Workplace Bullying

Created on: 24 Jan 2018 | Last modified: 02 Aug 2023


1.1 The following resolution was approved by the 2015 Annual General Meeting:

“This AGM instructs Council to:

(a) investigate and report on what guidelines, procedures and strategies Local Authorities and colleges currently have in place to deal with workplace bullying;

(b) review and revise, as appropriate, the EIS guidelines and advice regarding workplace bullying with particular reference to the role of EIS school and college Representatives.”


2.1 A 2015 poll was carried out by YouGov for the TUC and revealed that:

  • nearly a third of people (29%) are bullied at work

  • women (34%) are more likely to be victims of bullying than men (23%)

  • the highest prevalence of workplace bullying is amongst 40 to 59-year-olds, where 34% of adults are affected

  • in nearly three-quarters (72%) of cases the bullying is carried out by a manager

  • more than one in three (36%) of people who reported being bullied at work leave their job as a result of bullying.

2.2 The survey showed that nearly half (46%) of people say that bullying has an adverse impact on their performance at work, and the same amount believe it has a negative effect on their mental health. More than a quarter (28%) say it has a detrimental effect on them physically, and around one in five (22%) have to take time off work as a result of being bullied.


3.1 The Employment Relations Committee wrote to local association secretaries and branch secretaries in the first instance requesting copies of policies and procedures.

3.2 The Committee received replies from 22 local associations and 2 Colleges. 6 Councils specifically used the word “Bullying” in the title of the policy and 12 Councils used the specific word “Harassment”. Other Councils reference to “Dignity at Work” and “Fair Treatment at Work”.

Duties of Employers

4.1 There is no specific legislation aimed at preventing workplace bullying. Unions have campaigned for many years for a specific legal right to dignity at work. Nevertheless, employers have specific duties and the duties of employers regarding workplace bullying derive from three sources.

4.2 Firstly, an employer has certain duties that arise from the contract of employment. These include a duty to maintain trust and confidence. If an employer behaves in a way which has the effect of destroying trust and confidence, the employee can resign and argue constructive dismissal. The employer has a duty to provide employees with reasonable support, a duty to provide a safe workplace and a duty to investigate complaints.

4.3 Secondly, the employer has a common law duty of care to ensure that reasonable steps are taken to prevent workplace bullying that causes an employee to suffer physical or psychological harm. If an employee fails to take reasonable steps and harm occurs there can be a civil court remedy for negligence.

4.4 Thirdly, employers have statutory obligations mainly arising from discrimination legislation. A person who has a protected characteristic is likely to have a discrimination claim and an unlawful harassment claim if bullying is related to a protected characteristic. Employers also have to be mindful of Codes of Practice which set out minimum standards relating to reasonable steps which can be taken to avoid workplace discrimination. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 may be used in an employment context although the normal route would be to pursue a case through the civil courts. Finally, employers have statutory duties arising from the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Bullying and Harassment Policies

5.1 The CIPD guide “Bullying at Work” (2005) claimed that bullying costs over £2 billion per year. It is also clear that certain management cultures, performance management cultures in particular, engender risks of bullying to deliver outcomes.

5.2 The first issue to be considered is the status of a policy. It is in the interests of both the employer and the employee to have a contractual policy. For EIS members, a contractual policy ties the employer to dealing with the issue. However, any policy should allow an individual to pursue matters through grievance rather than a discrete policy if that is their preference.

5.3 Policies should be negotiated and agreed through collective bargaining mechanisms, at branch level in further and higher education sectors and at LNCT level for the school sector. LNCT and SNCT agreements have less contractual effect.

5.4 The policy should cross refer to other policies where relevant, in particular, grievance and discipline and diversity/equal opportunities policies.

5.5 The policy content should have clear terminology, and avoid language which could be construed as pre-supposing outcomes (e.g. the use of the word “victim”). The policy should have a clear statement of intent and should be clear to whom the policy applies. Finally, the policy should have clear examples of unacceptable behaviour while setting out that any list is not exhaustive.

5.6 Extant EIS policy is appended.


6.1 While the responses from local association secretaries and branch secretaries did not indicate that bullying and harassment was endemic there is every reason for workplace bullying to be kept under scrutiny.

6.2 At this time, however, extant EIS policy does not require revision.

Workplace Bullying Policy PDF