Harassment & Bullying FAQs
What is harassment?
It can occur when one person's or a group's behaviour gives offence to another person or persons. For example, such behaviour may take the form of remarks designed to embarrass, inappropriate jokes or ridicule, unwelcome physical contact, suggestions or demands for sexual favours, racial shunning or segregation or racial abuse. It can be similar to bullying.
For the purposes of the Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013, a person harasses another person if, in certain circumstances (as part of paid work, unpaid work and other areas), the person engages in unwanted conduct that is related to a protected characteristic and which has the purpose or effect of:
(a) violating the person's dignity; or
(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humilating or offensive environment for the person.
Please note, if the harassment is not related to a relevant protected characteristic under the Law at the time, then the harassment should still be appropriately dealt with in accordance with the organisation's policies and procedures however it will not, itself, form a claim under the Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013.
What is the legal position?
If an employee believes they are being harassed and that harassment is in relation to a protected characteristic then they may choose to lodge a claim with the Jersey Employment & Discrimination Tribunal. The Tribunal will consider the claim and if they find that an employee has been harassed in contravention of the Law, they can make an award against the employer and private individuals up to a maximum of £10,000.
It is well known that harassment in its various forms can lead to stress-related illness. Under Jersey's Health & Safety at Work Law (Article 3), it is the duty of every employer "to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees." It follows, therefore, that employers can be liable for the actions of their workers at work or in a work-related situation unless they can prove that they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent harassment occurring. In certain circumstances a worker could, therefore, make a claim to the Court and sue an employer for stress due to harassment if that employee could no longer continue in his job.
What should employees do if they believe they have been harassed at work?
Employees should initially make a formal grievance or complaint to the employer (click here for more on grievances). If employees believe that their employer has ignored their concerns about harassment that they have suffered at the hands of colleagues, has undermined their position and failed to provide them with the support necessary to undertake the job, they may be able to claim that the employer's conduct has breached their contract of employment. An employee may then be able to claim breach of contract through a Court. Additionally, the employee may choose to lodge a claim with the Employment & Discrimination Tribunal if they feel that the harassment is in relation to a protected characteristic. Before taking such action, employees should consider contacting JACS, whose advisors will willingly speak to the employer in an attempt to resolve matters.
What should employers do to try to combat harassment at work?
It is advisable to set up a separate complaints procedure for harassment. Employees may be reluctant to use the grievance procedure if the complaint is of a personal nature or if the harasser is the worker's line manager. JACS can help employers and employees to draw up such policy.
What is bullying?
It is regular intimidation that undermines the confidence and capability of the victim. Bullying can take the form of verbal abuse, violent gestures, physical violence, allocation of blame and 'picking on' employees unfairly, public humiliation of employees, or a more 'subtle' war of words to undermine the employee's confidence. It can be similar to harassment.
What are the legal implications?
In common law employers are bound to provide a safe working environment, which includes freedom from bullying. Employees may take civil court action if employers fail to take reasonable steps to prevent bullying which causes harm to the worker. Damages may be awarded to employees in such cases. (Under the Employment (Jersey) Law employees with a minimum of 52 weeks' service may also claim that in serious cases bullying amounts to constructive dismissal and make a claim to an employment tribunal).
How should employers deal with bullying at work?
- Make prompt enquiries
- Initially counsel bullies to enable them to change their offensive behaviour
- If bullying continues carry out an investigation and if necessary take disciplinary action.
JACS can offer advice
- Bullying and harassment at work - a guide for managers and employers
- Bullying and harassment at work - a guide for employees