13 August 2023

Bullying Complaints In The Workplace

Employers are often not strangers to disputes between their employees. Sometimes ‘banter’ can be taken too far and can create a hostile environment within the workplace.

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How to deal with complaints about bullying in the workplace 

Employers are often not strangers to disputes between their employees. Sometimes ‘banter’ can be taken too far and can create a hostile environment within the workplace. At other times personalities clash, and what was well-meaning has become a problem within the office. 

Bullying can be a one off incident or a system of behaviour that is ongoing and intended to hurt someone. Examples of what may constitute bullying in the workplace include: 

  • Spreading false rumours 
  • A manager who deliberately gives more work to one person that to everyone else on their team 
  • Continuously putting someone down (for example by talking over them, rolling eyes every time they speak or doing anything else that might undermine them) 

Bullying can take lots of different forms and can be in person or online. Particular care should be taken to consider calls, emails and other work related communications. 

Complaints procedure 

Any complaint should be taken seriously. Employers should be doing all they can to resolve and deal with complaints of bullying. Often, if one person complains they have been bullied, other people may also have been bullied. An employer owes their employees a duty of care. 

The first step for an employee when they consider that they have been bullied is to contact you informally with details of the treatment that they have received. Any complaint should be dealt with and investigated seriously. You should refer to your disciplinary procedure in relation to what steps you should take. These are likely to include interviewing the parties involved to see if you can get to the bottom of what has been going on. 

You should be careful to only interview those people who might have some direct knowledge or involvement with the allegations that have been made. You should further consider whether it is appropriate for the person who has been accused to remain at work or whether they should be suspended in line with your disciplinary procedure. Other alternatives to suspension should be considered and could include one of the parties being moved to a different part of the office or being asked to work from home until the investigation has concluded. 

If a complaint is not dealt with adequately  

If the complaint is not dealt with to the employee’s satisfaction they may raise a formal grievance into either the bullying itself or the way that you have handled the complaint as the employer, which could leave you liable to claims at a later stage. 

Counter complaints 

In some instances, once a complaint has been made, the person who the complaint has been made about can also raise a complaint about the behaviour of the original complainant. Such an allegation should be taken equally seriously and should also be fully investigated. 

Creating a fair working environment 

Dealing with such complaints and taking them seriously can have a positive impact on other members of staff. It can show that you take such allegations seriously and that you are working towards a fair and inclusive workplace of everyone involved. It can also deter others from such behaviour and prevent employees taking legal action against you.  

Do you need more support on bullying in the workplace?

Contact us for an initial discussion and to make an appointment.

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0800 987 8156

Nicole Gibbs

Senior Associate (Solicitor)