In an era where workplace well-being and employee satisfaction are paramount, employers are being reminded of their duty of care towards their workforce.
One crucial aspect of this responsibility is ensuring that the workplace remains free from bullying and harassment.
However, despite these obligations, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of employees seeking advice regarding incidents of bullying and harassment, as reported by Peninsula, a leading HR advice and consultancy firm.
So, what can employers do to proactively manage the risk of bullying in the workplace?
Zero tolerance approach
Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula, shares her top tips: “In a professional setting, there should be a zero-tolerance approach towards bullying to ensure all employees can carry out their roles to the best of their ability, in an environment where they feel comfortable and protected.”
“Every workplace should have a bullying and harassment policy in place, clearly outlining the expected behaviour of all employees, steps to take if bullying or harassment allegations arise, and the consequences if claims are upheld,” she advises. “All bullying claims must be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated. This policy should be reviewed annually, keeping it up to date with current legislation and best practices, and all employees should acknowledge receipt and understanding of it to promote positive behaviours.”
Creating a culture of peace and inclusivity
Palmer emphasises the importance of fostering a culture where employees feel comfortable and empowered to report bullying or harassment: “Embedding an inclusive culture means that anyone demonstrating bad behaviour will stand out, making it easier to identify incidents of bullying or harassment. Ensure everyone knows how to report such incidents and have a designated management member available to address concerns.”
She further recommends, “All teams should have at least one person designated to receive concerns, ensuring the person responsible for addressing complaints isn’t the alleged bully. Additionally, provide a route for employees to anonymously report concerns to alleviate fears of repercussions.”
Education is key
Palmer underscores the importance of educating all employees, including management, about the bullying and harassment policy: “Regular training should be conducted whenever updates are made to the policy. This ensures everyone is aware of their responsibilities and reinforces expectations, reducing the likelihood of bullying incidents.”
“Understanding that what one person finds funny may be offensive to another is crucial. In these scenarios, education is key,” Palmer states. “With no legal definition of bullying, each business must define appropriate workplace behaviour.”
Palmer acknowledges the devastating impact bullying can have on victims, both mentally and physically. “An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a great way to help victims access confidential, external support like counselling, aiding them in dealing with issues and concerns,” she says. “Support for family members is often available, providing additional reassurance for employees.”
She concludes, “Having comprehensive support and a clear investigative and disciplinary process for allegations of bullying or harassment demonstrates that you take employee well-being seriously. When teams feel protected, supported, and appreciated, it boosts morale and motivation, ultimately benefiting the business.”
As bullying claims rise, employers are challenged to take proactive measures to ensure their workplaces remain safe, inclusive, and conducive to productivity. By following the expert advice provided by Kate Palmer and fostering a culture of respect and support, businesses can strive to eliminate bullying and harassment, creating healthier and more productive work environments for all.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.