Under the Equality Act 2010 harassment is defined as unwanted conduct which is related to either; age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation and is therefore unlawful. However, there is no legal definition of what amounts to bullying. ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has provided a broad description of it as ‘offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient’.
Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassing behaviour. It is important that businesses take the issue seriously at the outset and ensure that the proper company policies are in place and adequate training is provided, to make it clear to everyone that such behaviour will not be tolerated.
Businesses will also need to have a robust strategy in place to deal with any reports of bullying or harassment in the workplace. Employers have a ‘duty of care’ for all their employees. If the mutual trust and confidence between employer and employee is broken, for example through bullying and harassment at work, then an employee can resign and claim constructive dismissal, at an Employment Tribunal, on the grounds of breach of contract (as long as they have worked for the employer for at least two years). Employers are usually responsible in law for the acts of their workers.
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