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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 50177
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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I have been subjected to bullying behaviour by my work colleague

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I have been subjected to bullying behaviour by my work colleague for the past 2.5 years. My department has witnesses this behaviour and my line manager witnessed her being aggressive and verbally nasty to me in a meeting. This person has recently put in a bullying complaint against me, the complaint form was untrue and vexatious. It's slanderous and paints me to be a monster. The investigation concluded that there was no evidence and that there was no case to answer to. She has since put in an appeal. I have been on antidepressants to help control my anxiety and have been off with work related stress. I want to know if I have a case for slaunder against this person and if I have a case against my employer for allowing me to suffer and not give me any support. I have to continue to work in this unbearable situation without a solution. I work in the public sector. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Ben Jones : Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Have you ever complained to the employer formally about this, such as through a grievance?
Customer: Hello Ben, the answer is no I haven't. I am nervous about this but will do it if advised. Where do I stand with the person who has put me through this. My health has been effected because of the stresses. This person has caused lots of problems for other people too but is intent on making my working life extremely difficult.
Ben Jones :

Hi, thanks for getting back to me. Whilst potentially this could amount to slander, this is a very complex and expensive process and it is certainly not something I would recommend you pursue in the circumstances. You are easily looking at a five figure sum just to process this through the courts, without any guarantee of success. Even if you win, you cannot just expect the other person to pay any compensation you may be awarded and if they refuse you would then have to apply certain enforcement methods which will inevitably increase the costs further. So realistically this is not really something which should be pursued as a slander claim.

In terms 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

Customer: I have a diary of all the incidents and my meetings with managers so I believe I'm in a good place to put in a grievance. My managers know that my health has been affected by it all and also what this individual is like (we're in the same team). Your advice has been most helpful, it has also helped me decide not to pursue the slander route. Thank you
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