Everyone has the right to go to work and to feel safe in their working environment. If the way you are being treated at work means that you do not feel safe, you should make your employer aware of this. This will give it the opportunity to deal with any issues and hopefully tackle any unpleasant or unacceptable behaviour. If your employer fails to take effective action, then this may amount to a breach of trust and confidence which can in turn give rise to claims in the Employment Tribunal.
It is important to consider whether any bullying behaviour relates to a ‘protected characteristic’ (i.e. disability, age, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender re-assignment). If the treatment relates to one of these characteristics then it may amount to discrimination.
It is important to bear in mind that you do not need to directly be the subject of any comments in order for them to cause offence, nor do you have to possess the relevant protected characteristic. General comments about those with protected characteristics can suffice. For example, comments about a particular gender or a particular age group. An example of this would be the case of English v Thomas Sanderson Blinds. In this case Mr English was the subject of anti-homosexual taunting. He was not a homosexual but found the comments by their very nature to be offensive. He was able to claim harassment because the conduct related to a protected characteristic, albeit not one he possessed.
In the above situations it is important to bring the treatment to the attention of your employer. This gives them, and everyone involved, the chance to deal with the issue before it escalates. An employer can only tackle treatment that they are, or could be, aware of. You could raise your concerns informally or via a formal grievance procedure. Often the latter can be preferable so that you have a written record of your concerns and your employer is then obliged to deal with them.
Hopefully, highlighting the behaviour will allow your employer to take steps to address and prevent future instances, and to highlight to those involved that the treatment is not acceptable. Whilst it is no excuse for unpleasant and, in the case of discrimination, unlawful treatment, it may be that those involved were not aware of the impact of their behaviour on you. By highlighting this and taking action against those involved, where appropriate, the treatment will hopefully cease.
If the treatment does not stop then you may want to consider pursuing a claim in the Employment Tribunal.
If you believe that you have been bullied or discriminated against, or if you have any other questions about your employment rights, then we can help. Here at Beecham Peacock we have a trusted relationship with some of the largest trade unions in the country to protect your working rights. For further information call us on 0191 232 3048 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.