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Bullying at work: what to do?

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Bullying at work


Bullying at work has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. If you are a victim of bullying, there are ways of dealing with the problem internally at first. If internal measures do not put an end to the bullying or harassment, you can pursue legal action. 




  1. What is bullying at work?
  2. Cases of bullying at work
  3. How to respond to a situation of bullying at work?
  4. Remedies for bullying at work

1. What is bullying at work?




Bullying at work is the repeated use of words and behaviour aimed at degrading the working conditions of the person concerned. These repeated acts most likely will lead to a deterioration in the working conditions of the person subjected to them. The consequences of bullying can be:

  1. An attack on the rights or dignity of the victim,
  2. An impairment of the victim's physical or mental health,
  3. Or a threat to the victim's professional development. 

While there is not an anti-bullying law in the UK, other laws offer protection. The Equality Act 2010 includes protection for discrimination. If you have a personal injury claim from bullying, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 may cover your case.


Also, even though bullying does not break UK law, harassment does. If the bullying consists of criticism, mockery or insults in regards to the list below, then it is considered harassment and you can file a claim with the employment tribunal.


  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy
  • Disability

2. Cases of bullying at work


There are many cases of bullying in the workplace and they can be initiated by anyone working for the company, regardless of the hierarchical relationship. 


Perhaps the most common techniques are repeated criticism, mockery and insults. Public humiliation in front of other colleagues or aggressive behaviour is also common. Exercising disciplinary pressure by threatening the worker with dismissal, issuing unfounded warnings, or "putting the worker in the corner", can also constitute bullying at work.


Another technique of bullying regards the amount of work one is expected to complete. This can be overwork when the hierarchy or colleagues demand a pace or quantity of work that is much higher than that required for the job.


Sending messages (SMS, emails, instant messaging, etc.) or making incessant and/or malicious phone calls are considered bullying as well. On the other hand, bullying can also exist when a person is no longer assigned tasks at work, which can lead to a state of depression or other consequences on the worker's health. 


As mentioned above, bullying can be related to work tasks. For example, when an employee is regularly asked to perform tasks for which he or she is not competent, in order to harm or humiliate the employee. Being asked to perform demeaning tasks that do not correspond to the worker's qualifications is moral harassment.

3. How to respond to a situation of bullying at work?


Talk to the person bullying you directly


If you feel you are able, address the person bullying you first. Explain to the person how their actions make you feel and tell them to stop. If the person continues to bully you, go to your employer.


Tell your employer


If you are a victim of harassment at work, you should inform your employer. Your employer is obliged to take all necessary measures to prevent and stop bullying. It is forbidden to dismiss someone for reporting bullying except in cases of bad faith.


Within the company, staff representatives and Human Resources normally play a preventive role under the direction of the employer. They can also help you settle disputes with colleagues or provide further assistance if your employer is the culprit of bullying.


Confide in colleagues or friends


Your colleagues and friends may be able to support you in this difficult phase. Talking about it with your coworkers or friends can help move things forward and even defuse a complicated situation.


Go to a doctor


A physician should be contacted if the bullying has consequences on your physical or mental health. He or she may be able to give you time off work if your health condition warrants it. 


Keep evidence of workplace bullying


Unfortunately, cases of bullying at work are often characterised by one word against another. In order for bullying to be recognised, you will have to provide proof. Without proof, your employer will not be able to take appropriate measures to protect you.

Please note that it is not a question of putting yourself in danger in order to obtain this evidence, nor of provoking harassment or committing illegal acts yourself. It is simply a matter of keeping written evidence, collecting testimonies from your colleagues who witnessed the bullying, and/or talking to a doctor. 

4. Remedies for bullying at work


If the bullying does not stop despite having told your employer, you may want to take legal action. You can find a solicitor who will stand up for your rights and one who specialises in employment law on Welink Legal. Please take heart and know that your rights can and should be protected. 

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