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How To Prevent Bullying And Harassment At Work: A 10 Step Plan

Every good employer will take measures to stop bullying and harassment at work. But how do you prevent or stop the behaviours if you don’t know they even exist? Allowed to go unchecked, bullying and harassment in the workplace can lead to lost productivity, impaired concentration, anxiety, depression, illness, and increased absenteeism.  The risk of losses to a company’s finances and reputation doesn’t look good either as bullying and harassment can place a huge financial burden on a company if an employee decides to take legal action at an employment tribunal.

The difficulty in detecting unwanted behaviour lies in the method, as it is not always face-to-face. Bullying and harassment can also occur in written communications, by phone, email and social media. It’s not always obvious and may be happening in the workplace without an employer's awareness. It can occur between two individuals, or involve groups of people and may be persistent or an isolated event.  It is not sufficient to assume if you don’t hear about it, it's not happening, or to justify offences as ‘banter’ or ‘office culture’; it goes far beyond trivialising poor behaviour.

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to put measures in place to prevent it from happening. How can employers tackle bullying and harassment in the workplace?

Here’s our 10-step plan to prevent bullying and harassment at work:  

  1. Have an open culture so that your employees feel comfortable with coming forward and raising any concerns. They need to be made aware that this is encouraged.
  2. Give employees a clear indication of the company line on bullying and harassment during their induction period. Make it clear that it’s unlawful and will not be tolerated.  
  3. Provide examples of bullying in the workplace to clearly indicate what isn’t acceptable, particularly identifying the ‘grey’ areas that are not so clear cut.
  4. Provide a clear statement that bullying and harassment are unlawful and will be treated as an offence. Identify the steps your organisation will take to prevent bullying and harassment occurring in the workplace.
  5. Outline the disciplinary procedures you follow when dealing with bullying and harassment.
  6. Outline the grievance procedures and the actions an employee needs to take if they believe they have been bullied or harassed in the workplace.
  7. Indicate the responsibilities of managers and supervisors and ensure they are proactive in managing these issues if they arise.
  8. Detail the training that managers undergo to prevent bullying and harassment and that they are expected to be proactive in managing issues if they arise.
  9. Clearly indicate that senior management is expected to act responsibly and lead by example, enforcing the company culture against bullying and harassment.
  10. Explain how your company’s bullying and harassment policy is to be implemented, monitored and reviewed.

Make sure you understand what constitutes bullying and harassment and your legal obligations. ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) describe bullying and harassment as, ‘any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended’. Bullying is considered a form of harassment. Harassment as defined in the Equality Act 2010 is: 'unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex or sexual orientation) that has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.'

Communication will also improve when employees are able to access how grievances and disciplinaries are dealt with. With more open communication about your goals and what is expected of employees, you’ll be reducing the amount of bullying and harassment in your business while improving on your company culture and making your work environment a better place to be.

Establishing a framework for bullying and harassment in the workplace will ensure that you are legally compliant with the Equality Act 2010 and that your employees are benefiting from being protected against discrimination and unwanted behaviours in the workplace. Do you still have questions about bullying and harassment in the workplace? Take a look at our FAQs.

If you need advice or assistance with preventing bullying and harassment in your workplace, Get in touch.  

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