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Bullying and Respect at Work Bill

In July of last year, a Private Members’ Bill, the Bullying and Respect at Work Bill, was presented in the House of Commons. The Bill called for the introduction of a statutory definition of bullying at work and an associated right for employees to bring claims of workplace bullying in an Employment Tribunal.

Based on the wording of the Bill, it is envisaged that the legal concept of bullying may be constructed as an extension of the existing protection from harassment (as enshrined by section 26 of the Equality Act) by removing the requirement for the unwanted conduct to be related to a protected

The Bill suggests that a dismissal arising from bullying should be automatically unfair and therefore, it is likely that an employee will be able to bring a claim for automatic unfair dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996. The Bill also suggests a six-month limitation period for claims, rather than the usual three months for existing automatic unfair dismissal claims.

Employers should ensure that their grievance and investigation policies are regularly updated and fit for purpose in addition to ensuring staff are appropriately trained. It would also be wise to consider refreshing or introducing a specific respect at work policy that prohibits bullying in the workplace and sets associated behaviour/conduct requirements of staff so that there is a clear message of a zero-tolerance.

The additional legal redress partially plugs the current gap within the existing legal framework, because currently the only potential options pursuable in an Employment Tribunal by an employee in bullying-related circumstances are for constructive unfair dismissal or a whistleblowing detriment.

Some advocate that it would be logical and fair for redress to be made available for victims of bullying but who have not necessarily been dismissed as a result, and it may be that this is considered as the Bill is discussed further in Parliament.

Moreover, as with discrimination claims, in addition to employers, individual perpetrators of discriminatory conduct are potentially personally liable for the harm suffered by victims.

The Bill had its first reading in Parliament on 11 December 2023 and is due to have a second reading on 7 June 2024.

Source: Lexology

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