Bullying in the workplace - but the employee has asked you not to do anything!


What do you do if an employee tells you they are being bullied at work - but they don't want you to do anything about it?

First of all what is Bullying?  It is any behaviour that is intended to humiliate or undermine a person in some way.  At work this can take many forms including: banter, excluding people from activities or ignoring them; and/or horseplay. You should have a policy on bullying and harassments which should give examples of behaviour that may be considered bullying (if you do not have a policy, please contact Practical HR or visit our First Line Support site).

Bullying is covered by the Health & Safety at work Act (1974) and means you have a duty to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of all your employees so far as is reasonably practicable. Bullying can affect an employee's mental health and therefore allegations of bullying can lead to claims for personal injury as well as constructive dismissal.

You also have a duty to comply with the Equality Act 2010 and if the bullying is targeted at a ‘Protected Characteristic' (Age, Disability, Sex, Gender reassignment, Race, Religion or Belief, Sexual Orientation, Marriage and Civil Partnership, Pregnancy & Maternity) of the employee it will also be covered by the Equality Act.

You therefore have a legal duty to take necessary action and investigate any allegations of bullying.  This legal duty gives you justifiable grounds to carry out a formal investigation even if the employee does not want you to.

If the employee really doesn't want you to investigate or take matters further then you really should ask them to confirm this in writing and their reasons why.  If you don't they could claim that you did nothing and it would be hard to defend this. Alternatively, you can write to the employee confirming the Company's policy and that you are willing to investigate the matter.

In all cases you should start with having an informal meeting with the employee and explore the reasons they do not wish you to do anything and explain why it is important for the matter to be addressed (and that others may be experiencing the same behaviour from this individual).

Angie.  You can contact Angie Dansey at

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