You should take bullying or harassment complaints seriously as you can be held liable for harassment suffered by your employees at work or at work-related events.
Draw up an anti-bullying and harassment policy
You should know, and make known to your employees, what approach you will take, for example, by issuing a policy that:
- encourages victims of bullying or harassment to come forward
- provides for an informal route to complain within a formal procedure and balances the interests of the victim and the alleged bully/harasser
- tells staff and trains managers as to what they should do if they become aware of someone being bullied or harassed - see drawing up an anti-bullying and harassment policy
Investigate claims thoroughly and fairly
Bear in mind that a claim could be malicious - to investigate it thoroughly and fairly you should:
- use an impartial, trained investigator
- consider a paid precautionary suspension of the alleged bully or harasser on full pay while the investigation is carried out (such suspension should only be imposed after careful consideration, and only if alternatives, such as transfer to other duties, redeployment without loss of pay or the taking of annual holidays to which the employee is entitled, cannot be agreed)
- review any action taken to ensure it is not unnecessarily protracted - it will be made clear that any action taken is not considered a disciplinary action
- allow both parties to be accompanied to a hearing by a work colleague or accredited trade union representative of their choice
Carefully decide what action to take
Following substantiated claims of bullying and harassment, decide carefully what action you are going to take and whether the employment contract provides for it - whether against the complainant or bully/harasser.
This could be:
- counselling or training
- a formal warning
- transfer - only the guilty party should be transferred
Trade unions may have a role in cases of bullying and harassment.
They can provide:
- support for claims
- guidance and support for the complainant or the alleged bully or harasser
- accompaniment to hearings
- help in eliminating a bullying culture