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Harassment & bullying
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What should you do if you are being bullied or harassed?

Bullying and harassment can be difficult to prove as, often, it is not carried out in the presence of others. As well as this, you may not feel comfortable complaining about a colleague or manager.

If you believe you are being bullied or harassed, you should first try to resolve the problem informally. It may be possible to speak to the person you feel is bullying you. This may work where that person is genuinely unaware of the effect that their conduct is having. If you do not feel able to approach the individual concerned, you should talk to your manager, human resources department, or trade union (if you are a member). 

If this does not work, you can make a formal complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure. Your employer will be under a duty to investigate this, and may be able to take steps to end the conduct. Your employer may also have a specific anti-harassment and bullying policy. 

You can report a harassment issue you have seen or heard in your workplace, even if it is not directed at you.

If you are treated unfairly because you make, or support, a complaint of harassment, you should seek legal advice immediately as you may have a claim for victimisation. 

What if my complaint isn’t resolved by my employer? 

The rights you have will, in part, depend on the nature of the treatment you have been subjected to and, in most cases, your length of service.  For example, there is no standalone claim you can pursue against your employer if you have been bullied.  However, if you have over 2 years’ service, you may be entitled to resign and pursue a constructive unfair dismissal claim if your employer fails to properly investigate or deal with any internal complaint you raise. Such claims are notoriously complex and difficult to win.  You should therefore seek legal advice before taking the step of resigning - you may be in a better position to negotiate an amicable resolution whilst you remain employed.

Regardless of your length of service, if you believe you have been harassed on the grounds of one of the protected characteristics mentioned above, you may have a claim that you can pursue in the Employment Tribunal.  Generally speaking, you will have three months from the date of the alleged discriminatory act(s), or three months from the last in a series of continuing acts, to begin the process of issuing a claim.  Before submitting a claim in the Tribunal you first need to engage in ACAS Early Conciliation.  In discrimination claims, it is possible to issue against both your employer and the individual alleged harasser. 

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Meet your experts
Brendan Donohue Brendan joined Which? Legal in 2018 and is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association. Brendan has over 15 years of experience advising on all aspects of employment law. See profile
Duncan Snook Duncan joined Which? Legal as an employment law specialist in May 2018. He has over 10 years of experience as an employment solicitor in private practice. See profile