A recent report published by ACAS suggests that bullying is one of the biggest issues in the workplace. In the past 12 months ACAS received over 20,000 calls in relation to bullying. 83% of the calls came from employees, 60% of these callers were in the process of taking formal action.

ACAS estimates that bullying costs the economy nearly £18 billion a year in absence, staff turnover and lost productivity. Moreover, ACAS reported many callers mentioned suicidal thoughts and/or self-harming as a common symptom of being subjected to bullying.

The report also highlights some of the main demographics likely to suffer from bullying. These include: women in male dominated workplaces, ethnic minorities in the public sector, employees in the healthcare sector and LGBT workers or those with disabilities or on long-term sickness.

Bullying can take many forms including: verbal and physical abuse, ostracism, isolating, cyber abuse, hazing and over-zealous banter. While many employers might view incidents of bullying as one offs the report warns to be vigilant against institutionalised behaviour.

Many victims fear that making a complaint will make things worse and one of the most common responses to bullying is to move employees around. This is like treating the symptom and not curing the cause, so, we have a few tips to help avoid bullying.

1. A clear policy that is stuck to. It seems like a null point but it is actually better to have no policy at all than have one and not stick to it. In many cases involving bullying the policy states what procedures should take place if bullying occurs and if these don’t happen then the employer is liable but also it means that no employees will feel safe in reporting bullying.

2. Good managers. Good managers will not only create environments were bullying scenarios are less likely to occur they will also make employees comfortable and confident enough to report bullying. Furthermore they will be better placed to handle incidents of bullying. The Directors should set the standards of behaviour.

3. Training. Teaching both staff and managers about bullying to raise awareness will hopefully reduce the possibility of bullying issues arising.

If you would like any advice on this issue then please contact us.