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Workplace Bullying in the UK – Facts and Statistics

Bullying is totally unacceptable behaviour in modern day society but is still a huge problem in many settings, workplaces are one of those. Employees should be treated with dignity and respect at all times. Bullying or harassment at work is a major problem which can make the daily lives of many intolerable, often leading to ill-health and work related stress disorders, not to mention the huge effect on staff morale.

This is not only a problem for the employees but also employers, workers affected by bullying may take long periods of sick leave or leave altogether. In many organisations workplace bullying can go unnoticed but in some cases there is a culture of bullying and harassment which may be accepted or encouraged.

What is workplace bullying and harassment?

There is no conclusive definition of workplace bullying because it can take many different forms. It occurs in a wide ranges of situations and crosses gender, race, age or involve a number of individuals. But we consider some of the most common types of bullying as persistent offensive, intimidating, humiliating behaviour which causes offence to an individual or group of employees.

Workplace bullying is normally carried out face to face, but also happens in writing, by telephone, text messaging, emails and on social media platforms.

Harassment can be defined as conduct which is unwanted, offensive and affects the dignity of an individual or group or individuals. Regardless of whether the harassment is intentional or not, if the person being harassed sees the comments as disrespectful, offensive, rude, or demeaning, harassment is taking place.

Harassment is caused by prejudice against specific members of society, whether it be racial or sexual harassment or harassment on grounds of religion, disability, or sexual orientation. Most forms of harassment are outlawed by specific legislation.

Examples of workplace bullying

Bullying in the workplace can take many different forms, we have highlighted some of the most common forms of bullying and real life examples of bullying.

Public verbal abuse

Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, however human error does not entitle colleagues, whether senior or not, to publicly shame a member of staff. A conversion should take place in a private setting, which prevents the member of staff from feeling embarrassed or ashamed.

“I was blamed for my mistakes in front of the entire office. I was shouted at and told to do the work that should have been done and not to do it again. Everyone was listening as the manager shouted at me.”

Undermining actions

As an employee, you are probably giving your maximum effort to complete the job to the best of your ability. So when a colleague, or senior member of staff undermines the work you are carrying out, it can make you feel worthless and you may even question your ability.

“The manager totally undermined me in front of clients, giving them the impression I was not capable of helping them and advising them to come another day.”

Cyber bullying

The advances in technology has seen a new way in which to bully, harass and abuse workers. Cyber bullying is defined as ‘any use of information and communications technology to support deliberate and hostile attempts to hurt, upset or embarrass another person”.

Eight out of 10 workers in the UK said that they have experienced a form of cyber bullying at least once in the last six months. It is thought that between 14-20% of workers suffer from cyber bullying on a weekly basis.

Cyber bullying in the workplace comes in many forms but some common examples are:

  • Offensive emails
  • Email threats
  • Posting defamatory gossip on blogs and social networking sites
  • Threats or offensive comments by text
  • Harassment by email
  • Posting private and personal details about someone online
    • Under the Malicious Communications Act 1998 it is an offence to send an indecent, offensive, or threatening letter, electronic communication, or other article to another person and under section 43 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 it is a similar offence to send a telephone message that is indecent, offensive, or threatening.

The cost of bullying

Those who have to endure bullying at their workplace will often develop mental health issues. This is evident, with 40% of all sickness absences relating to stress. This can have staggering effect on an organisation, with other members of staff having a higher work load, alongside lower performance and morale.

For the individual, bullying can cause feelings of frustration and anger, lead to stress, loss of self-confidence and self-esteem. In extreme circumstances the workplace bullying has led to self-harm and even suicide. Some common symptoms of bullying include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Ulcers
  • Contemplating suicide
  • Sleeplessness
  • Skin rashes
  • Tearfulness
    • In addition, where employers base recruitment and promotion decisions on sickness absence levels, bullying and harassment can have a major impact on the career of individuals.

Can you claim compensation for workplace bullying?

Yes, there is two specific types of compensation for workplace bullying, general damages, and special damages. General damages is compensation for any pain and suffering, mental trauma, and any life changing injuries you may have suffered. The level of compensation to be awarded reflects the specific of each individual case.

Special damages is the reimbursement of costs as a consequence of the bullying or to fund any future treatment you may require. These can include loss of earnings, future loss of earnings, medical expenses, future medical expenses, additional transportation costs and adaptions to your home.

Start your claim now

If you or a loved one has or is currently dealing with bullying and or harassment in the workplace then we want to help you. We know first-hand how difficult it can be to start the claims process and are here to offer you guidance and support from start to finish. We believe that all employees deserve to be treated well and with dignity at all times.

Our team has helped hundreds of clients get the compensation they deserve as well as being influential in the restructuring of organisations which have battled to stamp out bullying within their workplaces. Reach out to us by calling the team on 0800 285 1411 or complete an online enquiry form now.

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