Dealing With Workplace Harassment
Details of support networks for your business and its employees to help you deal with workplace harassment
Harassment in the workplace saw a rise through the recession, and is still a major problem in today’s society. Not only is harassment unpleasant and harmful for employees to deal with, it is also illegal under the Equality Act 2010.
There are several ways to deal with workplace bullying and organisations that offer specific advice and help to those suffering from its effects. If staff are being bullied, they may have to take their case to an employment tribunal where a specialist solicitor will be able to advise on their legal rights. The law states that as an employer you are responsible for preventing harassment and your employees may be entitled to compensation if you fail to ensure the wellbeing of your workforce.
However, it’s always better to attempt to clear the problem in the workplace first before taking it to a tribunal. The NHS has information on how to handle a bully. If your workers feel able, they should try and talk to the problem employees so they realise how they are causign upset. They should stand their ground and be calm whilst they explain themselves. If they feel uncomfortable, they can ask a colleague to come with them for support, or a manager might be willing to talk to them on their behalf. It’s also advisable to keep a diary of events which may be useful as a record if they later need to make a formal complaint. Your human resources department, if you have one, or trade union representative may also be able to intervene. If workers feel that they have to resign because you as an employer fail to act on their complaints, your staff can claim unfair dismissal under breach of conduct, so long as they have been working for you for two years or more.
If they need to go further with their complaint, there are a series of charities that can help them take the next steps. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) can mediate between you and your staff. They will work with both of you to try and resolve the problem, and can also provide further advice and contacts. The Citizens Advice Bureau also has a similar service. For information on the law and your staff’ rights, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has a detailed outline of the guidelines on workplace harassment, workers rights, and employer’s responsibility.
Bullying in the workplace can be seriously detrimental to a person’s mental health and self esteem, so it’s important to deal with the problem quickly. For some people, being bullied can create feelings of anger and frustration which may make them retaliate negatively, so creating more problems and stress. Others may become nervous and withdrawn at work. Loss of motivation and stress can cause insecurity, illness and absences. It’s likely these feelings will affect other aspects of their life with their job performance, friendships and relationships suffering. It is important to acknowledge how they are feeling and get help before their situation and emotions escalate. The mental health charity Mind has information on how to support your workers’ mental health while dealing with workplace harassment, and how to seek help if they need it.
This business advice article written by Sidonie Chaffer-Melly on behalf of Gordon Dean, a Solicitors in Norwich