Bullying is something you probably associate with your school days. But adult bullying is all too common, especially in the workplace. According to the TUC, almost a third of people in the UK say they’ve been bullied at work, with 34 per cent of women having experienced bullying at work compared to 23 per cent of men.

The TUC survey also found that almost half of people say workplace harassment and bullying has an adverse impact on their work performance. The same number of people claim it’s had a negative effect on their mental health too, causing stress, anxiety and low morale. More than a quarter say it also affects them physically, with around one in five taking time off work because of being bullied.

Bullying and harassment mean the same thing to most of us, and in general the two terms are used interchangeably. However, the Equality Act 2010 defines harassment 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.

The ‘protected’ characteristics mentioned in this definition include:

  • Disability
  • Age
  • Sex or sexual orientation
  • Race
  • Pregnancy or maternity leave
  • Marriage or civil partnership
  • Gender reassignment
  • Religion or belief

This means if you’re harassed because of any of these characteristics, it is legally classed as harassment and discrimination in the workplace.