What To Do If You Are Being Bullied At Work

What To Do If You Are Being Bullied At Work is sadly something you ought to know. If you are experiencing bullying at work, it can make life miserable. You need to understand how best to deal with the situation and the obligations on your employer to support you. We cover this in more detail in our article, Concern At Work – How To Address Work Issues.  If the bullying relates to certain protected characteristics including age, race, disability, religion or sex, it may constitute harassment, which is unlawful.What To Do If You Are Being Bullied At Work

What is bullying at work?

Bullying at work includes behaviour directed at you that is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting. It can also be actions that undermine or humiliate you or that cause you harm, including emotional harm.

It can occur remotely, for example, in emails or calls and does not need to happen at your place of work. It does not have to happen repeatedly and can occur in a single incident. However, there is no actual claim for bullying, which most people find surprising. However, if you have at least 2-years continuous service as an employee, bullying may give rise to a Constructive Unfair Dismissal. 

If the bullying is related to a protected characteristic, then it may be unlawful discrimination or harassment.

If the bullying is because you did a protected act made a specific type of complaint, such as alleging discrimination or a breach of a legal obligation, this may be victimisation or a detriment due to whistleblowing.

Unlike a claim for constructive unfair dismissal, these claims (discrimination, harassment, victimisation, whistleblowing) do not require 2-years service (our article Unfair Dismissal Under 2 Years has more information on this).

Examples of bullying at work

Examples of workplace bullying include:

  • Unwarranted or constant criticism
  • Being given a poor appraisal that is not justified
  • Being excluded from meetings, lunches or other work gatherings
  • Having malicious rumours spread about you
  • Overbearing supervision
  • Having your job security threatened
  • Being overloaded with work
  • Being stopped from promotion or training opportunities

What is harassment?

If bullying is related to a protected characteristic, then it may amounts to harassment. Under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is ‘unwanted conduct related to a 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 protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Examples of bullying that amounts to harassment include:

  • Homophobic comments
  • Derogatory comments about age
  • Unwelcome sexual advances (known as Sexual Harassment).
  • Suggestions that someone should take on certain tasks because of their gender

What To Do If You Are Being Bullied At Work?

Bullying at work can be damaging to your mental health and you should not have to put up with it. If you are being bullied, you should take steps to end it. You should also keep a record of the events as they happen, including how it made you feel and a note of any witnesses who saw what happened. Include evidence where possible, such as copies of emails. The dates the incident occurred is often crucial.

You can make an informal or formal complaint. It is usually preferable to try and deal with bullying informally first wherever possible. If you feel able to speak to the individual who has been bullying you, explain to them how their behaviour has made you feel. Otherwise, you can speak to your line manager or HR department and let them know your concerns.

If the problems are not resolved by the informal approach, you can raise a formal grievance. Your employer will usually have a grievance procedure in place and you should follow this. It will generally start with writing a formal grievance letter to the employer or the HR department. However, this may not be the best approach if you would prefer to exit the business (if this is your decision, please take professional advice to give you the best chance of leaving the business on the best terms, such as with a reference and financial compensation).

The letter should include details of what has happened as well as what you would like done about it.

For more information about how to deal with the process, see our Grievances at Work and How to Write a Letter of Grievance pages.

You are also welcome to speak to one of our experienced employment lawyers at this stage. We can answer your questions and assist with the drafting of your complaint.

Can I make a claim if I am being bullied at work?

If you are the victim of serious bullying that has caused you harm, you may be able to make a legal claim against your employer. Similarly, if you have resigned because you feel that you have no other option, this is constructive dismissal and you are entitled to make a claim. However, if you are being badly treated at work, resigning too quickly can weaken your position. Our general advice is to not resign, but take advice immediately on your situation.

If you are considering resigning, it is important to speak to an employment lawyer before you do so wherever possible. Call us today and we will discuss the situation with you and take steps to protect you.

We may be able to negotiate a settlement agreement on your behalf, allowing you to leave with a payment. This is usually an easier option than pursuing a constructive dismissal claim.

Contact our employment lawyers for bullying at work

If you need to know what to do if you are being bullied at work and you would like our assistance in dealing with the situation, call us today.

To speak to one of our expert bullying lawyers, call our team on 0207 118 9218 or complete a Free Online Enquiry and we will contact you.

Summary

Experiencing bullying at work can be distressing and detrimental to your mental health. It is crucial to understand how to address this issue and the obligations your employer has to support you. Bullying can take many forms, including offensive, intimidating, malicious, or insulting behaviour, and can occur remotely through emails or calls. If the bullying is related to a protected characteristic such as age, race, disability, religion, or sex, it may constitute harassment, which is unlawful. The reason for the bullying is often a key point, in particular if it is related to a protected characteristic or if it is in retaliation to certain complaints you have made.

Key Points:

  • Bullying at Work: Offensive, intimidating, malicious, or insulting behaviour that undermines or humiliates you.
  • Harassment: Unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic, creating a hostile or offensive environment.
  • Victimisation / Whistleblowing: Retaliation in response to specific complaints you have made.
  • Taking Action: Keep records of incidents, address the issue informally if possible, and escalate to a formal grievance if necessary.
  • Legal Claims: You may be able to claim for constructive dismissal or discrimination if the bullying is severe.

If you are experiencing bullying at work, it is important to act promptly. Take professional advice to ensure you understand your rights and options. Our experienced employment lawyers can provide support and negotiate on your behalf to secure the best possible outcome, whether that means resolving the issue internally or negotiating an exit package.

Disclaimer

This blog is for information purposes only. Nothing should be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice and nothing written should be construed as legal advice or perceived as creating a lawyer-client relationship.

Get In Touch

Please call us on 0207 118 9218 or complete a Free Online Enquiry and we will be in touch.