A new Acas study published last week has found not only that workplace bullying is on the rise in Britain, but that many people are too afraid to speak up about it.

The Acas paper “Seeking better solutions: tackling bullying and ill-treatment in Britain's workplaces” looked at the latest research on workplace bullying as well as calls to the Acas helpline from employers and employees.

The Acas helpline has received around 20,000 calls related to bullying and harassment over the past year with some callers reporting that workplace bullying caused them to self-harm or consider suicide.

The analysis by Acas showed that:

  • representative surveys of workplaces, health and safety representatives and employees all show that workplace bullying and ill-treatment is growing in Britain
  • there are more incidences of bullying within certain groups such as public sector minority ethnic workers; women in traditionally male-dominated occupations; workers with disabilities or long-term health problems; lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender people; and workers in health care.

The study recommends that workplaces agree standards of acceptable and unacceptable behaviours and that senior leaders act as role models for these standards.

The TUC has also recently published guidance on how to deal with bullying at work. Apart from joining a union, the TUC advises workers to:

  • speak to the bully if they feel able to do so
    tell a colleague or manager
  • go to the union rep (assuming they are already a member) and tell them what is happening
  • keep a diary to record the nature of the bullying and when it occurred
  • make a formal complaint

Iain Birrell of Thompsons Solicitors commented “we often see the effects of workplace cutbacks, reduced staffing levels and pressure to hit unrealistic targets. It is no surprise to see that such unwanted personal conduct is on the rise. It is important to note though that the law is not a good ally in these circumstances though. An employment tribunal cannot hear any case of bullying unless it was either so bad that it amounted to a constructive dismissal, or was conducted for discriminatory reasons due to the victim’s sex, race, disability etc. This is where trade unions have such an important role to play as they can stand up for the victim in circumstances where they may be too badly affected to stand up for themselves.”

To read the Acas report in full, go to: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/e/b/Seeking-better-solutions-tackling-bullying-and-ill-treatment-in-Britains-workplaces.pdf

To read the TUC advice, go to: https://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace-issues/health-and-safety/bullying/bullied-work-dont-suffer-silence