Workplace Bullying and Incivility: New Legislation and Tips for HR

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Over one-third of UK employees face some form of workplace bullying and incivility, out of which 15% have been bullied, according to CIPD. Workplace incivility refers to any uncivil behaviour such as sexual harassment, bullying, abusive behaviour etc. The report regarding workplace incivility was published by CIPD in 2019 but unfortunately, not much has changed since then.

UK workers still face harassment and bullying in their workplaces, and to combat that, an anti-bullying bill was presented, on 11th July, in the House of Commons. This bill will hold those who use their power to bully others accountable while protecting the victims. It will also, for the first time, provide a clear legal definition of bullying at work.

The main objectives of the bill are:

  1. To establish a legal definition of, and address, bullying at work.
  2. To enable victims of workplace bullying to bring their claims to an employment tribunal for consideration.
  3. To set minimum standards for positive and respectful work environments, i.e., a Respect at Work Code
  4. To empower the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to investigate and act against workplaces where there is evidence of frequent bullying.

Work Related Behaviour Results in Millions of Lost Working Days

Rachael Maskell, the MP who introduced the bill, stated that bullying is a significant workplace issue, with 29% of workers experiencing it at some point and 1 in 10 having experienced it in the past six months. However, many victims never report bullying due to a lack of access to justice and fear of further exposure without legal protection.

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She further adds, “Like most MPs, I have had a constant stream of constituents seeking help, but there is no legal definition, no legal protection and no legal route to justice. Without protection, many workers will leave their employment.

The UK is behind the curve. Jurisdictions from Canada to Australia, Scandinavia to many across Europe have well-established law in this field.”

She emphasized that this bill would also benefit employers. It aims to address the issue of workplace bullying because it costs UK businesses £18 billion each year. According to the Health and Safety Executive, work-related negative behaviours like bullying result in the loss of over 17 million working days annually.

What Can HR Do to Reduce Workplace Incivility?

The first and foremost thing to do will be to address the incivility, to begin with. Workplace bullying and harassment cause an immense amount of stress and anxiety leading to poor performances at work, shabby conduct, and an increase in absenteeism. This is especially the case when workplace incivility is coming from higher-ups in the organisation.

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If you are an HR manager, creating a model that pushes employees to be better is one way to go about it. Offering rewards and recognition for good behaviour may seem like a forced attempt at a positive environment, but it will reduce the chances of incivility.

Additionally, Harvard Business Review reported that around 25% of managers admitted to being uncivil because they saw their role models behave that way. Hence, leading by example as a manager will show junior employees that they too can be unproblematic and in a higher position.

The Bill is said to have its second reading on 24th November 2023.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing workplace bullying, get in touch with the employment law specialist at Redmans Solicitors today for a FREE consultation!


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