the complaint has been addressed, regardless of the outcome, you will need to manage the ongoing relationship between the employees involved.  Consider arranging some mediation, changing duties or work location or the reporting lines of one for both parties.

10. If in doubt, seek advice.

Do you have an anti-Harassment and Bullying policy to outline how you deal with bullying in the workplace?  Are your managers trained in investigations?  At SCE Solicitors we have a wealth of experience in dealing with bullying in the workplace.  If you would like to discuss your policies or training for your managers, please contact me on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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