How can employers be alert to harassment and bullying in the workplace?

Chelsea Ladies footballer Eni Aluko has spoken publicly for the first time about the “bullying and harassment” she says she was subjected to by England head coach Mark Sampson, with allegations including the coach telling her Nigerian relatives to not bring Ebola to Wembley.

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In the aftermath of the controversy and amid pressure from anti-racism groups, the FA is now facing calls to open a second independent investigation into how it handled the Eni Aluko affair.

Like the FA, employers should be extra alert to any bullying or harassment taking place in their workplace. Bullying anywhere is not acceptable. But how do employers develop and implement a policy that makes their position and the repercussions clear?

Employees have the right to feel safe and respected in their workplace, so employers need to send a clear message that any type of harassment will be dealt with seriously.

To do this an effective bullying policy must be created and implemented. Below are the most important things to do when executing the policy

  • Create a non-exhaustive list of examples of unacceptable behaviour
  • Create a procedure for dealing with complaints of a bullying nature, and clearly document the repercussions that will follow.
  • Distribute the policy to all employees – make this part of an induction process, so that new staff know what is expected from them the outset.
  • Take any complaint of bullying seriously, whether made by the target of the behaviour, or a third party with concerns about a team member
  • Investigate all complaints promptly.
  • Remain neutral while the investigation takes place, and be sympathetic to both parties.

If employers conclude that bullying has occurred, they will then need to assess the circumstances and decide on the appropriate disciplinary action, which could range from a verbal or written warning to dismissal in very severe cases.

Taking a hard line when it comes to bullying and treating all complaints consistently will instil confidence and morale – making for a more secure and enjoyable workplace for everyone.

It’s also worth training managers in the identification of bullying and harassment so that problems can be dealt with quickly, in line with the fantastic policy that has been developed.

*Kate Palmer is Head of Advisory and Equality at at Peninsula which specialises in HR, Employment Law and Health Safety.

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