An Employer’s Guide to Cyber Harassment and Online Bullying Between Colleagues
Nobody likes a bully, but with the advent of the internet cyberbullying and trolling have become a problem for many businesses
Social media and email have both become media used to bully and harass others online. Providing perpetrators with a sense of anonymity, victims and witnesses can remain hidden for longer and the harassment can become considerably worse than it would have ever been with face-to-face confrontation.
A recent survey found that eight out of ten employees have experienced cyber bullying in the past six months, while 14 to 20 percent of workers have had to deal with the harassment on a weekly basis. These figures draw attention to the fact that cyber harassment is still very much present within workplaces, and that employers could be doing more to protect employees from the torment.
How to stop cyber abuse and protect your business reputation
Cyber harassment between colleagues can lead to the perpetrator and their employer being sued for discrimination or harassment.
Therefore, business owners should make certain that they have the following in place:
- Acceptable use policies
- Standards for emails and professional social network
- Equal opportunity policies
Any social media policies should be tied in with equal opportunity policies, in which the inappropriate usage of social media and emails outside of work is also covered. If an employee then harasses a co-worker using a PC away from work, they are still breaching your equal opportunities policies, meaning action can be taken through standard company procedures.
Employees should also be made completely aware of your policies, with training introduced to help them understand how to best use the internet and emails when communicating with colleagues. Employers should also make sure that workers recognise the consequences of breaching these policies, which can include disciplinary proceedings and dismissal in the most serious circumstances.
Why is essential for employers to prevent cyber harassment?
By having acceptable use and equal opportunity policies implemented correctly across your organisation, you can protect your employees from cyber harassment and also reduce the risk of discrimination, harassment or constructive dismissal claims being brought against your business.
Many business owners turn to employment law solicitors when looking to create and review their HR policies and procedures. Through receiving such specialist employment law advice and support, you can rest assured that your acceptable use and equal opportunities policies are legally compliant and tailored to protect your business.
Failing to take a tough line on internet usage and cyber harassment can damage employee morale and lead to poor performance amongst the staff members affected by online bullying. It can also result in wasted management hours if Employment Tribunals and compensation claims take place, as these can often prove to be time-consuming and disrupting processes.
Cyber harassment can even lead to criminal proceedings being brought against the perpetrator in the most serious circumstances. As these cases often spark media interest, they can compromise your business reputation, potentially damaging your customer or client loyalty and future growth.
Therefore, it is essential that you have policies that deter cyber harassment, and take immediate action if bullying or harassment is reported. By following the correct steps to prevent online bullying between colleagues, you can help to protect staff from unwanted trouble and also protect your business from any possible damage that could be detrimental to its future.
This article has been written by Linder Myers LLP, a firm of solicitors based in the North West delivering efficient, high quality legal services in almost every area of law.