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As an employer, facing accusations of discrimination at work, workplace bullying or harassment at work can be stressful and disruptive.
Employers have a legal duty of care towards their employees which means that you could face a claim for compensation if an employee believes that duty of care has been breached.
If you are notified of a potential problem, it is always recommended to seek legal advice without delay. By stepping in early, we often find that it is possible to resolve issues quickly and prevent the situation from escalating.
For expert legal advice from our experienced Employment and HR team, please get in touch.
Our expertise with discrimination, bullying and harassment advice for employers
Advice on discrimination, bullying and harassment policies
As an employer, you should have robust policies in place in respect of discrimination, bullying and harassment. These should set out how you expect your employees to behave, what they should do if they witness wrongful behaviour and a set process for dealing with any issues that arise.
Having well-drafted policies in place often goes a long way to avoiding misunderstandings and disputes arising. They can be used as a strong foundation for creating an environment of respect in the workplace.
Responding to employee claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment
As soon as you are made aware of a problem, you should take action. Failure to do so could be seen as a failure in your duty of care to your employee.
Your discrimination, bullying and harassment policy should set out a detailed procedure to be followed.
Initially, it may be possible to deal with the issue informally by holding discussions with those involved. If this does not resolve the issue, then the next step may be a formal grievance being raised by your employee, in which case you should follow your grievance procedure and ideally also speak to an expert employment solicitor who will be able to offer you advice on handling the situation.
Deescalating discrimination, bullying and harassment claims in the workplace
It is important to take any allegations seriously from the start so that the employee feels that they are being listened to. Your treatment should be fair and sensitive to all of those involved.
You should speak to the person who has made the complaint as soon as you can and ask them what they would like to happen. They might like the situation monitored, advice on how to deal with it, an apology, an informal conversation between you and the person about whom they have complained or some form of mediation to help resolve the issue.
Employment tribunal representation
If the issue is not resolved, either formally or informally, your employee may choose to take their case to an employment tribunal.
At BakerLaw we have extensive experience in representing employers in employment claims at tribunal and we can prepare a strong case on your behalf.
It may still be possible to resolve the issue before the hearing by way of early conciliation. If agreement cannot be reached, we can represent you at tribunal to ensure that you have a sound defence.
Applications to the Employment Appeal Tribunal
If you do not agree with the employment tribunal decision, it is open to you to ask the Employment Appeal Tribunal to examine the case. This can be requested if we believe that the employment tribunal has made an error on a point of law or if there has been procedural unfairness or improper conduct by the employment tribunal.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal will not generally look at fresh evidence and will not review the facts of a case.
If you wish to have a case reviewed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, we can examine the legal details for you and prepare solid grounds for your appeal.
Discrimination, bullying and harassment claims explained
What are employers’ responsibilities with regard to discrimination, bullying and harassment?
As an employer, you are obligated to do what you can to stop discrimination, bullying and harassment from happening in the workplace.
By putting policies in place governing employee behaviour, you will be able to demonstrate that you are committed to stopping discrimination, bullying and harassment. You must also deal with issues thoroughly as soon as they are raised.
If you do not adequately protect an employee and they feel that they have no option but to resign, there is a risk that they could claim constructive dismissal.
What qualifies as discrimination at work?
Discrimination at work is the treatment of someone on a less favourable basis than someone else on the grounds of certain ‘protected’ characteristics, as follows:
- Being married or in a civil partnership
- Pregnancy or being on maternity leave
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
- Gender reassignment
Discrimination can be direct or indirect. An example of indirect discrimination is where only part-time workers are offered promotions when most part-time workers are female.
Harassment and victimisation are also types of discrimination.
What is considered workplace bullying?
Workplace bullying is behaviour that is intimidating, insulting, malicious, offensive or humiliating, or an abuse of authority that undermines someone.
It could include being excluded from meetings or events, to include office gatherings, being overloaded with work, being given an unwarranted poor appraisal or being passed over for promotion.
What counts as harassment at work?
The Equality Act 210 defines harassment as unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic that violates someone’s dignity or creates a hostile, humiliating, intimidating, degrading or offensive environment. This could be by mocking someone, making jokes, banter referring to a protected characteristic or the display of images that make employees feel uncomfortable.
If you or anyone at your business has been accused of discrimination, bullying or harassment, you should address this as soon as you can. At BakerLaw we are often able to intervene to resolve issues quickly and before positions become entrenched.
We are expert negotiators and will work efficiently to deal with a difficult problem so that you can put it behind you and return your focus to your organisation.
We understand that costs are likely to be a key consideration when dealing with legal claims, however it is often more cost-effective to involve a solicitor than to try to manage the issue internally. Failing to deal robustly with an allegation risks exposing your business to a substantial claim for compensation.
At BakerLaw we always make sure that our pricing is fair and transparent. Wherever possible, we deal with issues on a fixed fee basis so that you know exactly what the cost of our expert advice will be.
Where ongoing legal support is needed, we typically charge on a fixed hourly rate with all work agreed in advance so that you remain in control of expenditure at all times.
Find out more about our pricing.
Contact our discrimination, bullying and harassment solicitors for employers
If you are an employer looking for discrimination, bullying and harassment advice, our expert employment lawyers can help.