The media coverage around the internal report into the conduct of Home Secretary, Priti Patel, which found that she had bullied members of staff at the Home Office and had breached the Ministerial Code (the Government document setting out “expected standards” of behaviour in office) has brought the issue of workplace bullying in to the spot light.
At Nelsons, we regularly support and advise those that feel that they are being bullied or treated unfairly at work and this blog sets out some advice for anyone in that situation.
The Cabinet Office began their inquiry into Priti Patel’s conduct after Sir Philip Rutnam, the most senior Home Office official, resigned in February this year, alleging that staff felt that Ms Patel had “created fear” within the department. Sir Philip Rutnam has also taken legal action against the Home Office in the form of a constructive dismissal claim, alleging that the bullying he was subjected to forced him out of his job.
Priti Patel has always denied the allegations made against her. A review was conducted by the Government’s independent adviser on standards, Sir Alex Allan, who found that Priti Patel had “unintentionally” breached the Ministerial Code in her behaviour towards civil servants.
What are the options open to an employee who feels that they are being bullied at work?
Raising a grievance
Employees have a right to raise grievances with their employer and have these properly considered. This can be a constructive step towards resolving a situation or asking for working arrangements to be resolved or altered.
Bringing a claim for constructive dismissal
When an employee resigns because their employer has behaved unreasonably or because of a situation at work which they cannot tolerate any longer, they may have a claim in the Employment Tribunal for constructive unfair dismissal.
Legal requirement – Only employees can bring a claim for constructive unfair dismissal and generally, you will need two years’ service with your employer.
What does the employee have to prove to bring a unfair dismissal claim?
In order to bring a successful claim for unfair dismissal, you must be able to demonstrate three things:
- That your employer breached the contract of employment;
- That the breach is very serious (‘repudiatory’) in nature; and
- That the employee resigned in response to that breach.
Breaches of contract can include bullying behaviour such as use of bad language and creating a hostile working environment.
The employee has to then accept the breach by resigning in response to it. If the behaviour is sufficiently serious, the employee needs to act swiftly so they cannot be said to have waived (or forgiven) the breach by continuing to work and put up with the situation.
How Nelsons can help
For further information or advice in relation to the legal options available to an employee who is being bullied at work, please contact Laura or another member of our team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.