Bullying and Harassment of Staff at School
Is your wellbeing and mental health being damaged by being bullied or harassed at school?
What you need to know and what you can do about it.
Need help? Complete our survey at the foot of the page
The advice provided is based on our understanding of current legislation. You should seek professional legal advice before taking action.
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:
Bullying and harassment do not have to occur face-to-face
They can occur through written communication, images, email, phone
and unfair scrutiny of your performance, including the use of data (ACAS, June 2014).
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If you need to talk to someone about bullying or harassment,
or any aspect of your job in school that is making you unhappy.
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Freephone 08000 562 561
What is the difference between bullying and harassment?
Bullying has no legal definition.
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'.
What is a 'protected characteristic'?
The Equality Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against anyone because of the characteristics shown in the diagram.
They are called 'Protected Characteristics' because they should protect you from discrimination.
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.
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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 Inspection Framework
School Inspection Handbook
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 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.
* 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 while.
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 taking action.
Taking action: Getting legal advice
The Teach Well Alliance has an exclusive agreement with solicitors who are experts in employment law.
They will review your case.
They will decide whether it is sufficiently strong to take legal action.
They will do this on the basis that you will only pay a fee if the case is successful
and you are awarded financial compensation.
You might have legal insurance which covers your fees.
This is sometimes an add-on to home insurance
In the interests of transparency, the Teach Well Alliance
will receive a referral fee if you decide to seek legal advice.
10% of our referral fee will go to Teacher Support,
a charity that provides a 24/7 helpline for teachers who need help.
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)
I would like to take legal advice. What do I do?
Need help? Complete our confidential survey
We will forward it to a solicitor who is an expert in employment law.
They will contact you directly on a no-win, no fee basis.
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