Can You Help Stamp out Workplace Bullying?

Dear <<First Name>>

A new Acas study published in November 2015 showed that workplace bullying is on the increase in the UK and that many people are too afraid to speak up about it. This is very worrying for both employers and employees, so we’ll look more closely at this topic in this issue of HR Watch. What are the signs to look for and how can you stamp it out?
If you’re worried about any of your members of staff being bullied, or bullying their colleagues and you need to speak to someone, please call me in confidence, so that we can deal with it straight away.

Best wishes,

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Can You Help Stamp out Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying is a source of considerable individual suffering and can weaken the performance of your business. So what exactly is bullying? According to Acas, it is when something happens to someone that is unwelcome, unwarranted and causes a detrimental effect. However, if employees complain that they are being bullied, then they have a grievance which must be dealt with regardless of whether or not their complaint accords with a standard definition.
How do you recognise bullying? Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. The important thing to remember is that behaviour considered to be bullying by one person may be considered firm management by another. Most people will agree on extreme cases of bullying, but it is sometimes the grey areas that cause most problems. As an employer, it is good practice for you to give examples of unacceptable behaviour in your business, which may include:

  • Spreading malicious rumours or insulting someone by word or behaviour
  • Ridiculing or demeaning someone – picking on them or setting them up to fail
  • Exclusion or victimisation
  • Overbearing supervision or other misuse of power or position
  • Unwelcome sexual advances – touching, standing too close, displaying offensive materials, asking for sexual favours, making decisions on the basis of sexual advances being accepted or rejected
  • Making threats or comments about job security without foundation
  • Deliberately undermining a competent worker by overloading and constant criticism
  • Preventing individuals progressing by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities.

Bullying can be hard to recognise. People being bullied may sometimes appear to overreact to something that seems relatively trivial but which may be the ‘last straw’ following a series of incidents.
How do you stop it? Bullying is not necessarily face to face and it may occur through written communications, visual images (for example pictures of a sexual nature or embarrassing photographs of colleagues), email, phone and automatic supervision methods – such as computer recording of downtime from work, or recording of telephone conversations – if these are not universally applied to all workers.
As an employer, you should think about introducing a workplace anti-bullying policy. This need not be over elaborate, especially for small firms, and might be included in other personnel policies. It should include a clear statement that bullying is unlawful, will not be tolerated and that decisions should not be taken on the basis of whether someone submitted to or rejected a particular instance of bullying. You should also include examples of unacceptable behaviour, a statement that bullying may be treated as a disciplinary offence and the steps you will take to prevent it.
You must also always set a good example to your employees. The behaviour of employers and senior managers is as important as any formal policy. Strong management can unfortunately sometimes tip over into bullying behaviour. A culture where employees are consulted and problems discussed is more likely to prevent bullying than one where there is an authoritarian management style. You must make it clear that bullying is unacceptable.
Follow these guidelines and those on the Acas website and you should be able to prevent bullying from ever rearing its ugly head in your business.


Practical HR – Is He Being Bullied or Not?

Barry the salesman was feeling a bit low. No matter how hard he tried to impress Brandon, the Sales Manager and his line manager, he never quite seemed to manage it. He’d hit his sales target last month and even brought in more business than he was required to.

“That just means your target was too low,” said Brandon, when Barry proudly presented him with his monthly figures. “I’ll increase it for next month and see how well you get on!”

Do you remember how, in the August issue of HR Watch, we told you how Brandon had wanted to sack Barry? The business boss, Bill, persuaded Brandon to give him another chance, but is there something else going on here? Is Brandon treating Barry unfairly or just pushing him to achieve more? Is Brandon actually bullying Barry?

Employment Law Update

Employment Law Update
Here are a few more employment issues that you need to be aware of in your business:
National Living Wage – A new 'National Living Wage' of £7.20 per hour will be introduced on 1 April 2016 for all working people aged 25 and over. Click here for more details.
Exclusivity Clauses in Zero Hours Contracts – These have now been banned and workers have the right to make an employment tribunal claim where their employer punishes them for breaching an exclusivity clause in a zero hours contract. There is more information here.
Statutory Rates of Pay – Some good news, especially for small businesses, is that there will be no increase to Statutory Sick Pay, Maternity or Paternity Pay this year.

If you have a question about any of the issues covered in this newsletter, or you have any other employee related concerns, please do get in touch for some advice.


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