Dignity at Work (Bullying & Harassment)
The Company is committed to creating a work environment free of harassment and bullying, where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
Harassment and bullying can have very serious consequences for individuals and the Company. It can make people unhappy, may cause them stress and affect their health, family and social relationships, may affect their work performance and could cause them to leave their job. Severe cases of harassment and bullying can even lead to mental illness. Effects on the Company can include loss of morale, poor work performance, increased turnover of staff and damage to our reputation. Employees found guilty of harassment or bullying may face disciplinary penalties, up to and including dismissal and serious instances of harassment may result in a criminal offence.
The Company will not tolerate bullying and harassment of any kind. All allegations of bullying and harassment will be investigated and, if appropriate, disciplinary action will be taken.
We will also not tolerate victimisation of a person for making allegations of bullying or harassment in good faith or supporting someone to make such a complaint. Victimisation is a disciplinary offence.
This policy covers bullying and harassment of and by: managers, employees, contractors, agency staff and anyone else engaged to work for the Company.
If the complainant or alleged harasser is not directly employed by the Company for example: if the worker’s contract is with an agency, this policy will apply with any necessary modifications such as that the Company could not dismiss the worker but would instead require the agency to remove the worker, if appropriate, after sufficient investigations.
The policy covers bullying and harassment in the workplace and in any work-related setting outside the workplace, for example: business trips and work-related social events.
The policy does not cover bullying or harassment by customers, suppliers, vendors or visitors and, in these cases, employees should report any such behaviour to their manager who will take appropriate action. Bullying or harassment of customers, suppliers, vendors or visitors or others will be dealt with through the disciplinary procedure.
What is Bullying and Harassment?
Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power which is meant to undermine, humiliate or injure the person on the receiving end.
Harassment is unwanted conduct related to sex, gender reassignment, race or ethnic or national origins, caste, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, age or any other personal characteristic which:
- Has the purpose of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person; or,
- is reasonably considered by that person to have the effect of violating his or her dignity or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him or her, even if this effect was not intended by the person responsible for the conduct.
Conduct may be harassment whether or not the person behaving in that way intends to offend. Something intended as a “joke” may offend another person. Different people find different things acceptable. Everyone has the right to decide what behaviour is acceptable to him or her and to have his or her feelings respected by others. Behaviour which any reasonable person would realise to be likely to offend will be harassment without the recipient having to make it clear in advance that behaviour of that type is not acceptable to him or her, for example, sexual touching. It may not be so clear in advance that some other forms of behaviour would be unwelcome to, or could offend, a particular person, for example, certain “banter”, flirting or asking someone for a private drink after work. In these cases, first-time conduct which unintentionally causes offence will not be harassment, but it will become harassment if the conduct continues after the recipient has made it clear, by words or conduct, that such behaviour is unacceptable to him or her.
Harassment may also occur where a person engages in unwanted conduct towards another because he or she perceives that the recipient has a protected characteristic (for example, a perception that he or she is gay or disabled), when the recipient does not, in fact, have that protected characteristic. For example, it would be harassment for an individual to tease repeatedly an individual because of an incorrect belief that the recipient is deaf. Similarly, harassment could take place where an individual is bullied or harassed because of another person with whom the individual is connected or associated, for example if his or her child is disabled, wife is pregnant or friend is a devout Christian.
Harassment also includes circumstances where an individual is subject to unwanted conduct from a third party, such as a client or customer. For example, it might be that a client makes a series of racist remarks to a black employee. If an employee feels that he or she has been bullied or harassed by customers, suppliers, vendors or visitors, he or she should report such behavior to their manager who will take appropriate action. Bullying or harassment of customers, suppliers, vendors, visitors or others will be dealt with through the disciplinary procedure.
A single incident can be harassment if it is sufficiently serious.
All bullying and harassment is misconduct and is a disciplinary offence which will be dealt with under the Company’s disciplinary policy. Bullying or harassment will often be gross misconduct which can lead to dismissal without notice.
Some bullying or harassment will constitute unlawful discrimination, for example: if it relates to a person’s sex, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, caste, sexual orientation or disability. Harassment on the grounds of age is also unlawful.
Serious bullying or harassment may amount to other civil or criminal offences, for example civil or criminal offences under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and criminal offences of assault.
Examples of Bullying and Harassment
Bullying and harassment may be misconduct which is physical, verbal or non-verbal, for example: by letter or e-mail. Examples of unacceptable behaviour that are covered by this policy include (but are not limited to) the following:
- physical conduct ranging from unwelcome touching to serious assault;
- unwelcome sexual advances;
- the offer of rewards for going along with sexual advances, e.g. promotion, access to training;
- threats for rejecting sexual advances, e.g. suggestions that refusing advances will adversely affect the employee’s employment, evaluation, pay, advances, assigned work, or any other condition of employment or career development;
- demeaning comments about a person’s appearance;
- unwelcome jokes or comments of a sexual or racial nature or about an individual’s age, disability, sexual orientation or religion;
- questions about a person’s sex life;
- unwanted nicknames related to a person’s age, race or disability;
- the use of obscene gestures;
- excluding an individual because he or she is associated or connected with someone with a protected characteristic, for example: his/her child is gay, spouse is black or parent is disabled;
- ignoring an individual because he/she is perceived to have a protected characteristic when he or she does not, in fact, have the protected characteristic, for example: an employee is thought to be Jewish, or is perceived to be transsexual;
- the open display of pictures or objects with sexual or racial overtones, even if not directed at any particular person, e.g. magazines, calendars or pin-ups;
- spreading malicious rumors or insulting someone;
- picking on someone or setting him or her up to fail;
- making threats or comments about someone’s job security without good reason;
- ridiculing someone;
- isolation or non-cooperation at work; and
- excluding someone from social activities.
Victimisation is treating someone less favorably than others because he or she has, in good faith, complained (whether formally or otherwise) that someone has been bullying or harassing him or her or someone else, or supported someone to make a complaint or given evidence in relation to a complaint. This would include isolating someone because he or she has made a complaint or giving him or her worse work.
Provided that you act in good faith, i.e: you genuinely believe that what you are saying is true, you have a right not to be victimised for making a complaint or doing anything in relation to a complaint of bullying or harassment and the Company will take appropriate action to deal with any alleged victimisation, which may include disciplinary action against anyone found to have victimised you.
Making a complaint which you know to be untrue, or giving evidence which, you know to be untrue, may lead to disciplinary action being taken against you.
What to do if You are Being Bullied or Harassed
You may be able to sort out matters informally. The person may not know that his or her behaviour is unwelcome or upsetting. An informal discussion may help them to understand the effects of their behaviour and agree to change it. You may feel able to approach the person yourself, or with the help of a manager or another employee. Alternatively, an initial approach could be made on your behalf by one of these people. You should tell the person what behaviour you find offensive and unwelcome and say that you would like it to stop immediately. You may want to add that, if the behaviour continues, you intend to make a formal complaint to your manager. You should keep a note of the date and what was said and done. This will be useful evidence if the unacceptable behaviour continues and you wish to make a formal complaint.
If an informal approach does not resolve matters, or you think the situation is too serious to be dealt with informally, you can make a formal complaint by using the grievance procedure.
In very serious cases, a criminal offence may have been committed and you may wish to report matters to the police. Your manager can arrange for someone to accompany you to make a complaint to the police.
All complaints will be investigated promptly and, if appropriate, disciplinary proceedings will be brought against the alleged harasser. You will have the right to be accompanied by a work colleague of your choice at any meeting dealing with your grievance. You will be kept informed of the general progress of the process of investigation and the outcome of any disciplinary proceedings. We will decide on a balance of probabilities, after considering all available evidence, whether harassment or bullying has occurred.
The Company will treat complaints of bullying and harassment sensitively and maintain confidentiality to the maximum extent possible. Investigation of allegations will normally require limited disclosure on a “need to know” basis. For example, your identity and the nature of the allegations must be revealed to the person you are complaining about, so that they are able to respond to the allegations. Some details may also have to be given to potential witnesses but the importance of confidentiality will be emphasised to them.
Wherever possible, we will try to ensure that you and the alleged harasser are not required to work together whilst the complaint is under investigation. This could involve giving you the option of remaining home on special leave, if you wish. In a serious case, the alleged harasser may be suspended whilst investigation and any disciplinary proceedings are underway.
If your complaint is upheld, and the person found to have bullied or harassed you remains in employment, every effort will be made to ensure, if possible, that, if you do not wish to, you do not have to continue to work alongside the harasser. We will discuss the options with you. These may include the transfer of the harasser or, if you wish, you may be able to transfer to another post.
If your complaint is not upheld, your manager will support you, the alleged harasser in making arrangements for you both to continue or resume working together and to help repair working relationships. Your manager may consider the use of an internal or external mediator in these circumstances. Where possible, the Company may consider making arrangements to avoid you and the alleged harasser having to continue to work alongside each other, if either of you do not wish to do this.
You have a right not to be victimised for making a complaint in good faith, even if the complaint is not upheld. However, making a complaint which you know to be untrue may lead to disciplinary action being taken against you.
Some types of bullying or harassment may constitute unlawful discrimination and may be given rise to the possibility of other civil claims or criminal proceedings.
We all have a responsibility to help create and maintain a work environment free of bullying and harassment. You can help to do this by:
- being aware of how your own behaviour may affect others and changing it, if necessary – you can still cause offence even if you are “only joking”;
- treating your colleagues with dignity and respect;
- taking a stand if you think inappropriate jokes or comments are being made;
- making it clear to others when you find their behaviour unacceptable, unless it should be obvious in advance that this would be the case;
- intervening, if possible, to stop harassment or bullying and giving support to recipients;
- making it clear that you find harassment and bullying unacceptable;
- reporting harassment or bullying to your Line Manager and supporting the Company in the investigation of complaints; and
- if a complaint of harassment or bullying is made, not prejudging or victimising the complainant or alleged harasser.
Managers have a particular responsibility to:
- set a good example by their own behaviour;
- ensure that there is a supportive working environment;
- make sure that staff know what standards of behaviour are expected of them;
- intervene to stop bullying or harassment; and
- report promptly to their Line Manager any complaint of bullying or harassment, or any incident of bullying or harassment witnessed by them.
If You are Accused of Bullying or Harassment.
If someone approaches you informally about your behaviour, do not dismiss the complaint out of hand because you were only joking or think the complainant is being too sensitive. Remember that different people find different things acceptable and everyone has the right to decide what behaviour is acceptable to him or her and to have his or her feelings respected by others. You may have offended someone without intending to. If that is the case, the person concerned may be content with an explanation and an apology from you and an assurance that you will be careful in future not to behave in a way that you now know may cause offence. Provided that you do not repeat the behaviour which has caused offence that may well be the end of the matter.
If a formal complaint is made about your behaviour, this will be fully investigated and the Company may bring disciplinary proceedings, if appropriate. The disciplinary procedure will be followed and you will have the rights set out in that procedure. You will have the right to be informed of the allegations against you and to put your side of the story and to be accompanied to meetings by a work colleague of your choice. The procedure will be implemented at the appropriate stage for the seriousness of the allegation. Complaints of bullying and harassment will often be allegations of gross misconduct which, if proved, could lead to dismissal without notice.
The Company will treat complaints of bullying and harassment sensitively and maintain confidentiality to the maximum extent possible. Investigation of allegations and future management of risk, if complaints are upheld, will normally require limited disclosure on a “need to know” basis. For example, some details may have to be given to potential witnesses but the importance of confidentiality will be emphasised to them.
Wherever possible, the Company will try to ensure that you and the complainant are not required to work together whilst the complaint is under investigation. If the allegation is of gross misconduct, you may be suspended on full pay during the investigation and, if a disciplinary hearing is to be called, until disciplinary proceedings have been concluded.
If the complaint against you is upheld, on a balance of probabilities, a disciplinary penalty may be imposed up to and including dismissal, having regard to the seriousness of the offence and all relevant circumstances. If the complaint is upheld, but you are not dismissed, the decision could be made to transfer you to another post.
If a complaint is made against you which is not upheld and the Company has good grounds for believing that the complaint was not made in good faith, disciplinary action will be taken against the person making the false complaint.
You must not victimise a person who has made a complaint in good faith against you or anyone who has supported him or her in making the complaint or given evidence in relation to such a complaint. Disciplinary action will be taken against you if the Company has good reason to think that you may have victimised the complainant or someone else.
If the complaint against you is not upheld, support will be offered to you, the complainant and your manager in making arrangements for you both to continue or resume working and to help repair working relationships. The Company will consider making arrangements to avoid you and the complainant having to continue to work alongside each other, if either of you do not wish to do this.
Some types of bullying or harassment may constitute unlawful discrimination and allegations may give rise to the possibility of other civil claims or criminal proceedings against you, which would proceed independently of the Company’s disciplinary proceedings. You could be personally liable to pay compensation to the complainant if a successful claim in the employment tribunal or other courts was brought against you and criminal proceedings could lead to conviction and criminal penalties.
We will provide information to all employees and others engaged to work at the Company to help them understand their rights and responsibilities under this policy and what they can do to help create a working environment free of bullying and harassment. We will provide additional guidance and training to managers to enable them to deal more effectively with complaints of bullying and harassment.
The Company will review the outcomes of cases where complaints of bullying and harassment have been made to check that the proper procedures have been followed and to identify any points that can be learned from those cases and implement any necessary changes.
We will update the policy in line with our findings and in accordance with changes to employment law. Information provided by employees for monitoring purposes will be used only for these purposes and will be dealt with in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulations.