Posted on by Jessica Peaty

Post Brexit: Preventing bullying and harassment in the workplace

The Brexit may pose as one of Britain’s most political controversies since the 20th Century. Statistics revealed huge divisions between age groups across the country and strong feelings have begun to be voiced as a result of the UK leaving the European Union.

More than a hundred incidents of racial abuse and hate crime have been reported since the Brexit. It is important that employers ensure their employees feel safe within the workplace and maintain a diverse environment that accommodates everyone.

The definitions of terms firstly need to be defined so it’s clear from the onset such behaviour should not be accepted in the workplace.

Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, and/or an abuse or misuse of power that is meant to undermine, humiliate or injure the person on the receiving end.

Harassment is unwanted conduct related to relevant protected characteristics, which are sex, gender reassignment, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief and age, that has the purpose of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person; or is reasonably considered by that person to have the effect of violating his/her dignity or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him/her, even if this effect was not intended by the person responsible for the conduct.

As an employer or an employee, we all have a responsibility to help create and maintain a work environment free of bullying and harassment. You can help to do this by:

  • Being aware of how your own behaviour may affect others and changing it, boundaries must be made surrounding what jokes are acceptable and unacceptable
  • Treating colleagues with dignity and respect;
  • Educating colleagues and employees about diversities;
  • Making it clear when you find other people’s behaviour unacceptable;
  • Intervening, if possible, to stop harassment or bullying and giving support to recipients;
  • Making it clear that you find harassment and bullying unacceptable;
  • Reporting harassment or bullying to your manager or human resources and supporting the organisation in the investigation of complaints;
  • If a complaint of harassment or bullying is made, not prejudging or victimising the complainant or alleged harasser.

Managers have a particular responsibility to:

  • Set a good example by their own behaviour;
  • Ensure that there is a supportive working environment;
  • Make sure that staff know what standards of behaviour are expected of them;
  • Intervene to stop bullying or harassment; and
  • Report promptly to human resources any complaint of bullying or harassment, or any incident of bullying or harassment witnessed by them.

Knowing right from wrong may seem like an obvious trait to any human being however to ensure you are compliant, there are many regulations and policies that can be followed.

The ‘Dignity at Work Policy’ can be modelled as part of your staff handbook in addition to a separate ‘Equal Opportunities Policy’. This should be made easy to find so employees can be discrete about taking action upon their concerns.
The ‘Dignity at Work Policy’ covers bullying and harassment of and by managers, employees, contractors, agency staff and anyone else engaged to work at the organisation, whether by direct contract with the organisation or otherwise.

Above all of the practical and legal reasons why employers should take proactive steps to deal with bullying and harassment in the workplace. There is also a common law duty to provide a safe system of work and in certain circumstances this can extend to liability for psychiatric illness if it is reasonably foreseeable. As an employer it is important to note that you may be liable for the acts of your employees and the way in which they act during the course of their employment.

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