Prosecute bullies in the workplace with existing laws

Employers and staff have been urged to report bullies in the workplace to the police so they can be prosecuted under existing criminal law rather than wait for specific anti-bullying legislation.

Unions and charities have called for stronger legal protection for victims of workplace bullying, but Stephen Levinson, a partner at Manches, said there were a number of legal remedies already in existence.

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

Other activities used widely 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.

“Some of the most common forms of bullying are also criminal offences under a variety of laws. Employers may be liable if they don’t take effective steps to protect their staff,” said Levinson.

But he admitted that the current legal position was unsatisfactory.

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