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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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I have been employed for a leading charity for 7 and a half

Resolved Question:

I have been employed for a leading charity for 7 and a half years. During the past five of these years I have suffered continual verbal abuse and sometimes i have been physically threatened by individuals who congregate outside the book shop in Stirling where I am Manager. The Police seem unable to do anything about it and I find the situation extremely frusstrating as I am expected to work to set targets. The footfall in the area has diminished. Last Sunday I was sent an email form my Area Manager which was meant for the HR Advisor. In it she complains taht I continually sned her emails and she is walking a tight line with me. Apparently the only time she gets peace from me is when I am on holiday. This email was sent on a Bank Holiday weekend to the HR Advisor!! The tone of the email is also one of very friendly and not what one would expect in an official capacity. These two are who I rely on for any support in my extremely difficult situation. The HR Advisor phoned and asked me to attend a meeting with my Area Manager on Monday at 11 a.m. The main problem I have with that is that I have done absolutely nothing wrong here. I feel they will be apportioning blame to me to say I somehow provoked such a reaction by her. The Area Manager unfortunatley does not have many people skills and to my mind is in the wrong job. She always wants to be kept in the loop and copied into emails etc. She is also extremely paranoid and has little in eth way of compassion when anyone is ill or has a family bereavement. I have said i will only attend the meeting if an apology is to be made to me. I have informed the Union who have as yet not gotten back to me. I also have written to the CEO and the Operations Manager. I have very little faith that such a meeting would be impartial given that the other people there will be the two individuals concerned. I have been off work on a couple of occasions due to stress three years ago. I have also developed Fibromyalgia which can be exacerbated by stress. I know I need to get out but I cannot afford just to give my work up. Many Thanks. Carol E Gray
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.
Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

Ben Jones :

What do you hope to achieve please?

Customer:

I woud like to be working in a safe environemnet where me and my team of 50 volunteers can feel safe and not exposed to alcohol and/or drugged up individuals. I also would like my Area Manager to be dealt with appropriately. She is a "by the book " person and comes down really hard if anyonemakes an error. She is a very controlling person and would take over your whole life if allowed. In all of my working life I have worked very hard and have not had any hassels with disciplinaries or any such thing. Last year ,howver I received a written warning because It was deemed that I had brought Oxfam into disrepute by complaing to the Police over their non attendance at an incident where a vulnerable member of the community( with learning difficulties) was being assaulted and came into thh shop asking for help.

Ben Jones :

OK thank you, ***** ***** it with me. I am in a tribunal today so will prepare my advice during the day and get back to you this afternoon. There is no need to wait and you will receive an email when I have responded. Thank you

Ben Jones :

Many thanks for your patience. As a general rule, The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and related statutory instruments impose a general duty on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. This includes a duty to undertake risk assessments and manage activities to reduce any effects on employees’ health and safety at work. In addition, under common law an employer owes a duty of care towards its employees, the breach of which can amount to negligence.

So if you believe that the employer has failed in their duty towards you in terms of ensuring your health and safety it could be a breach that they need to urgently address, otherwise it could amount to breach of contract and allow you to resign and claim constructive dismissal.

In terms of the issues you are experiencing with the other person at work, then her actions could actually amount to a form of bullying. This 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

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