A third of workers have faced bullying disguised as ‘banter’

Bullying in the workplace is often dismissed as ‘banter’ according to a survey by law firm Irwin Mitchell, which found that 32% of employees have experienced such a situation.

The survey of over 2,000 workers found that 45-54 years olds are the most likely age group to have experienced this type of bullying, with employees in the North-West also above average, with 37% having suffered. Over 35% of women in UK workplaces have experienced bullying disguised as banter.

The law firm warns that the findings pose serious concerns around whether employees can identify unlawful behaviour in the workplace which gives them the right to bring employment claims such as discrimination and constructive dismissal claims, adding that managers need to be aware of important measures they should put in place to safeguard their staff.

Deborah Casale, employment partner at Irwin Mitchell, said: “There really is no excuse for treating employees in this way. Whilst some may consider banter to be light-hearted, making jokes at the expense of an employee or making inappropriate comments, can lead to staff feeling uncomfortable in the workplace and in the worst cases make them feel that they have no choice but to leave their position.

“If an employee is being made to feel they’re not wanted and resigns as a result of an employer’s behaviour, this could be considered ‘quiet firing’. This can form grounds for constructive dismissal if it breaches the implied term of trust and confidence in the employment relationship and the employee has more than two years of service. If the comments are discriminatory, two years of service are not required.”

Casale added: “Employees should be aware of their legal rights in these situations and should take advice at an early stage to protect their position – ideally before resigning. Likewise, employers should ensure that staff are properly trained as to what could constitute inappropriate behaviour.”

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