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Bullying or harassment policy

Civil Service departments and agencies are obliged to ensure staff work in a safe and non-threatening environment. They all have equal opportunities statements and related procedures in place to achieve this.

Staff and managers must be made aware of their responsibilities in ensuring a safe and non-threatening environment, as must equal opportunity officers, so that they can monitor and review progress.

Last updated - 9th December 2008

How can we identify harassment and bullying?

Harassment covers any behaviour that, intentionally or not, causes offence or makes someone feel uneasy, intimidated, uncomfortable, excluded or humiliated. It also covers anything that makes people feel their job is threatened.

Bullying can also manifest itself in a variety of different ways. It can be carried out by a manager to an employee, by colleagues to peers or by one group to another individual member. It will often develop gradually, and undermine the ability and confidence of the person on the receiving end.

Persistent bullying can also lead to fear, isolation and poor concentration, as well as symptoms of stress and a high sickness absence level.

Many departments have confidential support networks of trained departmental volunteers to whom employees can speak if they feel that they are being harassed or bullied.

Duty of care

Employers have a 'duty of care' for all their employees.

If the mutual trust and confidence between employer and employee is broken - for example, through bullying and harassment at work, where sufficient action is not taken within an organisation to address the incident - then an employee can resign and claim 'constructive dismissal' on the grounds of breach of contract.

Health and safety

Breach of contract may also include a failure to protect an employee's health and safety at work. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has done a lot of work in this area, including helping to define what constitutes stress at work. For more information visit their website.

Bullying and Harassment guidance

Guidance for managers and employees on issues around bullying and harrassment, including useful links.


Further information

The Public and Commercial Services Union website offers useful detail on what can constitute inappropriate behaviour. ACAS also have useful guidance for employers and employees on their website.