Workplace Bullying and Harassment

Bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended. Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour include:
  • spreading malicious rumours;
  • unfair treatment;
  • picking on or regularly undermining someone;
  • denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities.
Bullying and harassment can happen:
  • face-to-face;
  • by letter;
  • by email;
  • by phone.

The law

Bullying itself is not against the law, but harassment is. This is when the unwanted behaviour is related to one of the following:
  • age;
  • sex;
  • disability;
  • gender reassignment;
  • marriage and civil partnership;
  • pregnancy and maternity;
  • race;
  • religion or belief;
  • sexual orientation.

What employees should do if they are bullied or harassed

Employees should see if they can sort out the problem informally first. If they cannot, they should talk to their:
  • manager;
  • human resources (HR) department;
  • trade union representative.
If this does not work, they can make a formal complaint using their employer’s grievance procedure. If this does not work and they are still being harassed, they can take legal action at an employment tribunal.
They could also call the Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) helpline for advice:
Acas helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 1100
Textphone: 18001 0300 123 1100
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Employers’ responsibilities

Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment - they are liable for any harassment suffered by their employees.

Anti-bullying and harassment policies can help prevent problems.