Editor's message: Bullying and harassment remains a problem in the workplace despite ever-increasing media attention. Organisations should aim to promote a workplace culture where bullying and harassment are unacceptable.
There is an implied term in every contract of employment that an employer will provide a working environment that is reasonably suitable for the employee to perform their contractual duties. Bullying and harassment can create a hostile working environment, which may breach this implied term as well as the implied term of trust and confidence between the employer and employee.
Unlike bullying, harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 if the harassing behaviour is related to the protected characteristic of sex, gender reassignment, race, disability, age, sexual orientation or religion or belief.
Bullying and harassment in the workplace can erode an employee’s confidence, self-esteem, health and wellbeing. Bullying and harassment can also have a major impact on an organisation, affecting both the performance and the morale of the workforce.
If your organisation does not enforce procedures to identify and deal with bullying and harassment it is unlikely that your workforce will perform to its potential. Your organisation also may have problems with retention, as well as an exposure to legal claims.
There are a few avenues available to employees wishing to seek legal redress after being bullied in the workplace, but no specific anti-bullying legislation yet exists. Bina Patel, senior associate in the employment team at law firm Kingsley Napley LLP, explains why such a law would improve access to justice for all.
Updated to include information on London Borough of Hackney v Oksuzoglu, in which the EAT considered if a one-off act is capable of amounting to a PCP for the purposes of the duty to make adjustments.
Updated to include information on Walker v Wallem Shipmanagement Ltd and another, in which the EAT considered the territorial scope of the Equality Act 2010 in relation to offshore work.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued new guidance on dealing with sexual harassment at work.
Updated to include information on Bessong v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, in which the EAT considered if an employer can be held liable for third-party harassment under the Equality Act 2010.
In Bessong v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that the Equality Act 2010 cannot be interpreted to make an NHS trust vicariously liable for race discrimination for a patient's racially motivated attack on a mental-health nurse.
Updated to include information on Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd and others, in which the employment tribunal considered if vegetarianism is a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010.
July 2019 saw progress made on an unusual number of proposed employment law changes. The Government published consultations covering workplace sexual harassment, statutory sick pay, family-friendly leave and pay, flexibility in working hours, modern slavery statements, and enforcement of worker rights. It also made announcements on changes to the laws on rehabilitation periods for offenders, settlement agreements, and protection against redundancy during pregnancy and maternity leave.
Updated to include information on Forbes v LHR Airport Ltd, in which the EAT considered if posting an offensive image on Facebook was done "in the course of employment".
The House of Commons is in need of an HR department to oversee good employment practice and help stamp out the significant bullying and harassment that many MPs' staff experience.
HR and legal information and guidance relating to bullying and harassment.