Bullying and harassment

Bullying and harassment means any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. It is not necessarily always obvious or apparent to others, and may happen in the workplace without an employer's awareness.

Bullying or harassment can be between two individuals or it may involve groups of people. It might be obvious or it might be insidious. It may be persistent or an isolated incident. It can also occur in written communications, by phone or through email, not just face-to-face.

Read our latest policy discussion paper pdf  Seeking better solutions: tackling bullying and ill-treatment in Britain's workplaces [429kb]. The aim of this paper is to consider how bullying and ill-treatment might be tackled more effectively in Britain's workplaces.

You can download either the pdf  Advice leaflet - Bullying and harassment at work: a guide for managers and employers [164kb] or pdf  Advice leaflet - Bullying and harassment at work: a guide for employees [186kb].

Alternatively, you can download the Bullying and harassment at work: a guide for managers and employers (Acas advisory leaflets) [Kindle Edition] through the Amazon website. Please note that there is a small charge for the Kindle edition.

Examples of bullying / harassing behaviour could include:

Under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is unwanted conduct which is related to one of the following: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation and is therefore unlawful.

People do not always feel able or confident enough to complain, particularly if the harasser is a manager or senior member of staff. Sometimes they will simply resign. It is therefore very important for employers to ensure that staff are aware of options available to them to deal with potential bullying or harassment, and that these remain confidential.

Workplace trends of 2016 report

Hear from leading workplace experts about the issue of bullying in 2016 by downloading the pdf  Workplace trends of 2016 [680kb] report.

Questions and answers

What can I do about being bullied or harassed?

If you are being bullied or harassed, you should take any action you decide upon as quickly as possible. It is always best to try to resolve this informally in the first instance as sometimes a quick word can be all it takes. However, if this fails there are a number of options to consider:

Why should I as an employer act against bullying or harassment?

Bullying and harassment create an unhappy and unproductive workplace where you may have:

What can I do to prevent bullying or harassment taking place in my organisation?

There are a number of key considerations that should help to prevent this behaviour:

Insight: Is bullying at work getting worse?

The largest survey of workplaces in Britain - the Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS) - reported that three per cent of workplaces (with 10 or more employees) had experienced at least one grievance relating to bullying and harassment in the year prior to the 1998 survey; by 2004 this had risen to seven per cent. Visit our page Is bullying at work getting worse? for further information.

Did you know?

Acas offer free eLearning and also run practical Training Courses, Workshops and Projects to equip managers, supervisors and HR professionals with the necessary skills to deal with employment relations issues and to create more productive workplace environments.

Click to view related Acas training and course dates in your area for:

Equality and diversity - Acas business solutions

We can visit your organisation to help you understand what needs to be done to address a range of issues related to equality and diversity and then work with you to develop practical solutions. For example we can help you develop dignity at work or bullying and harassment policies and procedures. Find out more from our Equality and diversity: how Acas can help page.

Online customer contact form - Let us know how we can help.

Bullying and harassment - e-learning Module

Learning OnLine offers a range of e-learning courses and resources for individuals and different types of employers. Visit Acas Learning OnLine to get register and get started.

Acas Helpline

Through the Acas Helpline (0300 123 1100) you can get advice on specific problems, and explore alternatives to an Employment Tribunal claim, such as Mediation or Early Conciliation, where appropriate. The Acas helpline is available Monday 8am-8pm, Tuesday 8am-6pm, Wednesday to Thursday 8am-8pm and Friday 8am-6pm.

The Acas Helpline provides free and impartial advice for employers, employees and representatives on a range of employment relations, employment rights, HR and management issues.

Some feedback about our Helpline from users:

"Acas is invaluable. We have had lots of HR issues and nobody else to ask."

"Everything that I have asked Acas on the Helpline, they have informed us correctly and in full."

View further information about our Helpline service, including our Helpline Online on the Acas Helpline page.

Have you been approached by anyone claiming to be working in association with Acas?

If you think you have we've provided some advice and guidance on what to do and what to look out for to Be aware of Acas imitators.