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Get tough and act quickly to deal with workplace bullies

Published 02 December 2015

The devastating and tragic consequences of alleged bullying in the workplace have made headlines again this week.

The Conservative Party has faced a barrage of criticism for its apparent failure to act quickly and decisively in dealing with work-related grievances.

This included a complaint from a young activist who committed suicide after alleging that he had been bullied.

The handling of that case and others is now the subject of an independent inquiry to be led by a top QC.

Acas characterise bullying as: offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

An allegation of bullying if proven will normally be treated as an act of gross misconduct, which can lead to summary dismissal.

Many employers now have a separate bullying and harassment policy.  This should provide examples of what it considers to be bullying, make it clear this type of behaviour is unlawful and highlight steps that will be taken to prevent it.

Managers faced with having to deal with complaints of this nature should be fully trained in handling what can be extremely sensitive and emotion-charged cases.

Bullying can have a detrimental impact on mental health and well-being of the victim. Members of staff are unlikely to report complaints if they feel they may be treated insensitively or challenged in a hostile way by the person they have complained about.

Employees should be made aware of how they can raise complaints, and be assured that they will be handled in a private and confidential manner.

Any allegations of bullying should be dealt with promptly and objectively, taken seriously and fully investigated in a fair and reasonable manner.

Once all of the facts of the case have been established appropriate action should be taken without unreasonable delay. 

In some cases it can be possible to deal with the matter informally, and in others it will be necessary to take disciplinary action.

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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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