Top Tips for Dealing with Bullying and Harassment Claims
June 24th, 2015 09:13
While claims management teams may mostly be used to dealing with claims for physical damage or injuries such as slips, trips and falls, issues like bullying and harassment may also come up and companies can be held liable for any damages caused in these cases.
So, what can a company – and its claims management team – do to deal with cases of bullying and harassment more effectively? Here are some tips:
UNDERSTAND THE LAW
According to Acas, bullying and harassment are defined as: “Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.”
In the UK, bullying is not an offence, but harassment is. Harassment is when unwanted behaviours are related to a person’s:
- gender (including gender reassignment)
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
Employers are responsible for taking steps to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace and they can be held liable for any harassment suffered by employees. To mitigate such issues, employers should create anti-bullying and harassment policies and ensure that staff are aware of these.
It’s also important to note that whistle blowers – that is, employees who have made a disclosure in the public interest – cannot be punished, dismissed or treated differently than other employees. Negative treatment following such a disclosure can be viewed as a form of bullying or harassment and an employee can claim against the company for unfair dismissal.
WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THE BULLYING AND HARASSMENT POLICY?
A company’s bullying and harassment policy should encourage victims to come forward and it should also set out a method for reporting and dealing with the issue that makes the victim feel safe.
In most cases, the best option is to provide an informal route for reporting incidents. It’s also important to balance the procedure so that the rights of the alleged bully or harasser are also protected.
Be sure that the policy is also clear about what staff and managers should do if they believe someone else is being bullied or harassed.
WHAT TO DO IF THERE’S A CLAIM OF BULLYING OR HARASSMENT?
When an employee makes a claim in regards to bullying or harassment in the workplace, it’s important to investigate the claim thoroughly. This will help you gain a better understanding of what happened and determine whether the case was bullying or harassment. JCAD LACHS claims handling software can also assist with the process.
In some cases, a claim may be malicious in intent, either towards the person being reported or the company as a whole. So, to begin with, make sure you use an impartial investigator who has been trained to deal with such situations.
It may also be a good idea to move the alleged bully or harasser to other duties, redeploy them or offer a paid, precautionary suspension of the alleged bully or harasser while the investigation is being carried out. Make it clear that this is not considered a disciplinary action.
Once a decision on the case has been made, you must decide how to deal with the situation.
If the claim of bullying or harassment is substantiated, review the employee’s contract to ensure any steps taken meet your contractual obligations. Some options to consider include:
- Requiring the employee to attend training or counselling
- Giving the employee a warning (formal or informal, depending on the situation)
If a claim for harassment or bullying is not substantiated, then it might be a good idea to consider a process of mediation to resolve any issues. If mediation does not work, other actions may be considered, such as redeployment.