Bullying causes stress, ill health and demotivation, but many of us will either experience or witness it in our workplace at some point in our career. Since 2003 it has been unlawful to bully someone at work for being gay.
The trouble with bullying is that it can be difficult to recognise. Bullies can’t get away with old tricks, like beating someone up, often resorting to covert tactics, which can be hard to pin down.
A friend recently described how her workmates taunt her for being a lesbian. They say it’s only banter, but she dreads going to work. Someone else I know is a successful fundraiser but, since she came out, her boss is treating her differently. He snaps at her and criticises her work, even though she knows she’s performing well.
It’s not uncommon to feel too intimidated to report bullying. If it’s happening to you, keep a diary of all incidents. All forms of bullying are an offence which employers must take seriously. If you can, talk to a manager, a union rep or HR before it gets worse. If you can’t, there are places you can go for advice and support (see useful info box).
A lesbian shop assistant Marlene Bielak won an employment tribunal against her employer: Next. For months she was bullied by colleagues and Next failed to address it. She was awarded £120,000 in compensation. You’re entitled to feel safe and respected at work. No-one has the right to undermine that through bullying.
ACAS helpine: 08457 474747 or www.acas.org.uk
TUC Know Your Rights Line: 0870 600 4882