Bullying in the workplace
A person harasses another person if they engage in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic and the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating the other person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the other person. This is effectively bullying in the workplace. The relevant protected characteristics are sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, age and disability.
An employer may be vicariously liable for bullying in the workplace and the harassment of their employees by another employee, subject to a defence that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment. An employer can also be vicariously liable under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, although this only applies to conduct that is criminal in nature.
Additionally, an employer must provide adequate security precautions where it is reasonably foreseeable that employees may suffer violence in the course of their work.
Employers have a duty to safeguard their employees against bullying in the workplace or harassment at work, even where this does not cause actual physical harm. Where an employer fails to investigate a complaint of bullying or harassment fully and take prompt action, this may be sufficient grounds for the employee to resign and claim constructive dismissal.