15 May 2023

Bullying & Harassment in the Workplace

Workplace Bullying & Harassment

Workplace bullying has been a topic of discussion in the UK recently following Dominic Raab’s resignation, demonstrating the importance of corporate cultures that prevent harassment and bullying from occurring in the workplace.

Workplace Bullying & Harassment

In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination and harassment that is related to a protected characteristic.

These are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation; also pregnancy and maternity where the protection against harassment is subject to slightly different rules.

And while bullying itself is not against the law, it can easily become harassment, which is unlawful.

What is harassment?

Harassment can take many forms, from verbal abuse and discrimination to physical assault. It can be targeted towards an individual or a group of people, and it can have severe consequences for both the victim and the organisation as a whole.

The effects of harassment in the workplace can include decreased productivity, increased turnover rates, damage to the company’s reputation, and even legal action.

It means all employers have a duty of care to protect their workers and may be liable for discrimination or harassment in the workplace if they have not taken reasonable steps to prevent it.

Government minister Dominic Raab was recently accused of bullying by civil servants at both the foreign office and the justice office during his time as a cabinet minister. An independent investigation agreed, saying that he was “persistently aggressive” in meetings and had abused or misused his power in a way which could undermine and humiliate colleagues, with Raab resigning as a result.

This case shows the importance of having the right policies and working practices in place, and for organisations to work on creating the right culture for everyone, especially for those at the most senior level.

Preventing Harassment in the Workplace

To prevent harassment in the workplace, organisations should establish a culture of respect, inclusion, and zero tolerance towards any form of harassment. There are ways for organisations to create a culture that prevents harassment.

Clear Policies

Companies should have clear policies and procedures that outline what constitutes harassment and the consequences of engaging in such behaviour. These policies should be communicated regularly and be easily accessible.


Employees should be trained on what constitutes harassment, how to prevent it, and what to do if they witness or experience it. Training should be conducted regularly, and all employees should be required to attend.

Leadership Accountability

Company leaders should lead by example and hold themselves accountable for creating a respectful workplace culture. They should set the tone for behaviour and demonstrate a commitment to preventing harassment in the workplace.

Culture of Respect

Ultimately, creating a culture of respect, inclusion, and diversity is key to preventing harassment in the workplace. Organisations should strive to create an environment where all employees feel valued and respected, regardless of their background or identity.

What to Do If You’re Being Harassed in the Workplace

If you believe that you have experienced harassment, you can raise this with your employer informally. They may have a policy which says who to raise this with if the person you usually go to with issues is involved – for example, another manager or the HR department.

If you’ve tried to resolve things with no resolution or feel the situation is too serious to resolve informally, you can raise the issue formally. This is known as ‘raising a grievance’.

If this does not help, you should seek legal advice. Our specialist employment solicitors at Howell Jones can help you understand your position in relation to workplace harassment. We can give you constructive, beneficial and pragmatic advice to help you consider your legal options when faced with a difficult and stressful working environment.

With the right advice, you’ll be able to make an informed decision and reach a suitable solution. For more information, please contact our employment team at Howell Jones Surrey Solicitors.


Website content note: 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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