Bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended - harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour could include:

  • spreading malicious rumours
  • unfair treatment
  • picking on someone
  • regularly undermining a competent worker
  • denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities

Bullying and harassment can happen:

  • face-to-face
  • by letter
  • by email
  • by phone

The law

Bullying itself isn’t against the law, but harassment is. This is when the unwanted behaviour is related to one of the following:

  • age
  • sex
  • disability
  • gender (including gender reassignment)
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation

What employees should do if they’re bullied or harassed

Employees should see if they can sort out the problem informally first. If they can’t, they should talk to their:

  • manager
  • human resources (HR) department
  • trade union representative

If this doesn’t work, they can make a formal complaint using their employer’s grievance procedure. If this doesn’t work and they’re still being harassed, they can take legal action at an employment tribunal.

They could also call the Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) helpline for advice:

Acas helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 1100
Minicom: 08456 06 16 00
Find out about call charges

Acas has also produced a guidance leaflet on bullying and harassment.

Employers’ responsibilities

Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment - they’re liable for any harassment suffered by their employees.

Having anti-bullying and harassment policies can help prevent problems. Acas has produced a booklet for employers, including advice on setting up a policy as well as how to recognise, deal with and prevent bullying and harassment.

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