Get help with Workplace Bullying

Employment Challenges

Office ChatLanding your first job in the current economic climate may have felt like mission impossible, but getting on the first rung of the employment ladder is really just the beginning.

Getting on in employment can be extremely tricky, especially as the transition from education to work is not straightforward in itself.

There are lots of ways to 'get on' at work, and most of them come to us naturally. Getting on with colleagues, joining in the social scene or starting one if it doesn't already exist are all good ways to make friends.

At work, good time keeping is a vital way to make a good early impression; turning up five minutes early and staying late when work needs finishing are good ways to get on-side with your new boss.

However, work can be demanding in lots of ways, and when things go wrong the new employees are often the ones who are least protected and least well informed.

A common problem in first jobs is workplace bullying and harassment. This is hard to define, but ACAS describes it as unwanted conduct that is viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient. The terms bullying and harassment are generally considered interchangeable, but harassment is the term used in law.

The exact nature of bullying varies, it may be one-on-one or in groups, and may involve emails, insults, verbal abuse, unfair treatment or an abuse of power or position by a senior or colleague.

If you are subjected to bullying at work it is important to know that your employer is legally responsible for ensuring that bullying and harassment does not occur in the workplace. This duty may fall under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and may lead to a breach of contract and a legal case.

Bullying and Harassment

The law around bullying and harassment can be tricky for new employees. Harassment relating to a 'protected characteristic' – which include age, gender, disability status, ethnicity, religious belief or sexual orientation – may lead to a claim in an Employment Tribunal, if you can show it amounted to discrimination.

If you cannot show discrimination, the situation is more difficult. If you have worked for an employer for two years then any harassment can constitute a breach of your employer's duty of care towards you. If you leave you may then be able to claim for constructive dismissal. This legal avenue is not open to new employees, but despite this there is help out there.

If you are being bullied or harassed you should talk it through with someone in the company, your boss, HR manager or a colleague. Always take a representative (preferably a union representative, friend or solicitor) to any formal meeting. If you cannot speak internally, consider Citizens Advice, or your local lawyer.

Make sure you keep a diary of all incidents, recording date, time, what happened and who witnessed the event.

Before you make a legal claim, Employment Tribunals will want to see evidence that you made efforts to resolve the issue yourself. Telling your employer what is happening is important, but there are other things you can try, including mediation.

This article was kindly provided by Contact Law:

Workplace Bullying


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