Dominic Raab resigned today following publication of the long awaited report investigating allegations of bullying against him. He said the report was ‘flawed’. The report said he ‘acted in a manner which was intimidating’.

While the press and politicians debate and discuss the findings of the report, B P Collins’ employment team explores what constitutes bullying and how to prevent it in the workplace. Here is a handy fact check.

Unfortunately, bullying at work is extremely common. ACAS describes bullying as “unwanted behaviour from a person or group that is either:

  • offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting; or
  • an abuse or misuse of power that undermines, humiliates, or causes physical or emotional harm to someone

It is important to note that there is no legal definition of bullying.

What can constitute bullying?

Bullying is very broad and can include a range of actions such as:

  • abusive or intimidating behaviour
  • overbearing or intimidating levels of supervision
  • inappropriate or derogatory remarks about an individual’s performance

The relationship between bullying and harassment

Harassment is covered by the Equality Act 2010 and can give rise to a claim in the Employment Tribunal.

The act states that Person A harasses Person B if Person A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic and the conduct either violates Person B’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for Person B. These effects do not have to be intended by Person A.

Bullying can therefore become harassment if it is linked to a protected characteristic. The nine protected characteristics are:

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

How employers can combat bullying and harassment at work

Employers should be proactive in promoting a respectful and inclusive working environment. Importantly, employers should ensure they have in place the necessary frameworks to address and prevent bullying and harassment.

Employers are advised to:

  • Implement clear policies on anti-bullying and harassment as well as grievances
  • Fairly and consistently investigate complaints of bullying and harassment and take appropriate disciplinary action against perpetrators  
  • Provide diversity training to all employees, which includes examples of unacceptable conduct.

B P Collins employment team is highly experienced in advising employers on how to prevent bullying in the workplace. For further information, please email or call 01753 889995.

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Jo Davis
Practice Group Leader

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