Putting a stop to bullying by asafwewe


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									Putting a stop to bullying
(24/11/06) I've heard a lot about bullying and harassment in recent months, but from
the union's perspective, what do those terms really mean?

For most people, the terms bullying and harassment are used interchangeably.

Many definitions include bullying as a form of harassment. Generally speaking, harassment is
any unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of anyone in workplace. Harassment can be
related to the nationality, race, sex, sexuality, disability, religion, age or the characteristic of
an individual.

Bullying is characterised as offensive. We see it as bad behaviour that has extended from the
playground to the workplace. It is intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or
misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the

All employees have the right to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness. Bullying denies
this. It is totally unwelcome and unacceptable.

What sort of things count as bullying and harassing behaviour in the workplace?

There's a whole range of behaviour that would constitute bullying and/or harrassment,

    •   l spreading malicious rumours;

    •   l insulting a person by words or behaviour on the grounds of nationality, race, sex,
        sexuality, disability, religion, age or belief;

    •   l setting a person up to fail;

    •   l ridiculing, demeaning or picking on someone;

    •   l preventing individuals progressing their career by intentionally blocking promotion or
        training opportunities;

    •   l misusing power or position, including overbearing supervision.

Bullying and harassment need not be face-to-face. It can occur in written communications
such as letters and emails, while people can also experience bullying and harassment over
the telephone.

If one of my members is being bullied or harassed at work, could it really affect their
health and wellbeing?

People who are bullied or harassed may feel anxious or humiliated. They can develop
feelings of helplessness, anger and frustration, which in turn may lead to stress, loss of self-
confidence and illness.

In most cases, job performance is affected and relationships with other work colleagues

The Health and Safety Executive acknowledges that bullying at work causes stress, so it
follows that victims are also likely to suffer from stress-related illness such as ulcers, suicidal
thoughts and high blood pressure.
What is the legal position?

Your employer has a duty of care and is responsible for preventing bullying and harassment
within the workplace. Under health and safety laws, employers have a duty to assess risks to
employees and to develop and introduce policies and procedure to control the risks.

In July 2006, a landmark judgement in the House of Lords, in the case of an NHS policy
worker, established that the Protection from Harassment Act does apply to workplace bullying
and harassment, thus potentially giving more protection to staff.

Since policies alone will not prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace, this was an
important and welcome ruling.

What can UNISON do to help anyone who is suffering?

UNISON can help represent members and take cases against the employer. In the past,
UNISON has secured many lump-sum settlements for members.

But prevention is always better than compensation after the fact - branches should campaign
to eradicate workplace bullying. Many branches actively participated in the 'Ban bullying at
work' day on 7 November.

UNISON's new 'Ban bullying' poster has been sent out to branches, while information on
bullying and harassment policies is available in the bargaining information system on the
UNISON website.

Make sure that members know that they don't need to suffer in silence.

(InFocus, December)

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