Bullying and harassment

What is bullying and harassment at work?

The independent Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) defines bullying as:

Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, involving an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

Some examples of bullying at work are:

  • ignoring you or excluding you from general conversations;
  • spreading hurtful or wrong rumours or gossip about you at work;
  • humiliating you in public at work;
  • giving you tasks that have no meaning to your workplace or the job you do, or that are impossible to finish or do at all;
  • constantly undervaluing your work performance.

Most forms of bullying are not against the law. But all work places should have a policy that says what your employer will do if you are feeling bullied by someone.

Some forms of bullying are against the law. If the bullying is because of your ‘protected characteristic’ then it is illegal under the 2010 Equality Act. Protected characteristics are your:

  • age;
  • disability;
  • gender reassignment;
  • race;
  • religion or belief;
  • sex or sexual orientation.

It is also against the law to:

  • bully you because of someone else’s protected characteristic for example, if your partner is disabled;
  • bully you for a protected characteristic that you don’t have for example if someone is calling you names about being gay when you are not.

This kind of bullying is called harassment and it is also discrimination.

Information and advice about bullying and harassment at work

Get information and advice about bullying and harassment at work from:

ACAS – dowloandable guide about bullying & harassment

the Government – about bullying and harassment

Bullying UK – signs of bullying at work

Citizens Advice Bureau – what is harassment?

Taking action on bullying and harassment

Because harassment is a type of discrimination we have put advice about taking action on harassment at:

Taking action about discrimination

All work places should have a policy that says what your employer will do if you are feeling bullied by someone. Ask to see this policy and talk to your manager or supervisor about how you are feeling.

Bullying UK – How to deal with bullying at work

Trades Union Congress – I am being unfairly accused of bullying at work

Trades Union Congress – What should my employer do about bullying at work?

Health and safety Executive – Advice for Managers about stopping bullying at work

Taking action about bullying at work

Not a harassment problem?

Go back to Problems at work

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