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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 46792
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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Hi, I have a question re. employment law & feel Im in a position

Resolved Question:

Hi,
I have a question re. employment law & feel I'm in a position where I need to take action, but don't know what to do. I believe I am being managed / bullied out of my job.
I've been in my role for over 3 years. It has been a senior role as a "Head of".
I began experiencing problems with my then manager when I did not invite him to my wedding in 2011. Another colleague was getting married on the same day & my then manager stated he would accept whoever invited him first. My colleague invited him, he accepted & I was fine with this, but he kept bringing it up which made me feel uncomfortable.
I was also diagnosed with depression in 2011. My then manager enjoyed making comments that I was always miserable, when I was quiet. I spoke with him & told him I was suffering from depression & I did not find his comments helpful. He also made frequent comments that people had allegedly told him I was moody or "off on one". Despite being depressed I continued in my role as best as I could & in my 2011 & 2012 Appraisals I obtained scores which were "exceeds" or "frequently exceeds" what was required of me with a comment in 2011 that "improvement with people required".
During these appraisals my then manager described me as being either (please do excuse the language) "all Sh*t or sugar" & compared me to the nursery rhyme "There was a little girl, who had a little girl right in the middle of her forehead and when she was good she was very good and when she was bad she was horrid". This was said to me by him on at least 2 occasions. He also made reference to knowing how "to push my buttons" in order to get a reaction. I found his manner more and more difficult to deal with and found myself reacting to things that he said. My depression worsened and I began seeing a CBT therapist who suggested I try recording how I felt or thought in a mood / thought diary. I kept this book with me at all times and instead of blurting something out I wrote it down, how it made me feel.
My manager had seen me making notes in my book and knew I was undergoing further treatment. He did not know it was a thought diary at the time. After a meeting in his office in January 2012, he found the book on the chair that I had last been sitting in. I believe he knew it was mine, he knows my handwriting & a photo of a pet was also in the book. He did not bring it to me, or ask anyone who it belonged to. He instead read the book,then took it into my CEO's office and showed it to them.
When I realised that I had left this behind, I went back to get it. I found him in the CEO's office, he was extremely angry and confrontational. I explained that the book was a safe place for me to record how something made me feel and what I thought, and I explained about the CBT therapy I was undergoing at the time. He said he didn't care what it was for, that if anyone found it it would make him look bad and that I had invaded his privacy. He asked how I would feel if he recorded things on me, but he does take notes in meetings and could be writing anything.
He left me with one of the CEO's who I again explained everything to. He was more sympathetic and had some experience of mental illness. He suggested I write an open letter again explaining what the book was and assuring them I was not recording information in order to use it against them. But even if I was, surely I shouldn't be prevented from that?
I gave a copy of the letter to my manager and a copy to the CEO's. I was told that things would take time. I felt that my privacy had been shattered and trust was damaged but I was made to feel that he was the wrong wronged. My therapist, whom I called in a panic on the day of the event said that she was sorry that this had been found & read.
I was confused, hurt and so very angry but felt that I had no option but to continue as best I could. Our relationship had broken down and he refused to speak to me. If I walked into a room, he walked out. If I started speaking in a group, he walked away. He ignored me or treated me as though I wasn't there. This became noticeable to others and made me feel more uncomfortable.
This has been continual since last year with my being ignored or being treated markedly different to others. Again I felt I had to just bear with it and hope the situation would improve.
In February of this year I was told that we were taking on additional personnel & that he would be my manager. He has the same job title being a "Head of", but now all communication with me from senior management goes through him. He joined the business in March 2013 and carried out my appraisal in May, marking me down significantly despite only working with me for 2 months.
Over the last 8 months I feel I've been demoted, I'm now excluded from 2 main site meetings previously attended & have just been marked down in another appraisal. He criticises reports & e-mails I write constantly & admits to micro managing me.
I just don't know what to do.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.

Ben Jones : Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Have you formally complained to your employer about this? PS I am just going offline so will provide my full response first thing tomorrow, thanks
JACUSTOMER-ydoao3mk- :

Hi Ben,

JACUSTOMER-ydoao3mk- :

Thanks for picking this up. I haven't raised a formal grievance, no, I was made to feel that I was at fault and I didn't really know what to think. I had hoped it would get better, but it hasn't. It has been suggested to me that I should raise a grievance, before they instigate disciplinary proceedings against me for an alleged drop in performance, but I don't know who to raise it against & my original boss was made MD this year. My CEO's know what he does, but they have just condoned it. In relation to my illness, following treatment via CBT, which I felt was not working for me, I began prolonged treatment with a psychotherapist due to thoughts of self harm. My then manager was aware I was seeing someone as it required me to take additional time. I took all of these appointments over my lunch breaks.


 


In June / July we faced a difficult situation with product certification. A product was tested and compliant, but the designer wanted a different change and since modification passing the tests became more difficult. This was blamed largely on me and caused a significant amount of stress. My depression worsened and I considered taking my own life. I made my employers aware that I was considering taking my own life. This was met with “no you won’t”. I began seeing a psychiatrist as My GP was concerned by my suicidal thougts.


The situation re. product was eventually resolved, however I approached my manager and said in September that I did not believe the situation was working. He said that he would improve communication, that what happened re. certification was desperately unfortunate and that I shouldn’t rush into anything.


When he returned to the office after a few days at a trade show, that I was excluded from, his response seemed different in that he didn’t seem bothered.


My illness has not been discussed since. But in my appraisal, my manager brought this up, asking if I was still seeing a psychiatrist. I responded that my medication had been reviewed and as I wasn’t considered to be a suicide risk I had been signed back to my GP.


My manager then said that he was not a stranger to this illness and that he could offer support. He said that with my consent he could either speak with my GP, or he could arrange for me to speak with an independent health advisor who would then speak with my manager.


I asked why this was happening now? For me I am afraid it is too little and far too late. He said I was suspicious. Quite frankly I am suspicious, I do not trust them.

JACUSTOMER-ydoao3mk- :

Further to this, one of the meetings I am excluded from is a "managers meeting". Previously I attended this as I also have responsibility for Health Safety & this was our means of complying with legislation in communicating certain information. I have now been excluded from this meeting and the format has been changed to mean that managers can discuss problems they are having with their staff. I feel extremely uncomfortable knowing that my manager discusses me (he believes my feeling demoted as being petulant) with colleagues who I believed were my peers. It further undermines my position and any relationships I need to make on a professional level.

JACUSTOMER-ydoao3mk- :

There are so many things which have happened that I have tried to get through, but I can't any more. They have bullied 1 person out of the business and managed another out recently. I am applying for jobs and have actively been looking for some time, but it is difficult in my field. I believe I need to take action to protect myself.

JACUSTOMER-ydoao3mk- :

I thank you for your help in this.

Ben Jones :

Good morning, it does indeed appear that you are on the receiving end of bullying, which is unfortunately something that is not uncommon in workplaces. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) defines bullying as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.” Whatever form it takes, it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual.


 


Under law, specifically the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, an employer has a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees. That includes preventing bullying behaviour occurring in the workplace and effectively dealing with any complaints that have arisen as a result of bullying.


 


In terms of what an employee who is the victim of bullying can do to try and deal with such problems, the following steps are recommended:


 



  1. First of all, and if possible, the employee should try and resolve the issue informally with the person responsible for the bullying.

  2. If the above does not work or is not a viable option, the employee should consider raising a formal grievance with the employer by following the company's grievance policy.

  3. If, following a grievance, the employer fails to take any action or the action they take is inappropriate the employee would need to seriously consider their next steps. Unfortunately, employment law does not allow employees to make a direct claim about bullying. As such, the most common way of claiming for bullying is by resigning first and then submitting a claim for constructive dismissal in an employment tribunal (subject to having at least 2 years' continuous service with the employer). The reason for resigning would be to claim that by failing to act appropriately, the employer has breached the implied term of mutual trust and confidence and that there was no other option but to resign. However, that is not an easy claim to win and there has to be a reasonable degree of certainty that continuing to work for the employer in the circumstances is no longer possible.


 


In general, try and gather as much evidence as possible before considering making a formal complaint and certainly before going down the resignation route. As bullying often takes verbal form, the best way is to keep a detailed diary of all bullying occasions so that there is at least some evidence in written form that the employer and/or the tribunal can refer to.


 


It is also possible to try and agree a settlement agreement with the employer. You cannot force them to enter into one or even consider it but you have nothing to lose for suggesting it. If they refuse now, they may be prompted to seriously reconsider this if you were to proceed with a claim in the tribunal, especially as ACAS would then become involved in the negotiations process.


 

Customer:

Hi Ben,

Customer:

many thanks for this, is there any particular way i should put this info accros & how do i go about a settlement agreement?

Ben Jones :

Bullying is not covered by legislation although as mentioned above the Health & Safety Act will be relevant. To approach the subject of a settlement agreement you may wish to consider raising a grievance first - then you will have a formal dispute in place and as part of the grievance process you can approach the employer and state that you are willing to consider leaving under a settlement agreement if they are happy to think about that too. If they refuse then you may mention that if this grievance and the matter is not resolved fully you will consider a constructive dismissal claim and mention again that a settlement would be the best optin for all parties

Ben Jones :

Please let me know if this has answered your query or if you need me to clarify anything else for you in relation to this?

Customer:

Many thanks for getting back to me. Is this something that I am best engaging a solicitor for? I have head that a more official complaint via a solicitors letter could be more effective. I have heard that constructive dismissal is very difficult to prove and that disability discrimination may be a better option, but I just don't know enough about this.

Ben Jones :



OK, thank you, XXXXX XXXXX this with me - I will look into this for you, get my response ready and get back to you on here. No need to wait around and you will get an email when I have responded, thank you

Customer:

Thanks Ben, it really is appreciated.

Ben Jones :

Many thanks for your patience. Whilst it is not a requirement to engage a solicitor at this stage, or at any stage for that matter, it can sometimes help because it will show that you are taking this issue seriously. Getting a letter from a solicitor could strike an element of fear into someone because it automatically makes them think that some sort of legal action is imminent. However, there is of course no guarantee it will have that desired effect, although unless you try you will never know. So it is possible to engage a solicitor to write the letter but of course there will be extra costs associated with that with no guarantee it will make a difference.


 


Constructive dismissal is indeed a difficult claim and disability discrimination is an alternative as long as you can satisfy the criteria for being disabled and you can show that you were treated detrimentally because of it. However, due to the limited information I have about your situation I cannot advise about prospects of success with either claim and that is something only a solicitor who has conducted a formal case analysis can advise on.

Customer:

Thanks Ben. I think I just want to make sure I do not do anything incorrectly in either compiling a grievance, a letter before action / requesting a settlement agreement. Add to this we received notification (less than 24hrs) of managers being given access to our business e-mail in-boxes, which I do not understand as this seems to be a little more than monitoring.

Customer:

I thank you for your time in this & think my next course of action is meeting with someone to discuss options and a template for a letter.

Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 46792
Experience: Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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