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What is harassment?

What is harassment?

There were over 231,000 harassment offences recorded by police in England & Wales in 2019/20. This is almost a 10% increase from the year prior.

Evidently, harassment is a growing issue in UK workplaces and employers need to take action in order to raise awareness and prevent harassment issues from occurring. But what is harassment?

Citizens Advice describe harassment as:

Unwanted behaviour which you find offensive or which makes you feel intimidated or humiliated. It can happen on its own or alongside other forms of discrimination.

Citizens Advice

Many individuals choose not to speak up about harassment as they struggle to identify it. For example, an employee might be upset about how they’re being treated by their colleagues, but they may not know if it’s classed as bullying or harassment. They may also worry that they’ve misinterpreted the bully’s behaviour, they may fear that they’ll be accused of overreacting or lying if they report what’s happening, or they may worry about looking over-sensitive or weak.

As an example, an employee may tell what they think is a harmless joke, but another colleague might be offended by it despite the fact that the employee does not realise their actions are upsetting a colleague.

However, occasional negative behaviour isn’t usually classed as bullying or harassment unless it’s a severe case, which would require that the person's actions are:

  • Repeated
  • Negative
  • Deliberate

This behaviour can make a victim feel intimidated, pressured, provoked, humiliated, or tormented, and if the behaviour is harmful to someone’s physical or emotional wellbeing, it’s classed as bullying or harassment.

It can happen in the workplace or in any location linked to work; this includes travelling for work, and at conferences, training sessions and social events that are sponsored or organised by the employer.

What is the difference between bullying & harassment?

Bullying and harassment are essentially the same thing, the one clear difference between them is that harassment is illegal, but bullying is not.

If somebody is being targetted because of a protected characteristic, this is classed as bullying, rather than harassment.

There are nine protected characteristics:

  1. Age
  2. Race
  3. Sex
  4. Disability
  5. Religion and belief
  6. Sexual orientation
  7. Gender reassignment
  8. Marriage and civil partnership
  9. Pregnancy and maternity

Additionally, it’s also harassment if the bully wrongly assumes the victim has a protected characteristic and harasses them based upon this assumption.

Raising awareness of harassment through online training

Knowing that the number of harassment offences is on the rise in UK workplaces, it is crucial that employers recognise the issue and begin to raise awareness of the issue.

Bullying & Harassment Training allows all levels of employees to have a strong understanding of what bullying & harassment are and what they should do if they feel they are being harassed.

By introducing awareness courses alongside company policies and procedures, you can demonstrate that you have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and harassment in the workplace, which is a great way of discouraging unwanted behaviour at work.

We offer a handful of courses that aim to raise awareness about harassment in the workplace, including:

Get started with a free, no-obligation trial today!

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