Bullying in the workplace

Part two: Businesses need to put robust measures in place to make sure they do not inadvertently allow workplace bullying to occur

Published:  13 November, 2017

In part one of our look at bullying in the workplace, we looked at how bullying is defined, enabling businesses to understand when what may be construed as bullying is taking place between staff members. The next step is handling the situation.

Employers are liable for harassment between employees, and can also be liable for harassment which comes from a third party (for example, a customer). Just as importantly, individuals also have a responsibility to behave in ways which support a non-hostile working environment for themselves and their colleagues.

From an employer’s point of view, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), says their first responsibility is “to put in place a robust and well communicated policy that clearly articulates the organisation’s commitment to promoting dignity and respect at work.” The policy should give examples of what constitutes harassment, bullying and intimidating behaviour; that these will be treated as a disciplinary offence; clarify the legal implications and outline the costs associated with liability; describe how employees can get help and make a complaint; promise that allegations will be treated seriously and quickly; note managerial responsibilities; and emphasise that every employee is responsible for their own behaviour.

Employees should be briefed on their obligations, rights and procedure should an issue arise. The policy should be monitored and regularly reviewed for effectiveness.

What will surprise employers is that their responsibilities may extend to any environment where work-related activities take place including social gatherings organised by the employer, such as work parties or outings, unless they can show they took reasonable steps to prevent harassment. Where discrimination-based harassment has occurred employers and individuals can be ordered to pay unlimited compensation, including the payment of compensation for injury to feelings. Individuals can be prosecuted under criminal law too.

Issues arising
When a complaint is made, the CIPD say that it should be dealt with promptly. “Some may be dealt with internally and informally, and in minor cases it may be sufficient for the recipient of harassment to raise the problem with the perpetrator, pointing out the unacceptable behaviour.” But what happens if an employee finds this difficult or embarrassing? Here the CIPD say that procedures should permit support from a colleague, an appropriate manager or someone from the HR department.

Informal procedures should also allow for mediation which may help solve the problem and while maintaining workplace harmony. Acas (http://www.acas.org.uk) can help with this. But if informal approaches don’t work, the next step, is, says the CIPD, to trigger formal a procedure. “These will be needed if the harassment is serious, persists, or if the individual prefers this approach.” To follow this approach, organisations should have a clear formal policy to deal with grievances and disciplinary issues, including bullying and harassment, and this should comply with the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance matters.

Part of the process means that any formal allegation of harassment, bullying or any intimidating behaviour should be treated as a disciplinary offence. The CIPD’s advice for investigating, which is backed up by Acas, means that the process should include a prompt, thorough and impartial response; the taking of evidence from witnesses; listening to both the alleged harasser and the complainant’s version of events; a time-scale for resolving the problem; and confidentiality in the majority of cases.

Employers should keep a record of complaints and investigations including the names of those involved, dates, the nature and frequency of incidents, action taken, follow-up and monitoring information. “Remember,” say the CIPD, “all sensitive information should be treated confidentially and meet the requirements of the data protection law which itself is about to get more punitive.”

Lastly, if a complaint is upheld the CIPD says “it may be necessary to relocate or transfer one of those involved to another part of the organisation… and it should not automatically be the complainant who is expected to move, but they should be offered the choice where practical.” It’s also important to keep in mind that where the perpetrator is transferred, no breach of contract must occur or a claim of constructive unfair dismissal could arise.

To conclude
Bullying and harassment is an unpleasant side to human nature. The number of incidents seems to be on the rise, but thankfully the issue isn’t universal. Even so, employers and employees cannot ignore the subject.
 

Related Articles

  • Bullying in the workplace 

    Harassment and bullying remain significant workplace issues despite growing awareness. The Acas Workplace Trends 2016 report said anti-bullying policies had been widely adopted in Britain but were not adequately dealing with this behaviour: “last year over 20,000 calls were taken by the Acas helpline on bullying and harassment with some people reporting truly horrifying incidents including humiliation, ostracism, verbal and physical abuse.”


    Typical behaviours
    According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), many typical harassment and bullying behaviours can manifest in the workplace, from unwanted remarks and physical contact to shouting and persistent unwarranted criticism.

    Research shows employees affected are more likely to be depressed and anxious, less satisfied with their work, have a low opinion of their managers, and want to leave the organisation. The CIPD says “organisations should treat any form of harassment or bullying seriously not just because of the legal implications and because it can lead to under-performance, but also because people have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at work.”

    An organisation’s public image can be badly damaged when incidents occur, particularly when they attract media attention. This was the situation that Audi Reading unfortunately found themselves in at the end of May 2017 as a coroner examined the suicide of an apprentice mechanic. While the behaviour of some of the staff was found to be unacceptable, the coroner held the dealership free of blame for the death as there were numerous other external influences that led to the suicide. But that finding didn’t stop a torrent of ill-informed abuse being directed at the dealership and staff.


    The law
    Bullying is not specifically defined in law but Acas gives a definition. It says that “bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.”

  • When the stars align: Robertson Gemini 

    You know you are doing something right when you are doing something that is not the central part of your business, but you are doing it more successfully than those who have made it their main focus.
        
    This is the position that Castle Douglas-based independent garage Robertson Gemini Ltd finds itself in. The garage is a six-ramp repairer with a dedicated MOT bay. It offers all the usual services in terms of alignment, diagnostics and the rest. Meanwhile, it is also has a line in used cars, where it is doing very well.  
        
    Director David Butler explained: "We are trying to grow car sales. We have talked to some of the main dealers in Dumfries and they are having a hard time, being asked to do all their showrooms, but their sales are pretty static at the moment. Meanwhile, our model is actually working well for us. I am looking at a 65 plate Focus going out now, and a 67 plate Toyota. We have quite a few getting up to just one or two years old. That is where we are trying to be. That is the kind of image we are looking at."

    Focus
    While this will keep the business warm on cold nights, the main focus for the business remains servicing and repairs. Being in a largely rural area, the catchment area for customers is quite large: "Goodness me, they come from all over the place," exclaimed David. “They come from Castle Douglas itself, Dalbeattie, almost as far as Stranraer as well. It is quite a rural setting. We are a market town with quite a big hinterland. There is a lot of farming, forestry and that kind of thing. We even get people coming down from Edinburgh, people that are associated with the town here."
        
    The company provides a broad offering, but is looking to concentrate more tightly on the upper end of the market: "We are a  general garage, we take all makes of cars. Jaguar and Land Rover, which is the upper end of the market is where we are heading.  We have invested quite heavily in all the diagnostic equipment for Land Rovers and things like that, so we are getting more and more of that now, which is great. We are trying to move away from old bangers. We are not really interested in that end. We do a lot of Ford, it used to be a Ford service centre until quite recently, but ultimately we decided to sever that relationship."

    Evolution
    The business is now in its 97th year of operation:  "It opened in 1921," said David, "and has always been owned by the Robertson family." Any business that exists for almost a century will go through a great degree of change. For the business now called Robertson Gemini, this included being a franchised dealership for the Rover and MG brands, but it survived the collapse of Rover and went on to evolve into its current independent form.
        
    Names change over time too, with the branding of the business developing a cosmic angle thanks to a brainwave by Stewart Robertson, the late husband of owner Caroline Robertson: "The name Robertson Gemini came about for an interesting reason," revealed David. "Stewart, who unfortunately died in 2010, had another garage in Dalbeattie, so two garages. In addition, in the family, Caroline and Stewart had twins, with Gemini being their starsign. So that is where the Gemini came in; twin garages, twin children, starsign. That is how Robertson Gemini came to be named. That was Stewart's little lightbulb moment."
        
    David came into the business following Stewart's passing: "Caroline lost Stewart and I lost my wife, we both lived in Kippford and we are now business partners. We are both directors in the business. I was not in the automotive sector before. In addition, Caroline was married to Stewart but had very little to do with the business. The garage was thrust upon us – just circumstances. So
    we have had to pick it up and drive it forward."

    Excellence
    From 2015, Caroline and David took on the day-to-day management, and the business has not looked back: "We've had to do a lot of learning, but we are rather fortunate in that we have some excellent staff here, who have guided us. They have been fantastic.   

    "We have got five full time mechanics. We have just taken on an apprentice as well, who is excellent, and we have also taken on an autistic lad called Thomas as our valeter. That was something that Caroline and I wanted to do. We took a gamble but it has been very positive for us. We are quite pleased about that. It came through a programme run by Dumfries and Galloway council called Total Access Point. It is about employability for all. We went to an open day to find out about it and we  thought 'we want to have a go at this.' We are absolutely delighted with what we have achieved, and what Thomas is achieving. That has been a good venture for us."

    Toolbox Sessions
    According to David, the key is enabling the staff to pass their knowledge on: "We have two guys who are experts on Land Rovers. The rest are all very good mechanics too. We have started doing what we call Toolbox Sessions in the workshop. Each of the mechanics is running a topic. We have done one on all the MOT new legislation very recently. Yesterday we had one on electrics.
        
    "What we are trying to do is spread the skills across the workforce, so it is not just one individual that keeps getting the same old jobs all the time. We have got someone lined up for the next one, which will be on vehicle health checks. That's going well and we are all enjoying that. Each mechanic is being left to do their own little session. That is stretching them a little bit, which is good."

    Top Technician
    When you are spreading knowledge around a business, it helps to have staff members who know their stuff. Luckily for Robertson Gemini, one of their team is a regular Top Technician finalist, namely Neil Currie, who was in the final five in 2017 and 2018.
        
    "It was Neil who did the Toolbox Session on electrics," explained David. "That was the first of his sessions. It was good. He enjoyed it as well. He will be doing one on diagnostics before long."
        
    David said he was pleased to have a Top Technician regular on staff: "It is great for us as we can promote it for a start, and it really gives the other boys something to aspire to as well. Neil is good at spreading his knowledge about. From our point of view that's great. If he is on Top Technician, we like to think that the company is benefitting as a whole. This is why we are doing these toolbox sessions. I think we are quite progressive on that side of things and it has certainly motivated the workshop team. I sat in on a couple of sessions and I have been very impressed with what they have done.  I'm delighted with it."
        
    At this point, Neil himself popped his head round the door: "I have been here three years," he explained. "I regularly get training, and they helped me with the cost of going down for Top Technician, paying for the hotel, so they have been very supportive that way. David has looked to us to help him with equipment, and he has certainly invested in what we have asked him to, dealer-level equipment and oscilloscopes, all the kit we need so we can keep up to date with the technology. We specialise in Land Rover, so he bought the equipment for that as well. It allows us to do more things."
        
    Commenting on the Toolbox Sessions, Neil observed: "We started that recently – it saves money on training courses and time, in terms of  having people out of the door. We just put some time in the diary and shut the workshop door. The guys will come in and one of us will talk about a subject, just trying to pass on some knowledge. Instead of going away on a two day training course it is all kept in house."
        
    Taking part in Top Technician was inspirational for Neil: "It has inspired me to try and push the industry higher. You meet guys with the same aims and goals as you and you want to aim for the best. It is about bringing the trade up and trying to improve everyone's skills. I'm all for it. There is definitely a need for more talent, especially up here in Scotland. I just want  to help people and keep it going."

    The future
    Looking forward, David commented on plans for the future at the business: "We have put in so many new procedures – a new management system, which is absolutely brilliant in terms of giving me an on the pulse feeling of what the company is doing on a daily basis. It starts from the customer coming in, all  the details, job cards and invoicing. It is all interlinked, so it is tremendous. We are getting to grips with all of that. We are just about to take on a new fleet of brand new Peugeot 2008s courtesy cars, they are coming next week."
        
    David added: "We are running at 110mph at the moment!" Long may it continue.

  • EU Emissions tighten on UK market 

    With or without Brexit, EU regulations surrounding emissions are playing an important part in pushing aftermarket requirements for
    the correct emissions parts being fitted.
        
    Mark Blinston, Commercial Director at BM Catalysts commented: “Emissions are a hot topic for discussion at the moment for many media outlets and manufacturers. All efforts are geared towards reducing emissions, as well as preventing the sale and fitting of catalytic converters and DPFs to vehicles that haven’t been approved to meet the relevant Euro Levels.
        
    “Vehicles and replacement emission control devices must meet specific standards for exhaust emissions before they can be offered for sale in the European Union. Vehicle emissions are one of a series of performance standards that must be met to achieve Whole Vehicle Type Approval in accordance with EC Directives. In order to achieve type approval on the emissions levels for replacement emission control devices, such as catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters (DPFs), performance and noise levels must be within calculated limits as prescribed by legislation. Replacement catalytic converters and DPFs cannot be approved to a lower Euro level than that of the original vehicle. If the vehicle is Euro 5 then the replacement must be approved to Euro 5 levels. Testing and approving this part to Euro 4 would mean that it cannot be proven to meet emission standards and therefore cannot legally be fitted to any Euro 5 vehicle.”  
        
    Mark continued: “Helping to identify the correct products for stockists and garage professionals, the MAM software solution program is set to revolutionise the aftermarket. Used by the majority of distributors, the supply chain software is due to receive a V9 update, which will map the Euro level that a supplier’s part is approved for sale on against a vehicle registration number. Once the change is in place, we’ll start to see the correct catalytic converters and DPFs available matched against the correct vehicles for the first time. Additionally, the Department for Transport (DfT) is also helping to clarify the rules for the UK market, with recent guidelines reiterating the strict requirements for selling catalytic converters and DPFs to the UK market.”
        
    But while the correct cataloguing of aftermarket parts is complex and challenging, perhaps the biggest shake up to the emissions market is the recent MOT changes. Mark continued: “The result of an EU directive, new regulations were introduced to the MOT test in May 2018, placing further emphasis on diesel emissions. The regulations require checks to the exhaust for visible smoke production and tampering or removal of the DPF. Any visible sign of alteration to the DPF or smoke of any colour will result in a fail for the vehicle. Prior to these tighter regulations, experts warned that the true figure of vehicles driving without DPFs were in the thousands, leaving many car owners at risk of hefty fines and penalty points.
        
    “BM Catalysts acknowledges the need for up to date information on EU levels. As a leading manufacturer in Europe, we recognise we are a big part in meeting these standards, producing superior aftermarket products with the least harm to the environment. Additionally, we have recently produced free educational material on DPFs and the MOT changes to help our customers make informed motoring decisions.”
        
    Mark added: “BM Catalysts produce catalytic converters and DPFs to high standards, yet to create a lasting change to the market, it is important that all hands along the supply chain, even the consumer, does their part to make sure they’re complying to regulations. If one link is in this chain proves weak, we all fail.”



  • NGK – Mark Hallam on track!  

    NGK is a big supporter of Speedway racing and now one of its managers has been testing his own skills on the track.

  • TRICO exact fit and flex 

    TRICO Exact Fit replacement blades make it easy to for motorists to ensure their vehicles benefit from original factory quality wipers. Made from natural rubber and high-strength steel, they offer long-lasting performance.TRICO Flex lets the motorist step up from a conventional windshield wiper blade to premium beam blade wiper technology at a reasonable price. With 97% car parc coverage and only 14 part numbers, the slim-line range allows garages, workshops and retailers to offer a comprehensive wiper blade solution with minimal stock commitment.
    www.trico.eu.com

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