Friday, 31 October 2008

Tackle the bully in your workplace

Shropshire companies should take a hard line against bullying directors and senior managers – even though it has become tougher for workers to bring them to justice.

John Mehtam, our Employment Law Specialist, said the Court of Appeal had made it more difficult for staff to win a bullying claim with their latest ruling. “But employees still have plenty of options when it comes to bullying claims, so companies can’t sit back and do nothing in the hope that the issue will go away.

“It’s essential that you investigate all complaints thoroughly and interview everyone concerned, otherwise it is the company that will be on the receiving end of a claim, and not the person who is being held responsible.”

John said a test case two years ago found that an employee could claim bullying under the Protection from Harassment Act if they could prove incidents had happened on at least two occasions. But the Court of Appeal has since ruled that these incidents had to be “oppressive and unacceptable, amounting to criminal conduct”, rather than simply ill-tempered or inappropriate.

“Although this indicates that the courts are now taking a more robust approach in determining what is harassment in the workplace, there’s no room for complacency if allegations of bullying are made by staff,” said John.

“Have an anti-bullying policy in place and make sure all staff are aware of it. If allegations of bullying are proved to be true, take disciplinary action against those involved – whether they are directors or shop-floor staff.

“If a director is involved, make sure that your investigation is not viewed as a cover up just to protect a fellow member of the board. You must also ensure that the person who is investigating the case is at a sufficiently senior level in the company for their actions to be taken seriously.”