Bullying and Harassment of Staff at School
The Teach Well Alliance and the Every Teacher Matters Project run an anti-bullying private Facebook group.
Every Teacher Matters Project
Teach Well Alliance
What is Bullying?
'Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that
undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.' (ACAS, June 2014)
Documents that are referenced are available via links at the foot of the page
Are you being bullied or harassed?
If you answer 'Yes' to any of these questions and the behaviour is happening regularly, you are being bullied or harassed:
What is the difference between bullying and harassment?
There is no single law against workplace Bullying.
But you can still take action
Harassment is defined by the Equality Act (2010) as:
'Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose
or effect of violating an individual's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading,
humiliating or offensive environment for that individual'.
Where the bullying/harassment relates to a protected characteristic (as seen in the diagram opposite), it may amount to unlawful discrimination or harassment. There may be grounds to bring a claim against the bully and the employer under the Equality Act 2010 at an Employment Tribunal. There is no limit on the amount of compensation.
Is the Health and Safety at Work Act relevant?
The employer's Duty of Care
Under the Health and Safety Act (1974) employers have a legal 'duty of care' to provide a safe system of work for employees and to take reasonable steps to prevent staff from being injured at work.
Injury can include physical or mental ill-health, including depression or anxiety, resulting from harassment or bullying at school.
What does Ofsted say?
The Ofsted Inspection Handbook (2019) includes criteria in Leadership and Management relating to workload, wellbeing, and protecting staff from bullying and harassment.
This is the first time that these issues have been included in the School Inspection Framework
We have reproduced sections from the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook below
You can download your own copy by clicking on the image
School Inspection Handbook (Sept 2019)
Leadership and management: (Section 229: Page 64)
'Important factors include:
◼ the extent to which leaders take into account the workload and well-being of their staff, while also developing and strengthening the quality of the workforce.'
'In order for the leadership and management of a school to be judged outstanding, it must meet all of the good criteria securely and consistently, and it must also meet the additional outstanding criteria (Section 278: Pages 74-75)
◼ The school meets all the criteria for good in leadership and management securely and consistently.
◼ Leadership and management are exceptional.
In addition, the following apply:
◼ Leaders ensure that highly effective and meaningful engagement takes place with staff at all levels and that issues are identified. When issues are identified, in particular about workload, they are consistently dealt with appropriately and quickly.
◼ Staff consistently report high levels of support for well-being issues.
◼ Leaders engage with their staff and are aware and take account of the main pressures on them. They are realistic and constructive in the way they manage staff, including their workload.
◼ Leaders protect staff from bullying and harassment.
What are the physical and mental effects of bullying and harassment?
If you are suffering physically or mentally, others may say
you are weak and that teaching is not for you.
Or that you are imagining things. You might begin to believe them.
This is known as 'gaslighting' *
It is normal to blame yourself when you are being bullied or harassed.
That's what the bully wants you to do, as it shifts responsibility from them to you.
The physical and mental effects of bullying and harassment are real and serious.
They are caused by the way the bully is behaving towards you,
not because of your actions.
* Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. The term comes from a 1944 film 'Gaslight' in which a husband tries to drive his wife into madness by creating noises, sounds and moving objects etc and telling her she is imagining things when she describes what is happening.
Physical effects of bullying and harassment
Mental effects of bullying and harassment
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The mental impact of bullying or harassment can last for a long time.
PTSD results from prolonged exposure to a traumatic event.
This can include flashbacks to the bullying or harassment incidents and a loss of self-confidence.
You can also feel anxious and afraid of people or situations that remind you of how you were treated.
It is important to get professional help, such as Counselling, if the symptoms continue.
Taking action against bullying and harassment
You do have choices
You have three choices if you are being bullied or harassed:
How do I know whether taking action is right for me? It seems a big step to take.
If your answer is 'Yes' to any of these questions, you should consider consulting your union or a solicitor for advice
Use the Waters Index of Burnout to assess your level of physical and mental exhaustion.
Click on the image to download a PDF.
What is Constructive Dismissal?
Ordinary unfair constructive dismissal
Where there is a fundamental breach of an employment contract, the employee may claim ordinary unfair constructive dismissal in an Employment Tribunal.
The bullying and/or the employer’s handling of it may breach the implied term of mutual trust and confidence between the employee and the employer, making the employee’s position untenable and leaving them with no choice but to resign.
For this type of claim, employees will need at least two years’ continuous employment and compensation is capped at one year’s pay. This is up to a maximum currently of £88,519 or 52 weeks gross salary whichever is the lower.
This is in addition to the basic award which can be ordered by the Tribunal of up to a maximum of £16,140. (Please note that these are the figures from 6 April 2020 and are reviewed annually).
A Civil Courts Claim
(Outside of employment jurisdiction)
Protection from harassment
In extreme cases an employee may consider bringing a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 in the civil courts. This requires evidence that the bullying was part of a course of conduct (i.e. at least two or more incidents), amounted to harassment under the Act, was oppressive, unacceptable and caused the employee alarm or distress.
In practice, such claims are rarely brought in respect of workplace bullying because of the high hurdle of showing that the harassment amounted to criminal liability.
Finally, where the bullying leads to an employee developing a psychiatric injury, they might bring a claim against their employer for personal injury in the civil courts (separate to an Employment Tribunal). To succeed, the employee needs to show: a breach of the duty of care by the employer; that the breach caused the employee psychiatric injury; and it was reasonably foreseeable.
In practice, it is difficult to bring such claims in respect of workplace bullying.
Documents relating to Being Treated Badly at Work
Health and Safety at Work Act (1974)
Ofsted School Inspection Handbook (2019)
[What to do] If you're treated unfairly at work
Bullying and harassment at work (ACAS 2014)
A guide for managers and employers
Your health, your safety (TUC/HSE 2013)
A brief guide for workers
Harassment and Bullying in Schools: Guidance for Reps and Local Officers (NEU 2018)
Teachers: How to Deal with Unfair Treatment
(Teach Well Alliance 2019)
This page might also be helpful:
'Handling Difficult Conversations:
The Waters Memo Strategy Meeting (WMSM)'
Go to www.teachwellalliance.com/school-staff-support/#1
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