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  • Writer's pictureConduct Change

Workplace Bullying needs recognising in UK Law

On 7 March 2023, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention 190 came into force in the UK, recognising the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment.

'The term “violence and harassment” in the world of work refers to range of unacceptable behaviours and practices, or threats thereof, whether a single occurrence or repeated, that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and includes gender-based violence and harassment.'

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) prepared a paper which was laid before Parliament in November 2021 which stated that the existing UK legislation satisfies the requirements of the Convention. In my opinion, that view needs to be challenged.

At Conduct Change, although a business, we have chosen to adopt the social purpose of advocacy, campaigning, education and awareness raising under the banner of Stop Hurt at Work. We agree that everyone has the right to work in an environment free from the harm caused by workplace bullying. However, we also believe that there are still gaps in the law that make it too difficult for workers who have been bullied to get access to justice through the Employment Tribunal or the courts, particularly where the bullying behaviour is not found to have focused on characteristics that are protected under legislation against discrimination and harassment. Bullying and harassment are not one and the same: ALL workers who have been targeted by bullying and whose employer has failed to act should be able to seek redress through the law.

Currently, a non-discriminatory bullying claim cannot be taken to a tribunal. There is no protection under Employment Law until at least 2 years, and even then, the complainant has to resign and bring a claim such as for constructive dismissal. There can be no claim for injury to feeling. Alternatively, if the level of harm has resulted in psychiatric injury, they can bring a personal injury claim through the civil courts.

The Stop Hurt at Work campaign has identified this problem and worked with legal experts to come up with a solution for cases in which bullying is not necessarily related to harassment or discrimination to bring equity within the Employment Tribunal.

However, more work needs to be done to protect those workers who would not be covered through these changes such as freelancers working in the creative industries.

We have already been liaising with Rachael Maskell MP to take forward a proposal to close the gaps in the law by means of a Private Member’s Bill, and are encouraging cross party support from other MPs.

We also recognise that legislation is only one part of the solution, and we continue to raise awareness about the damage that is done, not only to individuals but also to organisations by allowing bullying to continue. There is so much that can be done differently. It feels like the appetite for change is here. Are you ready?

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