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Workplace Bullying (13 July 2023)



It may still come as a surprise to some, but there is no stand-alone legal claim outlawing workplace bullying, unless it is on grounds of a protected characteristic (for example on grounds of their sex, religion, sexual orientation, race etc).

As a result of this, if a person is bullied in the workplace, and it is not on grounds of a protected characteristic, then the main remedy (if they are an employee not available to workers) is to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal. There are other claims that they can pursue in the civil court such as under the Protection of Harassment (otherwise known as stalker legislation) or a personal injury claim if the bullying resulted in any personal injury such as psychiatric injury.

However on 11 July 2023, Rachel Maskell (MP for York Central) presented a Bill to parliament to introduce a statutory definition of workplace bullying at work.

The Bill, if enacted, would:

  • Introduce a statutory definition of workplace at work.
  • Enable stand-alone claims relating to workplace bullying to be considered by an employment tribunal;
  • Provide for a Respect at Work Code to set minimum standards for positive and respectful work environments;
  • Give powers to the GB Equalities and Human Rights Commission to investigate workplaces where there is evidence of a culture of, or multiple incidents of bullying;
  • Allow enforcement action to be taken for breaches and for connected purposes.
  • Suggests a 6-month period to bring a claim.
  • Provide for injury to feelings awards and compensation.

This is a Private Member Bill (PMB) and historically not many ever-become law. However, we have seen this change in the last year with the Government supporting several PMB including the Carers Leave Bill, the Neonatal (Leave and Pay) Bill and the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill.

As employment law is devolved in Northern Ireland, Rachel Maskells PMB would not apply if, if enacted, however  it could instigate a discussion on this and path the way for such laws in the future, should the Stormont Executive make a return.

The full discussion in parliament can be viewed here