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Shining the spotlight on bullying and harassment at work

Published 10 May 2021

Serious allegations of bullying and harassment in the workplace are once again headline news.

It’s an age-old problem, this is nothing new, but it is something all employers need to be alert to and deal with.

BECTU, the entertainment union, has now penned  an open letter, signed by 1000 workers from across the film and TV industry, demanding an end to a culture that turns a blind eye to predators and harassers operating in plain sight https://bectu.org.uk/news/over-1000-film-and-tv-workers-call-for-action-on-sexual-harassment-in-open-letter-to-the-industry/

The letter follows recent allegations made against the actor and director Noel Clarke, who starred in the popular TV show Dr Who. He is said to deny all of the allegations, which have been made by more than 20 women he has worked with https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-57021060

The BECTU letter reads: “After reading the Noel Clarke allegations, many of us within the TV and film industry started sharing our own stories of sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

“His case is not a one-off and, shockingly, is not an extreme example.

“It has happened to so many of us that it seems normal.”

While the entertainment industry is once again in the spotlight, the sentiments will no doubt resonate with workers in many different industries.

All employees deserve to feel safe and supported at work, and to be treated with dignity and respect.

Bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended https://www.gov.uk/workplace-bullying-and-harassment. Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

There has been much publicity in recent years surrounding bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Yet, worryingly a study published last year found a quarter of employees (24 per cent) think issues like bullying and harassment are just swept under the carpet in their organisation https://www.cipd.co.uk/about/media/press/bullying-harassment-overlooked

The study followed Trades Union Congress (TUC) research some years earlier, which reported that four out of five women did not report sexual harassment to their employer https://www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/still-just-bit-banter

There has in recent years been widespread publicity and high-profile cases regarding such behaviour at work. It has hopefully empowered many victims to now feel confident to come forward and report matters.

Regardless of the size or nature of an organisation any complaint of bullying and harassment needs to be taken seriously. It should be dealt with quickly and fairly.

Employers have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees, which includes protection from bullying and harassment at work https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/37

A zero-tolerance approach should be taken to such behaviour. Complainants should be supported, and the alleged wrongdoer treated reasonably

An employer should do all it can to try to prevent bullying and harassment from occurring.

Every workplace should have clear, recognisable and established policies in place to deal with all complaints.

Such policies should be communicated to all staff in order so that they know what is expected of them, how to raise a concern and how it will be dealt with.

Complaints of bullying and harassment can usually be dealt with using clear grievance and disciplinary procedures which comply with the ACAS Code https://castleassociates.org.uk/employment-law-a-z/acas-code-of-practice

By law, everything reasonable must be done to protect staff. This covers employees, workers, contractors, self-employed, people hired to personally do work and job applicants

Employers also have a duty of care to all employees. It means that they should take all steps which are reasonably possible to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing.

Requirements under an employer's duty of care are wide-ranging and may manifest themselves in many different ways, such as protecting staff from bullying or harassment, either from colleagues or third parties.

 

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