Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bullying Is Tricky for Employers

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bullying Is Tricky for Employers

Article excerpt

Byline: By Emily Cox

Emily Cox examines the issue of bullying in the workplace.

A recent survey found that 87pc of human resources professionals were aware of bullying in their organisation.

The health insurer BUPA says that 19 million working days are lost per year through bullying. According to TUC figures, one in five employees complain of being stressed at work, an increase of 2pc from 2002 with one of the main causes being bullying. Stress at work costs the UK economy pounds 7bn per year through sick pay and lost production.

For employers, bullying in the workplace is a tricky issue to police. If the employee does not raise a formal grievance, the employer may have no knowledge of the bad treatment.

Many employers have an anti-bullying policy but few employers train their managers in looking out for the giveaway signs.

If the ill treatment is a discrimination issue, employers can find that, unless there is sufficient training and robust policies in place, they may be legally liable for the ill treatment.

This can lead to significant costs, not only in terms of legal fees (costs are generally not recoverable in the Employment Tribunal) but in management time to defend any claim.

The Acas guidance on `Bullying and Harassment at Work', published in September 2004 defines bullying as "offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient."

The legal remedies to protect employees are hit-and-miss and were not designed to address the problem early.

If the bullying amounts to discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation or trade union membership, the employee can bring a claim against the employer and the individual bully.

However, the real difficulty is when the bullying relates to another cause such as `a personality clash'. …

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