Laws in place to prosecute workplace bullies

Workplace bullies should be reported to the police and prosecuted under the criminal law, according to a leading employment lawyer.

Unions have called for legislation outlawing workplace bullying, but Stephen Levinson, a partner at Manches, said there are a number of legal remedies already in existence.

He said harassment involving threatening or abusive behaviour could be prosecuted under the Public Order Act which carries a maximum six-month prison sentence.

Other activities commonly used by office bullies, such as sending offensive letters or e-mails could be tackled under the Malicious Communications Act 1988.

There are also remedies under health and safety laws and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Levinson said.

“Some employers just turn a blind eye to the problem, costing their companies millions of pounds in lost efficiency and staff turnover, and laying themselves open to claims in employment tribunals,” he said.

“Yet some of the most common forms of bullying are also criminal offences under a variety of laws and employers may be liable themselves if they don’t take effective steps to protect their staff.”

But despite the existing remedies, Levinson admitted that the current legal position was unsatisfactory and echoed calls for stronger legal protection for victims of bullying.

Earlier this month, Personnel Today and the Andrea Adams Trust released the results of our annual survey into workplace bullying.

The survey of more than 1,400 HR professionals, revealed that almost 70% have witnessed or have been aware of bullying in their organisation.

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