Written harassment

29 July, 2011
Page 26 

Verbal bullying can be caught by harassment laws. But suppose employees do it in writing? What is the Court of Appeal's view on this type of behaviour?

Some years ago, the House of Lords confirmed that the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA) could be used by employees against their employers. As this particular law was originally designed to combat stalkers not to provide further means of redress for disgruntled members of staff this was bad news. At that time, their Lordships ruled that:

l the PHA covers any form of verbal harassment (no breach of discrimination law is necessary);

l an employee need only show they have suffered two incidents of "anxiety or distress" caused by their employer;

l there is no statutory defence available to a PHA claim;

l employees have six years to bring a claim against you.

Managers and staff should be instructed not to make oppressive and unacceptable comments in written communications, letters, email and text messages. Make it clear in your equal opportunities and dignity at work policy that any breaches of this rule will result in disciplinary action.

l For a sample of our 'Equal Opportunities and Dignity at Work Policy', call 01920 468061





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