Dealing with Bullying or Harassment at Work

Recently we looked at the case of one of my clients who had learnt about sexual harassment happening within their company. Click here to see that blog again, or if you missed it. Fortunately that case was successfully resolved, but if ever you need to go to the next stage with such a case, here is how you should deal with it.

Following investigatory meetings, which you must carry out, and assuming that you decide that there is a case to be answered, a formal disciplinary interview should be set up with the person accused of bullying or harassment. This should be done in writing, with your employee being given a full written account of the evidence gathered against them, including the evidence reported by any witnesses. Whether or not it will be appropriate to state the names of any witnesses will depend on the circumstances.

At the same time, the employee should be given notice to attend the interview and informed of their right to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union official. It is essential to provide the accused employee with all the relevant facts at this stage, so that they have a proper opportunity to defend themselves when the interview takes place.

Ask and Listen

At the interview, you should ask open questions, i.e. those beginning with “what”, “which”, “why”, “how”, “where”, “when” and “who”, in order to get the employee’s side of the story. You should listen carefully to what they have to say, and take on board their explanations and any mitigating factors.

The purpose of the interview will be to establish whether or not there are proper grounds for taking disciplinary action against the employee and, if there are, what level of disciplinary action would be appropriate. This will depend on whether or not, following the interview, you have reasonable grounds for forming a genuine belief that incidents of harassment or bullying did in fact occur.

There is no need for you to have absolute proof of the employee’s ‘guilt’ in order to proceed with disciplinary action or dismissal, as long as you have, following a thorough investigation, formed a genuine and reasonable belief that incidents of bullying or harassment took place.

Deal with it Promptly

Depending on the seriousness of the behaviour, disciplinary action may range from a verbal warning to summary dismissal. In cases of mild harassment, for example a single incident that was based on a misunderstanding, or a series of minor incidents where an employee genuinely did not realise that there were causing offence, a sincere apology, together with an undertaking not to repeat the offending behaviour, may be appropriate.

If the outcome is a formal warning or dismissal, the employee should be granted the right of appeal against that decision, to someone who was not involved in either the investigation or the decision to impose the disciplinary sanction. If a warning is given, it should make it very clear that any further incidents of bullying or harassment of any kind will be viewed very seriously and will lead to further formal disciplinary action.

Both the employee who raised the complaint and the employee accused of bullying or harassment should be given written feedback on the outcome and any actions agreed once the proceedings have been concluded. Full confidential records should be kept of all complaints, all interviews conducted and the outcome of the proceedings.

The main aim of any formal action will be to make sure that the harassment or bullying stops immediately and does not recur. This means that you should treat any report of harassment or bullying seriously and deal with it immediately.

I hope that you never have to deal with a situation like this in your business. However, if you are worried about harassment or bullying – either a case that needs to be dealt with, or how to prevent it from happening – please contact me straight away by calling 0118 940 3032 or by clicking here to email me.

10 Reasons Not to Have Staff!

I know this might sound strange coming from an HR Consultant, but do you really need staff? Will they actually help your business to grow, or are they more hassle than they’re worth? This blog takes a tongue in cheek look at why you might actually be better off without them!

Reason One – If you don’t have staff, you know when something has been done, because you’ve done it. You don’t have to keep looking over someone’s shoulder, to see what they’re up to, and annoying and demotivating them in the process.

Reason Two – You don’t have to be worried about being bowled over by someone’s CV, which is possibly full of exaggerations. You don’t have to think about how many white lies they tell you, as they try to sell themselves in an interview. No staff means no need to waste time on recruitment.

Reason Three – Giving a job to a friend or a member of your family is never a good idea. If you don’t have staff, you’ll never have to upset anyone you know by not giving them the job. Just tell them that you don’t need staff and that you’d rather keep them as a great friend, or supportive member of the family. No need to fall out with them!

Reason Four – If you set up and run your own business, staff will never quite see your vision. It will be difficult to get them to see what you want from the businesses. If you don’t have staff, you can just focus on working on your vision yourself, rather than worrying about getting them to understand it.

Reason Five – No annoying processes to follow! Without staff, you don’t need to spend time putting together a Staff Handbook, or processes on everything from holidays, to maternity leave, to what they can say on social media (see Reason number Nine for more on this!)

Reason Six – You don’t have to pay anyone if you don’t have staff – you can keep all the money for yourself! After all, you earned it, so why shouldn’t you keep it all?

Reason Seven – Problems relating to harassment, bullying or stealing can’t rear their ugly heads if you don’t have staff to harass or bully each other (or you) or to steal from your business.

Reason Eight – Want to take a day off just because you feel like it? Want to turn up late for work, or not turn up all? Without staff, you can do it without having to justify your actions to them. And you don’t have to worry about them taking time off sick when really the problem is just a hangover!

Reason Nine – With no staff, you don’t need a social media policy and you don’t have to check what your staff are saying about your business on Twitter. They can’t waste company time on Facebook either, if they don’t work for you.

Reason Ten – There’s no need for an expensive Christmas party! Instead, go out for a meal with some friends, treat your spouse to a night at a nice hotel or go and see your favourite band in concert!

So have I put you off having staff, or taking on any more? If so, please don’t just sack all the staff you have now so you can enjoy the benefits of not having any. You’ll need a proper process for that!