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Being a victim of bullying, harassment or discrimination at work can be a very distressing time, it may be overwhelming for employees and affect their health and wellbeing. Our employment solicitors are on hand to provide specialist guidance and support.

Discrimination in the workplace

It is illegal to treat someone unfairly because of their personal circumstances, this includes bullying, harassment or simply failing to make reasonable adjustments for them. The Equality Act 2010 strengthened the laws which protect individuals from unreasonable treatment and ensure everyone is valued equally, including at work.

There are nine specific areas (known as protected characteristics) covered by equality and diversity laws and guidelines:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation

The changes to the law also mean there are now more workplace situations that are discriminatory, such as:

  • Direct discrimination – where a person is discriminated against due to one or more protected characteristics, for example a female candidate for a job does not get an interview but a male with less experience does (sometimes an employer might state an occupational requirement in defence)
  • Discrimination by association – where a person is associated with someone with a protected characteristic, for example a mother who has given birth to a disabled child returns from maternity leave and applies for promotion, but the job is given to someone less qualified as the employer thinks the mother will need more time off and be less reliable because of her child’s special needs
  • Discrimination due to a perceived characteristic – where someone thinks a person has a protected characteristic but they do not, for example a man looks older than his actual age and is not given a role which involves heavy lifting as the employer believes he is ‘too old’ to do physical work
  • Harassment – this now includes failing to prevent the harassment of an employee by a third party, for example if a shop manager overhears a customer make repeated racist remarks to one of their shop assistants and does not do anything about it
  • Victimisation – this now includes when someone is treated less favourably having made a discrimination claim or has supported someone else to make one, for example if a person has successfully complained that their manager has made unfair comments made about their sexuality, but are then ignored by that manager or other staff they could claim victimisation

It doesn’t matter how long you have been in a job, you can claim for discrimination at any time, and there is no financial limit for compensation. If you would like to talk to someone about your situation please get in touch.

Our specialist team of discrimination lawyers has experience in both managing and defending discrimination cases. We know this is a sensitive area of law and work carefully and compassionately, with employers and employees, to bring a successful and satisfactory conclusion to these types of disputes.

Bullying and harassment in the workplace

What is bullying?

It is behaviour towards an individual by another person that is abusive, scary, cruel or insulting – sometimes it can be all of these. Bullying is also when someone uses or abuses their power to undermine, humiliate or injure another person. It can happen anywhere and can be very damaging for the victim, but it’s the way that it is dealt with that makes the difference between your work life being tolerable or miserable.

What is harassment?

Harassment is different from bullying, although the two are often confused. It is when someone’s unwanted actions relate to the personal (or ‘protected’) characteristics of another person, for example their age, disability, gender, race, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. Harassment turns a happy working environment into one that is unfriendly, offensive and degrading for an individual or group of people.

What can I do about it?

Your employer should have a policy on bullying and harassment, so firstly you should ask for a copy, so that you understand your rights and how to address the situation. Sometimes it might be possible to raise the matter informally, but if not you can raise an official grievance. If you need help to do this but feel that you need additional support, then contact us for advice and information.

Bullying and Harassment examples:

  • Making insults about someone’s appearance or lifestyle
  • Bossy behaviour or singling someone out for unfair criticism
  • Excluding, victimising or deliberately undermining someone
  • Spreading rumours or confidential/sensitive information about someone

If you feel that you would like to discuss anything further, get in touch with our employment specialists by filling out the form below or emailing us here.


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