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A workplace bullying and harassment policy is one of the most important policies in your business. It is vital to outline the definitions of bullying and harassment and detail your business’ processes and approaches to bullying and harassment issues. This policy is essential for ensuring clarity with employees about how to manage problems that arise. In addition, this policy can strengthen your business’ culture and help your business comply with obligations under employment and health and safety law. 

This article will set out three things to include in a workplace bullying and harassment policy, aside from standard inclusions such as the definition of bullying and harassment. These include:

  • practical examples of bullying and harassment;
  • an explanation about sexual harassment; and 
  • instances that do not qualify as bullying. 

Examples of Bullying and Harassment

It is essential that your bullying and harassment policy has a clear definition of bullying and harassment. However, definitions for these terms can sometimes be hard for employees to contextualise in your business’ workplace. Consequently, it can be a helpful addition to your policy to add tangible examples of bullying and harassment. The advantage of this is that your employees have a clear idea of what behaviours your business will not tolerate.

Additionally, you can also use this document to spell out any practices at your business that you want to emphasise are not okay. 

Bullying and harassment can come in many forms. Thus, you should not expect to provide a complete list of the different ways they can occur in the workplace. That said, some ideas about kinds of examples to include are: 

  • aggression, intimidation or threatening behaviour;
  • spreading harmful rumours or inappropriate practical jokes;
  • excluding someone in an unreasonable way; 
  • physically handling or pushing; 
  • asking someone to do something inappropriate at work; 
  • overworking someone on purpose; and
  • giving someone too little work or not giving them the information or equipment they need to do their work.

Harassment is another example of where it can be helpful to provide employees with tangible, real-life ways in which behaviour or conduct can amount to harassment. Some examples of harassment include:

  • stopping someone from accessing the workplace;
  • regularly accosting an employee with no basis;
  • stealing or otherwise interfering with an employee’s property;
  • gossiping about an employee in a malicious way; 
  • following or loitering near an employee in an unwanted way; or 
  • watching an employee, particularly outside the workplace. 

Highlight Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a particularly harmful and problematic type of harassment. Unfortunately, it is common for businesses to opt for a brief reference to sexual harassment as a form of harassment in their bullying and harassment policy. Instead, you should ensure that your bullying and harassment policy details both:

  • a specific definition of sexual harassment; and 
  • practical examples of sexual harassment instances. 

Sexual harassment is defined differently from other forms of harassment. Sexual harassment is language or behaviour of a sexual nature that is unwelcome or offensive to an employee. Likewise, it has a detrimental effect on their satisfaction or performance at work because it is repeated or significant. 

Further, a good point to highlight in your policy is that sexual harassment can occur even when the person whose conduct is in question did not intend or realise that their conduct would be unwelcome or offensive. Instead, the critical distinction is whether the employee found the conduct unwelcome or offensive

Be Clear on What Is Not Bullying

An additional element to clarify in your bullying and harassment policy is which behaviours or actions do not amount to bullying or harassment. This level of detail can help to prevent misunderstandings with employees. For example, suppose a manager gives an employee constructive feedback or tells them how to do their work. In that case, this will not constitute bullying or harassment if they are following proper procedures. 

Some examples of acceptable behaviour include:

  • when an employee is being put through a disciplinary procedure;
  • when someone provides constructive feedback;
  • instructions to an employee as to how to do their work;
  • performance management reviews; and
  • the setting of high standards at work. 

Key Takeaways

A workplace bullying and harassment policy is an essential document for your business’ culture and employee wellbeing. Likewise, there are some details to include to make a policy more effective. These include practical examples of bullying and harassment to give employees a more tangible understanding of what is and is not acceptable. It can also be helpful to spell out the seriousness of sexual harassment to help clarify your business’ approach to certain behaviour. Finally, consider detailing what conduct is acceptable.

For more information about drafting an effective bullying and harassment policy, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of examples should you include in a workplace bullying and harassment policy?

There are no required or mandatory examples, but it is helpful to provide a range of common examples of unacceptable behaviour. For example, aggression, intimidation or threatening behaviour or spreading harmful rumours can amount to workplace bullying.

Why explain in a policy what conduct is not bullying?

There can sometimes be misunderstandings around standard employer practices, such as performance management reviews and disciplinary procedures. These practices are not bullying or harassment so long as employers and employees follow the business’ policies and procedures. A good policy should make this clear to employees. 

Is setting high standards of performance bullying?

No, setting high standards is not bullying, and a policy can clarify this with an example. However, overworking a particular employee on purpose is not the same as setting high standards and could be classified as bullying.

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