10 min read | 11 August, 2021 By Andy Stewart
10 min read | 11 August, 2021 By Andy Stewart
Bullying and harassment has no place at work. A hostile environment leads to poor performance, high staff turnover and a damaged professional reputation—let alone the psychological damage it can cause your employees. As an employer, it is your job to stamp it out, and the best place to start is a strong bullying and harassment policy.
When creating an anti-bullying and harassment policy you will need to communicate what bullying and harassment is. According to the UK Government, bullying and harassment in the workplace is “behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended”.
This can include behaviour such as:
It can happen face-to-face, but does not happen exclusively in person. Bullying and harassment can also happen by phone, letter, email and social media.
Bullying in the workplace is behaviour from a person or group that’s unwanted and makes an individual feel:
Examples of bullying in workplace situations can range from false rumors being spread to being excluded from team social events.
Bullying can take many forms within a workplace. A lesser identified form of bullying in the workplace is upward bullying. This is when a subordinate employee or employees display negative behaviour towards a senior. According to Acas, this type of behaviour can include
Although bullying is technically not against the law, under the Equality Act 2010 harassment is. Similar to the laws surrounding discrimination, harrasment legislation covers the victim suffering intimidating or offensive behaviour in relation to protected characteristics, which include:
As an employer you should watch out for these, as they take form in three core ways:
This is the most likely example of harassment you will come across. It can involve the sharing of offensive jokes or graphics about a protected characteristic—by email, group chat or social media. It can also include repeatedly asking an individual for dates or sexual favours through text. Imitating someone’s foreign accent behind their back is another example of this kind of harassment.
This can range from the obvious to the more subtle. Examples include lewd hand gestures, unwanted touching of a person or their clothing, as well as frequently following or standing too close to a person on purpose.
Also included in this category is playing music with degrading language and making sexually suggestive facial expressions.
Visual harassment can be difficult to spot, as it can be subjective. For example, a picture may be displayed at a colleague’s desk which most staff members find amusing. However, for others it may be deemed offensive and a contributing factor to a hostile working environment.
As an employer you should be creating a bullying and harassment policy that aims to discourage and eliminate all of the above.
To put it simply, it is good practice for organisations to implement a bullying and harassment policy. Not only does it make a statement of intent to create a safe workspace for your employees, having such a procedure in place can help improve the company culture, reduce staff turnover and generate a positive professional reputation.
In short, if you have a positive and accepting work environment, your employees will be more productive and less likely to leave.
A key part of your bullying and harassment policy will be communicating to your staff what to do when they find themselves being bullied or harassed.
What should be made clear is that they should start by trying an informal approach. This can be done by a meeting of the two parties, or by talking with their senior, HR or the employer. They should be able to do this without fear of retaliation or repercussion and it should remain confidential between the two parties.
However, if they do not feel comfortable about doing this or the issue is particularly serious, then your policy should explain how to raise a formal workplace grievance.
All complaints should be investigated in a timely and confidential manner. The investigation should be conducted by someone with the appropriate experience and no prior involvement.
You should also stipulate in your policy that if the employee believes that bullying or harassing behaviour is being targeted at another employee, they can also bring this forward or raise a grievance.
If you don’t want to create a policy completely from scratch, consider what you have just read and use our template below as an example when creating your own.
This section will introduce your employees to what your goals are and how this policy will go about achieving this:
This section will outline what harassment is and how it will be judged as part of your policy. Consider what you have read, in particular the law regarding harassment in the workplace:
Similar to the harassment section, outline and define what you mean by bullying. Try and include these topics in your own policy:
This section of your policy should inform the organisation’s employees on how they should report bullying or harassment.
In this section, explain the protection and support available for those involved in the process:
In this section you will outline how information will be recorded:
Define the responsibilities all staff must adhere to, to ensure the workplace is free of harassment and bullying. Examples include:
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