Advice: Tackling workplace bullying

  • Date: 08 September 2022

Concerned womanREPORTS of bullying in the workplace have reached new highs over the past year.

Analysis from law firm Fox & Partners found that the number of employment tribunal claims citing allegations of bullying increased from 581 in March 2021 to 835 in March 2022.

At MDDUS, the HR and employment advisory team have also noticed a large amount of calls from practices on this topic, possibly an indication of the high stress that they’ve been operating under in the last few years.

Workplace bullying can have serious consequences, leading to issues such as high staff turnover, increased absence, lower productivity and perhaps even an increased risk to patient safety.

Consider these key areas.

Positive working environment. Taking a proactive approach can be hugely beneficial. Practices should try to make improvements at a system level now to develop positive working environments, not just when a problem escalates.

Communication. It is essential that there are effective routes for communication at all levels, between staff and managers and also managers and partners/principals.

Protect and support. Employers must be willing to enforce company policies to protect and support colleagues at risk. It is crucial to establish safe working environments that do not tolerate bullying. They should reward, not punish, acts of vulnerability, such as speaking up, sharing concerns and admitting mistakes.

Duty of care. Employers have a duty of care towards employees. Failing to tackle bullying could be seen as a breach of that duty, leaving employers open to complaints or even claims to employment tribunals.

Protected characteristics. While it isn’t possible to bring a claim directly to an employment tribunal on the grounds of bullying, if the behaviour relates to one of the protected characteristics, then an employee can make a claim of discrimination under the harassment provisions.

Indirect bullying. Bullying is not always a visible attack on someone. It can also include preventing another employee’s promotion by blocking their progress, or setting them up to fail by giving unachievable targets.

Further information

  • Ensure that your internal procedures relating to bullying, equality, whistleblowing and disciplinary/grievance are up to date. Members can login to their MDDUS account to access our template “Employee handbook” in the HR and employment resources section.
  • Read about how you can create a “resilient practice” in this advice article from head of training Liz Price for GP practices and dental practices.

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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