Legal Resources

What constitutes harassment in the workplace?
February 2016


Harassment In The Work Place

What constitutes harassment in the workplace? Bullying and harassment in the workplace is unwelcome and unwarranted, detrimental action towards someone in the workforce but it can be hard to tell where strong management crosses into abuse.

Harassment can be characterized as unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic that is intended to degrade, humiliate, intimidate, offend or violate someone’s dignity.

Bullying is insulting behaviour which is intended to injure, degrade, humiliate, or undermine the recipient. This can be through abuse of power.

It can be difficult to provide sufficient evidence that the behaviour engaged in was not simply supervision, constructive criticism and setting the employee achievable challenges. It is important to identify if bullying or harassment happens due to discrimination. Discrimination can be different treatment on account of an individual’s gender, race, sexuality, age, religion or disability.

Harassment in the workplace should be taken seriously by employers – it can have a serious effect on your reputation and result in legal action being taken against you. The Equality Act means that an employer can be held responsible for third part harassment.

Thorough record keeping and the development and maintenance of company policies and a commitment statement will help ensure you are taking sufficient action to preventing harassment.

It is also vital that complaints are treated seriously. Managers and supervisors should be correctly trained on how to deal with reports of bullying or harassment; clearly state that harassment is not lawful and may be treated as a disciplinary offence. Ensure that yor policy includes reference to formal and informal grievance procedures – with timelines. Confirm confidentiality for any complaint.

To ensure you are fully informed about what constitutes bullying, harassment and discrimination this infographic sets out a brief guide on how each term is defined, and what your company can do to prevent harassment in the workplace.

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