Bullying and harassment in the workplace: Know your rights

40 per cent of UK employees say they have experienced disrespectful or humiliating behaviour at work
40 per cent of UK employees say they have experienced disrespectful or humiliating behaviour at work
Promoted by Law Society of Scotland

It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of workplace intimidation. But it doesn’t need to be so.

In the wake of the #metoo movement and other troubling revelations emanating from the entertainment industry, bodies like BAFTA have announced they are launching new guidelines on tackling what are being described as ‘systemic issues’ of bullying and harassment.

Of course, misconduct in a professional setting is not the sole preserve of the rich and famous. Bullying and harassment is sadly more common in workplaces across the country than we’d care to admit.

According to a 2017 survey, 40 per cent of UK employees say they have experienced ‘disrespectful or humiliating behaviour at work’ while in a 2016 survey of female British employees, a troubling 52 per cent of respondents claimed to have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Being on the receiving end of unwanted and unsuitable conduct can be stressful, demoralising and destabilising, and it is often difficult to know how to address the problem.

So how do you deal with it if it’s happening to you? Knowing your rights and what protections are in place to help is the best starting point.

Although it can be a daunting, the first action you should take is to talk to a line manager or someone in HR who can advise on the organisation’s policies and procedures on unacceptable behaviour.

As distressing as unwanted attention of a colleague is for you personally, companies can be impacted by low morale, a dent in its reputation and loss of productivity. It’s in their interests as well as yours to take your complaints seriously.

Confronting the problem openly can understandably be an anxious time. Some larger organisations do have free, confidential employee helplines which might also be able to provide much-needed support and information.

If it seems impossible to resolve the issue informally, a complaint can be lodged through the firm’s grievance procedure, which all firms are required to have.

Keeping a diary of incidents and the steps you’ve taken, when, and their outcome is very useful, particularly if it comes to a formal resolution of your complaint.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) also provides free advice for employees and there are a number of free confidential bullying helplines which you can find out about online.

If the problem isn't resolved, don’t give up hope. The final step that is always open to you is to seek legal advice. A Scottish solicitor will be able to provide you with the proper advice and assistance.

To find a suitably experienced solicitor in your area, visit the Law Society of Scotland’s website.