We can help you make a claim if you’ve been bullied at work
It’s all too easy to pass off bullying at work as something out of your control, but we know how traumatic it can be. Not only does it make your day-to-day work life difficult, it can also leave you feeling depressed, alone and anxious.
Everybody has the right to feel safe and comfortable while at work – you don’t deserve to be threatened, belittled or harassed. If you’ve experienced bulling at work, we’re here to help you make it right.
Perhaps your employer didn’t put a stop to bullying when they should have, or they may have caused it in the first place – whatever your experience, you shouldn’t be left to deal with the emotional and psychological consequences.
If you’re looking for advice or would like to know whether you could make a claim, get in touch with us for free on 0800 376 0150. We’ll never pressure you into claiming – we’re simply here to answer your questions and give you the support you need.
Definition: what constitutes bullying or harassment?
The Equality Act 2010 defines harassment as:
- “Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.”
Harassment in the workplace of any type can be based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious or political belief as well as many other reasons. It includes bullying via phone, text, email or across social media.
Examples of bullying
ACAS – the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service – describes bullying or harassment as:
- “Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. Bullying or harassment may be by an individual against an individual (perhaps by someone in a position of authority such as a manager or supervisor) or involve groups of people. It may be obvious or it may be insidious. Whatever form it takes, it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual.”
Can I make a No Win No Fee workplace bullying compensation claim?
The answer’s ‘yes – but only if your claim fulfills certain strict conditions’. Under the terms of a No Win No Fee bullying at work compensation claim, there must be reasonable prospects of success at all times. The solicitor you engage must be able to:
- Prove harm – that you have suffered actual psychological or physical harm through medical diagnosis.
- Prove cause – that the harm sustained was caused by the incident(s) in question.
- Prove liability – that your employer was negligent in their duty of care to you because of something they did (action) – or failed to do (omission).
If the solicitor finds they can’t clearly satisfy all three of these three criteria, then the chances of winning a bullying at work compensation claim will effectively be zero. As a result, they won’t be able to handle it on No Win No Fee terms.
No medically-provable mental harm or physical injury means there’s no bullying compensation claim. There are circumstances where you could make a workplace bullying compensation claim: these are when a person has been mentally harmed or physically injured deliberately by a third party while at work. Such incidents fall into a category called workplace violence.
I’ve been bullied at work: what immediate actions can I take?
If the bullying is still going on, getting it stopped and bringing the offender to account is the most important thing you can do. Generally speaking, there are several ways you can tackle the situation – or at least start getting to grips with it:
- Discuss the incident(s) with your manager; they have a duty to listen to your concerns and investigate them. They can also escalate matters on your behalf.
- If this isn’t possible for whatever reason, talk to your HR person or department in confidence and use your company’s formal complaints and grievance procedure (if there is one).
- If there’s no formal HR function where you work, talk to a manager in a position of responsibility.
- Keep a diary of the incidents and keep any communications like emails, voicemails, SMS texts that could form useful evidence. If the problem has spilled over onto social media, take some screen-grabs of the offending messages if you can.
If you’re a member of a trades union, talk to your rep. They can talk to your employer on your behalf and be able to offer you support.
If that doesn’t work, what could I do next?
If the company’s internal complaints and grievances process has let you down and your employer has failed to sort things out, then you can apply for an Employment Tribunal.
Starting a tribunal is free and you do it through ACAS – the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. Tribunals are time-limited: you must start one within three months of the last incident.
The process works like this:
- Notify ACAS that you want to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal.
- They’ll ask you to complete and submit an Early Conciliation Notification form.
- In the first instance they’ll attempt to mediate the situation between you and your employer rather than have it go to an independent court hearing.
- If this early conciliation fails, they’ll send you a certificate that you use when you start the tribunal claim. You can do this online using the government’s website.
- You’ll need to submit a clear account of what happened, the sequence, who was involved and the impact the bullying has had on your life.
- For cases requiring a single day for the hearing, it typically takes four to six months to set the date. For tribunals needing more time for examination, it can take longer.
- At the hearing, you’ll be able to put your case forward and your employer will have the opportunity to respond.
- An independent panel will decide the outcome.
What’s the difference between bullying at work and workplace violence?
While workplace bullying tends to be manipulative, stealthy, psychological and typically non-violent, workplace violence is exactly that: overt and physical. Both can overlap with the former sometimes leading to the latter. Workplace violence incidents can range from verbal abuse and severe psychological harassment through to actual – and sometimes serious – assault. Not just by a co-worker but possibly by a customer, a supplier – or even a member of the public.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) defines workplace violence as: “Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. This can include verbal abuse or threats as well as physical attacks”. Physical assault is actually one of the most common causes of injuries at work.
- According to the HSE, there were an estimated 694,000 workplace violence incidents over the year ending in March 2018:
- 364,000 comprised threats
- 330,000 involved assault.
- In addition, 374,000 employed adults experienced violence at work in the same period with 41% suffering injury – around 5% of which were serious. You can read the HSE report here.
Violence in the workplace can cause problems such as depression, social anxiety and – in some cases – suicidal thoughts. These conditions can affect your family life as well as how you spend your leisure time.
How do I react to a physical assault at work?
- If you’ve been assaulted at work by a colleague, co-worker or any other third party during the course of your job, the first thing you must do is report it to your employer and the police.
Assault is a criminal offence and the police will investigate it. If there are grounds (and if the incident was not justifiably provoked by your own actions), they’ll make recommendations for criminal prosecution against the alleged perpetrator.
- Your employer will also investigate it and is duty-bound to make all necessary inquiries and take any disciplinary steps the situation dictates.
- If you’ve suffered mental harm and/or physical injury, then you could be eligible to make a No Win No Fee workplace violence compensation claim. The damages you could receive cover financial compensation for things like:
- The physical injuries and emotional trauma you’ve suffered.
- Any expenses or lost earnings it has caused you and your family.
- Any claim for an incident of workplace violence would be against your employer if they failed in their duty of care to you. Your employer could also be liable under the terms of what’s called ‘vicarious employers’ liability’.
- Rather than where an employer is liable for things they did (or failed to do), vicarious liability means they can also be held potentially liable for the acts or omissions of employees too – as long as they occurred as part of the job.
- If the injury you sustained was serious enough, you reported it to the police and you don’t have a criminal record, you may be able to make a personal injury claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). This body compensates the victims of violent crime in England, Scotland and Wales.
- In this scenario it, you could lodge a claim with CICA, just in case the liability claim against an employer fails. However, you can only be awarded damages for the incident once.
- Finally, you could have justification for making a civil claim against the assailant.
Workplace violence is a notoriously complex legal area. Each case is assessed on a case-by-case basis and you should always seek professional legal advice in the first instance.
What do I do if I’ve been abused psychologically?
Again, the most important thing is to get it stopped – quickly. Start by reporting it to your employer, talk to HR and/or your trades union representative and use the company complaints and grievances procedure. You may wish to apply for an Employment Tribunal and in severe cases, police involvement may be justified.
Psychological abuse in the workplace is actionable for compensation – but a claim needs a clear and diagnosed medical condition arising from the abuse. Examples would include conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or clinical depression. This is a complex medical and legal area so there are neither quick fixes nor hard and fast rules. You should seek professional advice at the earliest opportunity.
Other sources of advice and help
If the workplace bullying you’ve suffered hasn’t involved physical or psychological harm that can be diagnosed medically, we understand you may still be distressed by your experience.
There are organisations that you can contact for advice and help. You’ll find them below and they include:
- ACAS is the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. You can reach them on 0300 123 1150 or visit their website for more information.
- The Employment Tribunals Enquiry Line advises people who believe they have been treated unlawfully. Call on 0300 123 1024 or contact them via their website.
- BullyingUK is a national charity offering a free and confidential helpline on all aspects of bullying at work. Reach them on 0808 800 2222 or their website.
- Citizen’s Advice is the national charity that gives free and confidential advice for a range of issues and problems. Contact them on 03444 111444 or via their website.