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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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I am being bullied at work by a colleague she refuses to speak

Customer Question

I am being bullied at work by a colleague she refuses to speak to me and if I have to talk to her about work matters she does not answer and will snatch documents etc out of my hand. This situation has been ongoing for approx 8 months. I confronted her and asked if we could work together as a team and put aside whatever our differences were ( I have no idea why she is treating me the way she is) she ignored me and walked away. I am now off work with work related stress. Before going off work sick I consulted with my office manager and line manager and my line manager's boss - all of these managers more or less told me to ignore her and get on with it. I find this very difficult to do especially as I have hearing difficulties and she makes fun of this plus uses my hearing problems to manipulate the office so that I feel even more isolated. Does my place of work have a Duty of Care to take steps to help fix this problem?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Ben Jones : Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. How long have you worked there for?
Customer:

35 years since 1979 at the moment there is a lot of restructuring

Customer:

Ben

Ben Jones :

Hi, sorry I was offline when you replied today. This appears to be a case of bullying, which is unfortunately something that happens all too often in the workplace. 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 subjected to it.

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. In addition, they have the implied contractual duty to provide a safe and suitable working environment. That includes preventing, or at least effectively dealing with bullying behaviour occurring in the workplace.

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



  1. First of all, and if appropriate, 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. This formally brings the bullying issue to the attention of the employer and they will have a duty to investigate and deal with it.

  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 terms of mutual trust and confidence and failed to provide a safe working environment and that there was no other option but to resign. However, this step should only be used as a last resort as it can be risky, after all it will result in the employment being terminated.


In general, a victim should 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 reference in written form that the employer and/or the tribunal can refer to.

Hope this clarifies your position? If you could please let me know that would be great, thank you

Customer:

Ben thankyou for your answer. It has been helpful. However, could I also ask you to comment on my hearing problems too? I have been hard of hearing for approx 20 years. My hearing loss happened gradually after the births of my two children - I have been told it is an inherited condition which happens in pregnancy. Before the restructuring in my workplace I was in a small office with max of two other people - this was arranged by HR to accommodate my hearing problems which I experienced in a larger office with more people. Since restructuring I have been placed again in a large office and find it extremely difficult even with my hearing aid to hear what is happening. Can you advise me please?

Ben Jones :

Is your hearing issue linked to the bullying?

Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 46809
Experience: Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
Ben Jones and other Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I am not sure - I dont think so but at other times she uses my hearing problems against me. for example if a phone call come in on her extension for me she would tell me but I would not hear her so when I do finally realise that she is calling me she is laughing at me and trying to include other colleagues in her laughter by looking around to see who is joining her in the 'joke'. Also when I have to speak to her she calls out loudly 'speak up I cannot HEAR YOU'. So yes maybe it is linked to the bullying although she did start the bullying before she knew I had a hearing problem. thankyou for your first answer.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Ben


 


I wonder can you reply to my query about hearing problems please? You asked if the hearing issue is linked to the bullying and I would say it is on occasions. I have a meeting tomorrow morning with my line manager and HR so would appreciate your view on this. Thank you. Karen

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Hi, sorry I was away for a couple of days. If the bullying is linked to your hearing issues then it could amount to disability discrimination.

You will first need to ensure that your medical condition amounts to a disability in law. In the legal sense of the word, disability can have a broad meaning and there is no single list of medical conditions that qualify. Instead, to establish whether a person is disabled, they need to show that they meet the legal definition of a ‘disability’.

The Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

I will break this definition down:
• Physical or mental impairment – this can include nearly any medical condition;
• Substantial effect – the effect must be more than minor or trivial;
• Long-term - the effect of the impairment must either have lasted or be likely to last for at least 12 months;
• Normal day-to-day activities – these could include anything considered ‘normal’ in a person's normal daily routine (e.g. walking, driving, speaking, eating, washing, etc.)

If a person satisfies the above criteria, they will be classified as being disabled and will have automatic protection against discrimination, which means that they must not be treated unfavourably because of their disability.

If someone who is disabled is being treated unfavourably because of their disability it would potentially amount to disability discrimination. The first step would be to raise a formal grievance. The next step would be to consider whether a claim for disability discrimination should be made in an employment tribunal (the time limit for claiming is only 3 months from the date of the alleged discriminatory act taking place).

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