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Harassment at Work

When looking at the question of whether the employer knew or ought to have known whether the conduct in question amounted to harassment of another, the test to be applied is whether a reasonable person in possession of the same information as the employer would think that the course of action amounted to harassment of the employee.

Harassment is also a criminal offence but you can claim compensation under civil laws for harassment and bullying.

If you would like to talk about a stress at work claim, please get in touch with Jeremy Brooke or any of our specialist team. We'll provide free, no obligation initial advice session and remember - we're not a call centre or helpline - we're a real law company and we'll help you however we can.  

What is Protection from Harassment Act 1997?

In cases of bullying and harassment, workers are protected by the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 provides that an employer must not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of an employee and which the employer knew or ought to have known amounted to harassment of the employee.

Why can you claim?

If you do claim under the common law then compensation can be awarded for (amongst other things) any anxiety caused by the harassment and any financial loss resulting from the harassment. A leading court case has decided that an employer can be liable for harassment carried out by one of its employees contrary to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The course of conduct referred to requires at least two separate incidents to have occurred.

Harassment describes conduct targeted at an individual which is calculated to produce the consequences of oppression and unreasonableness.

Courts bear in mind the fact that irritations, annoyances and even a measure of upset arise at times in everybody’s day to day dealings with other people. The courts have been left to recognize the boundary between conduct which is unattractive, even unreasonable and conduct which is oppressive and unacceptable.

Employer's Liability

There is a high degree of culpable behavior required before an employer will be found liable under this Act.

An employer is more likely to be found liable for compensation under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 if there is a well evidenced, long and deliberate campaign of harassment or in shorter incidents, there being at least two separate serious incidents probably involving near violent conduct.

The following are examples where the court has found the conduct to constitute harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997;

  • Abuse, assault and threats
  • Alleging more than once without foundation that a neighbour is being fraudulently paid by being at home for no good reason during working time
  • Threatening letters and phone calls
  • Sending letters maliciously alleging that individuals are pedophiles or sex offenders
  • Causing criminal damage
  • Firebombing
  • Carrying out intimidating home visits
  • Deliberately ignoring a colleague, excluding the colleague from conversations, laughing when the colleague walks past, made crude remarks about the colleague, failing to put through calls and hiding the colleague’s post
  • Posting defamatory remarks about an individual on a website

This is a difficult area of law and requires the input and advice from a solicitor who has specialist knowledge of stress at work claims.